The Tampa Bay Rays were finally able to beat the Cleveland Indians this season. Ace Scott Kazmir now looks to do the same in the deciding game of their three-game set Wednesday afternoon at Tropicana Field.
Tampa Bay (67-45) won 8-4 over Cleveland on Tuesday for its first victory in six games against the last-place Indians in 2008. It was only the fourth win for the Rays in their last 23 contests against Cleveland.
“I really believe we showed a lot of heart,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said. “We wanted to win that game, and somehow we did. These guys (Cleveland) have pressed us hard.”
The victory also improved the AL East-leading Rays to 4-1 on a homestand that concludes Wednesday before the club begins a season-high 10-game road trip to Seattle, Oakland and Texas.
Kazmir (8-5, 2.89 ERA) hopes for a better effort against the Indians (49-63) than he had the last time he faced them. The left-hander gave up a season-high five runs in six innings of a 5-2 defeat July 13 - his only outing versus Cleveland this year. He’s 1-2 with a 4.43 ERA in his career against the Indians.
Kazmir is 1-0 with a 2.16 ERA in three starts since that loss, failing to factor in the decision in his last two outings. He allowed two runs and three hits while walking six in 4 2-3 innings of a 5-2 win over Detroit on Friday.
The All-Star, 2-4 with a 4.12 ERA in his last 10 starts since winning a club-record six straight decisions, has lasted fewer than six innings in seven of his last nine outings, due primarily to high pitch counts.
“These guys have picked me up so many times, it’s a great feeling out there to know these guys have your back, especially the bullpen,” Kazmir told the Rays’ official Web site.
Kazmir hopes the Rays can produce the same kind of run support that they did on Tuesday. Evan Longoria had a two-run homer and Dioner Navarro went 2-for-3 with a solo shot and three RBIs for Tampa Bay, winner of six of seven.
Longoria’s 22nd homer set a rookie team record. He has three homers and six RBIs in five games this month, but is 3-for-22 with nine strikeouts against the Indians.
The Rays are expected to be without left fielder Carl Crawford, who missed his second straight game with a sore left hamstring Tuesday.
Jhonny Peralta went 2-for-4 with a two-run homer Tuesday for the Indians, who stranded 13 runners, including five in the sixth and seventh innings.
“It was a frustrating ballgame to say the least,” said Cleveland manager Eric Wedge, whose team has alternated wins and losses in its last six contests.
Peralta has six homers and 26 RBIs over his last 25 games, and is hitting .435 (10-for-23) with three home runs and nine RBIs against the Rays this season.
Cleveland’s Jeremy Sowers (1-6, 5.82) looks to avoid a second consecutive defeat after allowing four runs in 6 2-3 innings of a 4-1 loss at Minnesota on Friday.
Sowers matched up with Kazmir last month and didn’t get the decision after giving up two runs and seven walks in four innings of a 5-2 defeat July 13. The left-hander is 1-0 with a 3.60 ERA in two career starts versus Tampa Bay.