Miami (38-37) at Tampa Bay (40-35)

Fair Currently: St. Petersburg, FL
Temp: 83° F
  • Game info: 7:08 pm EDT Sat Jun 27, 2009
  • TV: FSFL
Preview | Box Score | Recap

After a slow start to this season, facing NL teams has helped B.J. Upton(notes) become a reliable hitter again for the Tampa Bay Rays.

Following a brief lull, the Rays have also regained their stroke and now are winning consistently.

After pulling away late from the Florida Marlins in the series opener, Tampa Bay will look to continue its run as the teams play the middle a three-game set Saturday night at Tropicana Field.

Upton batted .286 with 33 home runs and 149 RBIs during his first two full seasons in the majors and played a key role in last season’s 97-win campaign that ended with the franchise’s first AL pennant.

The center fielder, however, was batting .213 as recently as June 13 this season. In 11 interleague games since, Upton has batted .396 with 12 of his 27 RBIs.

He has hit .357 with 13 RBIs in 16 contests against the NL compared with .207 and 14 RBIs in 51 versus AL teams.

With Friday’s game tied at 3 with two outs in the eighth inning, Upton delivered a bases-clearing double and Carl Crawford(notes) brought him home with a single in the 7-3 win.

“It’s just playing the game, playing the game the way it’s supposed to be played,” Upton said.

After hitting .346 during a six-game win streak earlier this month, the Rays followed by batting .229 in three straight losses but have hit .317 while winning five of their last six. Tampa Bay (40-35) is five games over .500 for the first time since the end of the 2008 regular season.

While searching for their fourth straight win, the Rays will try to become the first team in major league history to reach 100 homers and 100 steals before the All-Star break. They stole three bases Friday for a major league-leading 114 and have hit 98 home runs.

Carlos Pena(notes), the AL leader with 22 home runs, is one shy of his 100th with the team and would match Fred McGriff for second on the franchise’s all-time list.

While the Rays and Pena chase those marks, left-hander Scott Kazmir(notes) (4-4, 7.69 ERA) will make his first start since May 20 and first against the Marlins since 2006. Kazmir was activated off the disabled list Friday after recovering from a strained right quad and working on his mechanics to avoid straining his left elbow again, an injury that cost him time last season.

Kazmir has split his two career starts versus Florida - both in 2006.

Friday’s loss ended a five-game win streak for the Marlins (38-37), but Hanley Ramirez(notes) continued his hot hitting with three hits, including his fourth home run in five games.

His game-tying solo homer in the seventh Friday was his third homer in his last five meetings with Tampa Bay. Ramirez, hitting a team-best .335, has batted .500 (12 for 24) with 15 RBIs over the last six overall contests.

“You’re looking at one of the top three players in the National League, if not all of baseball,” Marlins catcher John Baker(notes) told the team’s official Web site.

Florida will try to bounce back behind right-hander Chris Volstad(notes) (5-7, 4.74), who broke a four-start losing streak in Sunday’s 6-5 win over the New York Yankees. Volstad, who has never faced Tampa Bay, allowed three runs over six innings.

These teams have split 30 meetings at Tropicana Field since 1998.

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Starting Pitchers

C. Volstad Pit vs. S. Kazmir Hou
9-13 Record 10-9
5.21 ERA 4.89
107 K 117
59 BB 60
1.43 WHIP 1.42

Scoreboard

Saturday, Jun 27