Matt Garza(notes) now gets the chance to further that momentum and draw the reigning AL champions closer into the race in the East as the Rays try to grab the series finale from the division-leading New York Yankees on Wednesday night when their three-game set concludes in Tampa.
Tampa Bay (55-46) dropped a season-worst 7 1/2 games behind New York (61-39) after Monday’s 11-4 loss. However, Kazmir - the subject of trade rumors ahead of the July 31 deadline in an injury-plagued and inconsistent season - gave up one run in seven-plus innings for his first win since May 9 as the Rays regrouped with a 6-2 victory Tuesday to deal the Yankees just their second loss in 12 games since the All-Star break.
“It’s kind of huge to pick us up, because we got our butts kicked last night, and we all felt that in the clubhouse after the game,” Kazmir told the Yankees’ official Web site. “We wanted to go out there and set the tone early, get a couple of runs, and throughout the whole game, that’s what we did.”
Garza (7-7, 3.68) now gets the chance to give the Rays a series victory ahead of a four-game set with Kansas City that starts Friday. He is coming off arguably his best start of the season, beating Toronto 4-2 in 10 innings Friday after giving up two runs while striking out nine in nine innings while dueling Blue Jays ace Roy Halladay(notes) to a stalemate.
“I was just trying to match (Halladay) pitch for pitch and keep my pitch count in the same area as his,” said Garza, who is 1-2 in six starts and seven overall appearances versus New York. “That’s what happened. Not walking anybody really helped too.”
This will be Garza’s second start against Yankees counterpart Joba Chamberlain(notes) (6-2, 3.86) this season. Each failed to record a decision as the Yankees rallied for a 4-3 win June 7 when Garza limited New York to one run in five innings while Chamberlain allowed three runs in six.
Chamberlain appears to have found a groove since the break, conceding two runs and five hits over 13 2-3 innings in winning both his starts. The right-hander, who credits a trip to his home in Nebraska as a key reason for his turnaround, limited Oakland to one run and two hits Friday in seven innings of an 8-3 victory.
“I’m just having fun, back to being myself,” said Chamberlain, who had just one win in seven starts prior to the break. “It’s hard to be good at this game. You’re going to have your failures, but it’s how you react to those failures.”
Prior to facing Garza in June, Chamberlain had pitched 8 1-3 scoreless innings versus Tampa spanning seven relief outings. The Rays’ active roster is a cumulative 7 for 45 (.156) with three RBIs against the right-hander.