ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP)—Devil Rays manager Lou Piniella had a feeling things would get better after the All-Star break. He was right.
Chad Orvella, Joe Borowski and Danys Baez, who pitched the ninth for his 28th save, completed Tampa Bay’s fourth straight win. The Devil Rays have won seven of eight and are 22-12 since the All-Star break.
“I had a sneaky suspicion we were going to play good,” Piniella said. “I’m a big believer in chemistry and toughness, and I’ve seen this slowly come together.
“It wasn’t translating into wins initially, but the baseball was getting a little better. All of sudden things start coming together, these kids start getting some confidence and that’s what you’re seeing.”
Cantu hit a two-run homer in the fourth and drove in two more runs with a single one inning later. He has a team-best 19 homers and 81 RBIs.
“Our offense, defense, pitching, everything, we put it together and we’ve got this momentum going now,” Cantu said. “It’s going to be a different ballgame from now on. Now we’re playing so well, and we’re not looking back.”
Kazmir (7-8) equaled a career best with 10 strikeouts. The 21-year-old left-hander allowed four hits and two walks. He is 4-1 with 2.42 ERA in seven starts since the All-Star break.
“We’re just playing good baseball all around,” Kazmir said. “Even the ones we don’t come out with the win, we’re always there. We never give up or anything like that.”
Kazmir is the only Tampa Bay pitcher with a pair of 10-strikeout games. The rookie has struck out 134 in 146 1-3 innings this season.
“He’s going to be a frontline starter,” Texas first baseman Mark Teixeira said. “What’s impressive is his age. He was very good. He’s going to be a very good pitcher for a long time in this league.”
Gary Matthews and Alfonso Soriano homered for Texas, making the Rangers the third major league team with 200 homers in five consecutive seasons. The Chicago White Sox and New York Yankees both entered 2005 with five-year streaks.
“That’s something to look back on, but not now,” Rangers manager Buck Showalter said.
The Rangers are 1-11 on a 13-game road trip, the first time they have lost more than 10 times on any trip.
Seth McClung and two relievers limited the Rangers to three hits in the Devil Rays’ 2-1 win on Friday. Texas didn’t get a hit off Kazmir until Kevin Mench grounded a single to left with two outs in the fourth.
Tampa Bay went up 4-0 in the fifth on Cantu’s two-run single. He has driven in 50 runs in his last 54 games.
Matthews hit his career-best 15th homer in the sixth and Soriano connected for his 30th in the ninth.
Benoit gave up four runs and six hits in five innings. He struck out three and walked two.
“They have good young hitters and speed … and going to get better,” Benoit said.
Kazmir was hit on the foot by Michael Young’s grounder in the sixth, but after the game said he was fine. … Rangers 3B Hank Blalock has no RBIs in his last nine games. … Soriano went 1-for-4 and has two hits in his last 16 at-bats. … The Rangers (57-65) fell a season-worst eight games under .500. … Borowski, who was released by the Chicago Cubs, has not allowed a run in 16 appearances since signing with the Devil Rays on July 11. That spans 17 1-3 innings, matching Al Levine’s team mark for a reliever.