OAKLAND, Calif. (AP)—Scott Kazmir insists he is still finding himself after an elbow injury delayed the start of his season.
He sure looked dominant, scraping out another impressive win thanks to one clutch hit.
Left fielder Emil Brown tried to make a sliding catch on Dioner Navarro’s sinking liner in the eighth inning and lost the ball in the lights and it got past him for a three-run double, sending the Tampa Bay Rays to a 3-2 victory over the Oakland Athletics on Tuesday night.
“It’s about time the luck’s changing our way a little bit,” Kazmir said. “A lot of things feel better when you’re winning.”
Kazmir struck out a season-high eight batters in his fourth outing, holding his own in a pitcher’s duel between a pair of talented young left-handers. Kazmir has allowed only one run in his last 19 innings.
“It was as good as we’ve seen Kaz this year, and as good as he was at his best last year,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said. “He had great stuff and he pitched great.”
The Rays have won 10 of 13 and just their third series in 16 trips to Oakland.
Oakland lost for the ninth time in 11 games and in tough fashion for the second straight night after a 7-6 defeat in 13 innings Monday.
Brown said he tried to get low to the ground to have a better view of the ball, but that didn’t work. After speaking to the official scorer after the game to tell his side, the play was changed from an error to a hit.
“There’s nothing I can do about losing the ball in the lights,” Brown said. “The fact those guys had pitched out of the situation is why I’m more frustrated and angry. I was trying my best to get that. I wish I could have.”
Kazmir (3-1), coming off back-to-back scoreless outings, won his third straight start after dropping his season debut at Boston on May 4. He allowed one run on four hits in seven strong innings, walking only one.
“I still feel like there are still steps to take,” he said. “I’m still progressing.”
But he did give up Frank Thomas’ solo homer on a 3-2 pitch to start the ninth, the third home run in two games and sixth this year for the Big Hurt.
A’s No. 9 hitter Rajai Davis singled in Oakland’s lone run in the fifth, and the A’s got a strong start from Greg Smith but couldn’t do enough offensively against Kazmir. Smith lost his third consecutive start and dropped his fourth decision in five starts since beating the Minnesota Twins on April 24 in the Coliseum.
“It’s an outing I can definitely build off. It gives me some confidence,” Smith said. “That’s tough to swallow and it stings a little bit, but the thing about this team is we don’t quit.”
He was through after giving up a leadoff walk to Jason Bartlett in the eighth followed by Carl Crawford’s single. Joey Devine relieved and Bartlett immediately stole third and Crawford advanced on the play on catcher Kurt Suzuki’s error. After intentionally walking Carlos Pena to load the bases, Devine struck out Evan Longoria before Brown had trouble in left.
“The guy was pitching his (tail) off. I was just trying to put the ball in play and make something happen,” Navarro said. “What goes around comes around, I guess.”
Suzuki’s leadoff double in the third was the first baserunner against Kazmir, who then struck out the side. The 24-year-old Kazmir, who began the year on the disabled list with a strained elbow, was last year’s AL strikeout leader with 239 and has 22 so far in 2008. He also was the 18th lefty starter faced by the A’s so far this season, most in the American League.
A’s second baseman Mark Ellis missed his eighth straight game with a strained left hamstring but hopes to be back in the starting lineup for Friday’s series opener against the defending champion Boston Red Sox, following the team’s day off Thursday. Ellis did some running before Tuesday’s game and said he felt better.
Tampa Bay’s B.J. Upton stole his 11th base. … Ben Zobrist got the start at 2B for the Rays and Akinori Iwamura got a day off. … A’s RHP reliever Andrew Brown underwent an appendectomy and was placed on the 15-day disabled list to recover from the surgery. The move was retroactive to May 14, one day after Brown last pitched. Oakland recalled LHP Lenny DiNardo from Triple-A Sacramento to fill Brown’s spot, the second stint in the big leagues this season for DiNardo. … Oakland RHP Santiago Casilla, on the DL with inflammation in his throwing elbow, will begin playing light catch in a few days. “That’s really good news,” said manager Bob Geren, who initially thought the injury could be worse.