Zobrist hits grand slam in Rays’ win

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP)—The Tampa Bay Rays cleared another hurdle in the effort to distance themselves from their woeful past.

Ben Zobrist hit a grand slam, Cliff Floyd drove in five runs and the AL East-leading Rays guaranteed their first-ever winning season with a 14-3 rout of the Baltimore Orioles on Friday night.

“Going into spring training I knew we were better,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said. “We just didn’t know how much better. Eighty-two wins is a big moment, and I want this to be the standard of what we do, to get that number on an annual basis.

“You’ve got to break through the barrier eventually. We’ve done it, now let’s move on down the road.”

Floyd had a two-run double, Zobrist hit his slam and Gabe Gross added a solo shot during a seven-run fourth that made it 10-0.

“It was contagious,” Zobrist said.

Scott Kazmir (10-6) allowed three hits and three walks over 5 1-3 scoreless innings. The left-hander has won 10 games or more in four straight seasons. Tampa Bay joined the 1968 Oakland Athletics as the only teams to have five pitchers 26 years old or younger with 20 starts and 10 wins in the same season.

“It’s been a great season and we’re showing no signs of letting up,” Kazmir said.

Tampa Bay (82-51) is 4 1/2 games ahead of second-place Boston, which beat the Chicago White Sox 8-0. The Rays, an AL-best 50-19 at home, had never won more than 70 games in a season before this year.

“They’re on a roll right now. They’re playing very well at home,” Orioles manager Dave Trembley said.

Carlos Pena and Floyd drew bases-load walks—the last two of four consecutive two-out walks by Jeremy Guthrie—to give the Rays a 3-0 lead in the second.

Floyd had put Tampa Bay ahead 1-0 on a first-inning RBI double, and added a sacrifice fly during a three-run sixth that extended the Rays advantage to 13-0. He had a homer and two RBIs in the Rays’ 3-2 win over Toronto on Thursday.

Guthrie (10-11) lost his third consecutive start, giving up seven runs, seven hits and six walks in three-plus innings. It was shortest start of his career.

“I didn’t feel great physically,” Guthrie said. “At the same time it doesn’t mean I can’t pitch well.”

Tampa Bay also got a solo homer from Shawn Riggans in the eighth.

Juan Castro and Aubrey Huff had RBI doubles for Baltimore, which has lost eight of 10.

Orioles third baseman Melvin Mora left the game in the third with a strained left hamstring. He was hurt trying to beat out a ground ball with two and two out in the third.

Mora is hitting .393 with 12 homers and 49 RBIs since the All-Star break. He’s not expected to play in the final two games of the series Saturday and Sunday.

Baltimore catcher Ramon Hernandez was ejected by plate umpire Sam Holbrook in the fourth. After the Rays had gone up 10-0, Hernandez argued with Holbrook after a check-swing by Tampa Bay’s Akinori Iwamura was called a ball.

Orioles reliever Fernando Cabrera, who allowed the homers to Zobrist and Gross, drew the ire of Trembley for flipping the ball into air when he left the mound.

Cabrera apologized after the game for his action.

“He was frustrated that he gave up the home runs,” Trembley said. “I’ll deal with it. When I say I’ll deal with, it won’t mean that I’ll ignore it. I’ll deal with, which means I’ll do something about it.”

Notes

Kazmir threw 102 pitches. … Orioles RHP Daniel Cabrera began serving his six-game suspension for throwing at the Yankees’ Alex Rodriguez on July 29 after the ruling was upheld by Major League Baseball. … Rays 3B Evan Longoria (right wrist) made around 70 throws, but hasn’t started hitting. … Tampa Bay C Dioner Navarro (hamstrings) could start Saturday after being out of the lineup three consecutive games. … The Rays released LHP Kurt Birkins, who was pitching for Triple-A Durham.

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Friday, Aug 29