Rays rally but can't complete sweep
Young ace Kazmir fans 10 batters; bullpen can't hold Orioles late
ST. PETERSBURG -- A feast can last only so long, which Devil Rays hitters discovered the hard way in a 4-2 loss to the Orioles in front of 23,747 on Sunday afternoon at Tropicana Field.
The loss prevented the Rays from claiming their fourth sweep of the season and kept them in the American League East basement, 3 1/2 games behind the Orioles, as they welcome the Angels to Tropicana Field on Monday to begin a three-game series.
In the first two games of the series, the Rays' offense tallied 27 runs on 32 hits, including seven home runs. On Sunday, they were back to having trouble scoring.
Still, nobody dared talk about lack of run support given the performance of Baltimore starter Erik Bedard, who locked up in a pitching duel with Rays staff ace Scott Kazmir. Opposing teams never seem to be hitting on the days when either of the young left-handers are pitching.
"[Sunday's result] has nothing to do with yesterday," said Rays first baseman Travis Lee. "It's about facing good pitching -- same with them. ... [Bedard] and Kazmir are two lefties that are coming up, and they're going to be here for awhile."
Added Orioles first baseman Kevin Millar: "[Kazmir] had his good stuff today. We battled him, but he had a lot of strikeouts, and Bedard was equally good. That was a good baseball game, a lot better than the first two."
Kazmir told his teammates on Saturday night to save a few runs for Sunday, but they didn't afford him the luxury of pitching with a few crooked numbers on the scoreboard. That hardly affected the southpaw's performance, though, as he put forth yet another top-shelf effort by holding the O's to two runs on seven hits, while striking out 10 and walking just one. Kazmir struck out the first three batters he faced to send a message to Baltimore.
"When he struck out the first three hitters of the game, we said, 'Oh, we got ourselves a ballgame. Our guy better be up to the occasion,'" manager Sam Perlozzo said.
Kazmir went on to strike out four of the first five, and 10 of the first 18 batters he faced.
Unfortunately for Kazmir and the Rays, the O's were able to roll out Bedard, who had missed Friday's start against the Rays with a stomach ailment due to some bad sushi he ate on Thursday night. He brought a six-game winning streak into Sunday's start, and his performance didn't vary from the script, as he allowed two runs on three hits, while striking out nine in seven innings.
In claiming the win, Bedard extended his career-high win streak to seven, a stretch in which he has allowed just seven earned runs, with a 1.29 ERA, and has held opponents to a .155 batting average. All seven wins have come after Baltimore losses.
"We'll take the 'W' on Sunday instead of the 'W' on Friday," said Millar, who made a key catch late in the game. "I'll get him some sushi. We'll just cook it."
Rays manager Joe Maddon complimented the pitching performances of both pitchers.
"Kazmir's slider was very sharp today," Maddon said. "Bedard threw his breaking ball for strikes whenever he wanted to. ... I just wish that food poisoning lasted one more day."
The undoing for the Rays and the salvation for the O's came after both aces left the game with the score tied at 2.
Jon Switzer started the eighth for the Rays and got an immediate boost from Carl Crawford's diving catch in left field. The left-hander then surrendered a double to Brian Roberts, prompting Maddon to call for right-hander Edwin Jackson to pitch to right-handed-hitting Melvin Mora, who delivered an RBI single to left. After Miguel Tejada struck out swinging, Mora stole second in advance of Jeff Conine's RBI single to left to put the Orioles up, 4-2.
Perlozzo hoped to give closer Chris Ray two innings of work on Sunday, and the way the game played out perfectly facilitated that desire. Ray entered the game in the eighth with his team up, 4-2, and methodically dispatched of the Rays' last six hitters to seal up the victory and earn his 24th save of the season.
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.