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07/29/07 7:30 PM ET
Late flurry against Sox snaps Rays' skid
Three seventh-inning homers provide first win since July 20
By Bill Chastain / MLB.com
ST. PETERSBURG -- Three home runs in the seventh inning sent the Devil Rays' eight-game losing streak into the rear-view mirror. Dioner Navarro, B.J. Upton and Carlos Pena all homered in the seventh to lead a 5-2 Rays win over the Red Sox in front of 34,813 on Sunday at Tropicana Field. The win ended one of team's worst stretches in recent memory that saw opposing teams outscore the Rays, 83-27, while outhitting them, 105-72. On Sunday, the Rays banged out 12 hits to the Red Sox's eight and won the battle of the bullpens for a change. "I've had enough of those," said Rays manager Joe Maddon referring to the eight-game skid. "It's about time we got some eight-game winning streaks. You see what relief pitching can do." The expected pitchers' duel between Scott Kazmir and Daisuke Matsuzaka came to fruition, though in abbreviated fashion. Kazmir held the Red Sox scoreless, allowing six hits, one walk and striking out eight in six innings. Maddon elected to remove him prior to the seventh after the 23-year-old left-hander had thrown 97 pitches. He explained that he did not want to have Kazmir reach his pitch limit in the middle of the next inning and have to bring in a reliever with runners on base. Kazmir has pitched well in his past four outings while continuing his brilliance against the Red Sox. Sunday's scoreless outing improved Kazmir's career ERA against the Sox to 2.58. Since making an adjustment to his mechanics, Kazmir has felt locked in and eager to make his next start. "It's completely different when you feel like you don't have to worry about your delivery," Kazmir said. Matsuzaka started the seventh and got the first out of the inning before Navarro hit an 0-2 pitch into the right-field stands to give the Rays a 1-0 lead. The Rays catcher seemingly is responding to a challenge from reserve Josh Paul for the starting job. Navarro "had a really nice game," Maddon said. "The home run he hit really took off. Must be part of that maple-bat syndrome." Maddon was referring to his recent crusade in which he touted the dangers of maple bats. He also addressed Navarro's response to Paul by noting: "Competition is always good." Josh Wilson followed Navarro's home run with a single on Matsuzaka's 113th pitch of the game, prompting Red Sox manager Terry Francona to bring in Manny Delcarmen. Akinori Iwamura hit into a fielder's choice and Brendan Harris singled to bring up B.J. Upton, who hit Delcarmen's first pitch into the left-field stands. Carlos Pena then hit a 1-0 offering for his 25th home run of the season to stake the Rays to a 5-0 lead. The three home runs in one inning tied a team record that has now been accomplished eight times. Despite the seventh-inning onslaught, the Red Sox did not go gently. Manny Ramirez and Kevin Youkilis hit back-to-back home runs in the eighth off Gary Glover to cut the lead to 5-2 and send the heavy contingent of Red Sox fans into a state of delirium. Red Sox Nation flocked to Tropicana Field over the weekend as personified by the 104,055 three-game gate, which was the highest three-game total since an August 1999 series against the Indians. Glover pitched the final 2 1/3 innings to pick up the win in heroic fashion given the fact several members of the bullpen were not available following the extra-inning loss on Saturday night. Glover was "going after guys," Navarro said. "He just kept pitching well." Glover read the situation and knew what he needed to do on Sunday. "Keep going as long as I could," Glover said. "I was reaching down trying to get everything left in this body. ... Wins have been tough to come in July. ... For us to come back and win today, I hope can really be a spark plug for this club." Maddon appreciated Glover's effort. Glover was "tremendous," Maddon said. "We needed that big time. ... This guy's been very steady for us for a while." Any residue from Saturday night's 12-6, 12-inning loss appeared gone after Sunday's uplifting victory. "You can see what we bring to the table," Kazmir said. "Guys who can really hit the ball, good defense -- it's only a matter of time before we put it together."
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.