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Kazmir gives up too much too early
MARLINS 8, RAYS 4: Florida hits two homers off the Rays starter, who fails to get his 10th win.
By MARC TOPKIN
Published June 28, 2006
MIAMI - Scott Kazmir felt good, but he wasn't sharp early in Tuesday's start against the Marlins. When he needed seven pitches to strike out opposing starter Ricky Nolasco in the third inning, he figured things weren't going to go his way. By the time he gave up hefty home runs to Miguel Olivo and Miguel Cabrera, he knew it.
What could have been a night to cement the Devil Rays left-hander's candidacy to be named to the AL All-Star team turned out to be another frustrating outing in an 8-4 loss to the Marlins.
"Kaz may have had his worst night of the season, I think, overall with his command and everything else," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "He was just off."
Kazmir's disappointing performance wasn't the only problem as the Rays (33-45) lost a second straight game to Florida and fourth in their past five.
There were a few defensive lapses, including a popped-up bunt that Kazmir wasn't able to catch. They didn't hit well, were shut out and shut down by Nolasco through the first six innings, were limited to four hits and then, after being down 8-0, hit four solo home runs, including a team record-tying three in the seventh inning.
And, Maddon said, they appeared to be distracted by the buildup and the fallout from Tuesday's trade that sent Toby Hall and Mark Hendrickson to the Dodgers for Dioner Navarro and Jae Seo.
"The last two days have been a little disconcerting," Maddon said. "Look at the recent past, and we've been playing pretty well. We get down here, and I just think we've been a little bit out of sorts based on a lot of stuff happening. We've just got to settle back down and start playing like we have been."
With a 10th win, Kazmir would have been almost a sure thing to be included when the AL All-Star squad is announced Sunday. He still may get picked at 9-5 with a 3.59 ERA and 108 strikeouts in 1001/3 innings, but it wasn't the way he wanted to go.
"I just felt like I was battling myself out there," Kazmir said. "Even to the pitcher, it felt like I was fighting myself just to get three strikes over. It's something you're going to find again. You're going to find your rhythm and your timing. That's really all it is for me."
Kazmir's lack of command was obvious early. He walked the leadoff batters in the first and second and the second batter in the third.
"His fastball command was off; you could see that," Maddon said. "Leadoff walk, leadoff walk, and then the second hitter walked the first three innings out. He was missing up and away. Earlier in the season when he did that he would come right back - boom - into the zone. He was having a harder time making adjustments to get it back where he wanted to be."
The Rays hit three homers in an inning five times previously, including June 4 against Toronto. Tuesday, Aubrey Huff went deep to start the inning, then Greg Norton, and after an out, Russell Branyan did as well. The Rays' fourth run came on Julio Lugo's homer in the eighth.
The Marlins hit three, but theirs went further and counted for more.
Olivo hit a three-run shot in the fourth and a two-run shot in the sixth. But Cabrera had the bigger blast, a fifth-inning shot off Kazmir that struck a sign on the facing of the upper deck at Dolphin Stadium and was estimated at 447 feet.
"Cabrera; he's a different animal," Maddon said. "That's the next Edgar Martinez right there. Or he might already be that."