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Bullpen rebounds to bail out Kazmir
The Rays get needed relief with four shutout innings.
By EDUARDO A. ENCINA
Published June 7, 2007
TORONTO -- On Tuesday night, the Devil Rays proved -- in embarrassing fashion -- that no lead is safe.
And Rays manager Joe Maddon would have preferred that starter Scott Kazmir went deep into Wednesday's game against the Blue Jays to rest a physically and mentally beaten Tampa Bay bullpen, but the 23-year-old lefty's night ended early.
Kazmir left the game after just five innings, having thrown 103 pitches. The Blue Jays forced Kazmir to work deep into counts all night. His five walks were indicative of that.
But it was the Devil Rays bullpen that recovered from a humbling effort the night before to preserve a 6-2 victory for Kazmir, giving him his fourth win.
"What you saw is the re-emphasis of confidence," Maddon said. "I went up to all the guys and said, 'Hey you want to be a relief pitcher, huh?' That's the name of the game.
"Some nights you're the windshield and some nights you're the bug, and Tuesday night we were the bug. You just have to be able to wipe it clean and come back the next night."
The Rays had six at-bats with the bases loaded and loaded the bases in three consecutive innings. The final time, Carl Crawford's three-run double in the fourth inning proved to be the winning hit.
The Rays bullpen pitched four scoreless innings, with relievers Brian Stokes, Shawn Camp, Casey Fossum and Gary Glover holding the Jays to three hits to finish it.
"It feels good to bounce back," said Camp, who replaced Stokes and struck out Aaron Hill with two runners on, one out and the tying run at the plate in a pivotal seventh inning. "(Tuesday) night it was obvious that we came in and just didn't do our job. The biggest thing is getting back out there. If not, you're just going to sit there and dwell and lose sleep over things like that."
After Camp retired Hill, Fossum induced pinch-hitter Matt Stairs into a groundout to second to end the Jays' biggest threat.
"Anytime we do that it boosts confidence and momentum for the next game, " said Fossum, who threw 1 1/3 hitless innings. "I think everybody feels a lot better about themselves today."
Then Glover, emerging as a go-to guy in Maddon's eyes, retired Toronto in the ninth, allowing Maddon to give closer Al Reyes a second straight off day with today's early afternoon game looming.
Despite admitting his night was "very tough," Kazmir held the Blue Jays to two runs on six hits.
"The first three innings I felt like I was pressing a little bit," Kazmir said. "It was just frustrating giving up all those pitches early on."
"You can see he's just not quite comfortable yet," Maddon said. "He's just so close to really taking off and it's going to just be one appearance where just everything clicks and then he's going to go crazy.
"His numbers are still very good in spite of the struggle."
With the score tied at 2 in the fourth, Crawford's bases-loaded double down the rightfield line cleared the bases and continued his success with the bases loaded. He is 5-for-6 with 14 RBIs in that situation.
It was also his fifth multihit game in his past eight contests against the Blue Jays.
Eduardo A. Encina can be reached at email@example.com.