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Yet another floater folly
Tim Wakefield befuddles the Rays again, winning his 19th against them.
By MARC TOPKIN
Published August 21, 2007
Tampa Bay Devil Rays starting pitcher Scott Kazmir lowers his head while waiting as manager Joe Maddon heads out of the dug out on his way to the mound to pull Kazmir from the game.
[Dirk Shadd | Times]
[Dirk Shadd | Times]
Delmon Young is unable to come up with the catch at the on a ball that was called fair resulting in a ground rule double hit by Boston Red Sox Coco Crisp.
ST. PETERSBURG - The Devil Rays had about as many answers Monday night as they had runs.
The hitters were again left dazed and confused by knuckleballing nemesis Tim Wakefield in Boston's 6-0 shutout, and starter Scott Kazmir didn't have much to say after an erratic outing that ended his run of second-half success.
The Rays 47-77 simply don't know what to do about Wakefield, who has made them his own. He beat them for the fourth time this season, improved to a mind-boggling 9-0 with a 2.16 ERA in climate-controlled Tropicana Field and notched his 19th overall win (vs. two losses) against them, the most of any pitcher.
"I really don't have any answers," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "It's as good as I've seen him. ... The combination of movement and his ability to throw it where he wants to is kind of sick right now."
Wakefield ran his scoreless streak against the Rays to 19 with a strong seven innings, buoyed by an early 5-0 lead.
Some - but not all - of that was Kazmir's fault, and though it was obvious he was frustrated - showered, dressed and staring into space as he sat at his locker - it wasn't clear why.
There were a couple of plays behind him that could have been made and, despite recovering after throwing 57 pitches in the first two innings, he was again pulled shortly after exceeding 100, in this case 108 in 52/3. He did strike out eight to improve his team season record to 176.
"Just frustrated losing all the time," he said.
Kazmir (9-8) allowed a single on the game's first pitch and walked the second hitter, then gave up two runs when Mike Lowell ripped a ball that went off third baseman Akinori Iwamura's glove and down the line.
The second started similarly as rightfielder Delmon Young touched, but couldn't catch, a Coco Crisp fly ball that bounced into the seats for a double. A walk to No. 9 hitter Kevin Cash and three ground-ball singles later, the Sox had three more runs.
Kazmir had gone 4-1, 1.01 in his previous seven starts, allowing one run over his past 25 innings, and said he didn't feel, or perform, any differently. "Not really, I felt good out there," he said. "Just have to let this one go, worry about the next start already."
Maddon, who acknowledged pregame the difficult decisions he has to make in pulling Kazmir based on pitch counts, didn't think it was that bad, either.
"It could have been close to being not knocked around," he said, citing the balls off Iwamura's and Young's gloves. "I liked the fact he got as deep into the game as he did."
The Sox, whose AL East lead has shrunk from 12 games on July 5 to four, worrying the already nervous residents of Red Sox Nation, were just happy to hold off the Yankees for another day. Wakefield pretty much ensured that, despite back tightness he said could have been caused by the Trop turf and/or mound, or the beds at the Don CeSar hotel.
Still, St. Pete is among his favorite places to visit.
"The ball seems to move a little bit more inside," he said. "I don't know why. I don't care to know why. I just know what it does. I'm just really thankful that I was able to pitch well here again."
Marc Topkin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org View his blog at blogs.tampabay.com/rays.