Rays aim to rebound behind Kazmir
Tampa Bay (23-17) vs. New York (20-21), Thursday, 4:10 p.m. ET
Heading into Thursday afternoon's series finale with the Yankees, the Rays will have to do something they haven't done in nearly a week: rebound.
Although losing has been nothing new to the Rays of old, the 2008 squad was riding a six-game win streak before Wednesday night's 2-1 loss. And being back on the other side of the win-loss column is something that doesn't sit kindly with this year's team.
"We want to win those games, and of course you take it hard," Wednesday's starter, James Shields, said. "We've been on a good streak right now, we're playing good baseball -- good fundamental baseball -- and games like this, it's pretty tough [to lose]. We're going to bounce back tomorrow. We got [Scott Kazmir] on the mound, so we'll be all right."
The Rays will have Kazmir on the mound for many more starts to come, as the club announced prior to Wednesday's game that it had reached an agreement to keep the ace in St. Petersburg until at least 2011, with a club option for the 2012 season.
Kazmir, who hasn't lost to the Yankees in his past four starts against them, will look to clinch the series Thursday afternoon, as the Rays won the first two contests prior to Wednesday's loss.
"We've been playing well," manager Joe Maddon said. "It's one game, and expectations are high. I like it. I like how everybody's upset."
Wednesday's loss also ended an 11-game home win streak, but kept the Rays a half-game ahead of the Red Sox -- who also lost -- for sole possession of first place in the American League East.
The Rays will look to Kazmir, the reigning American League strikeout king, to keep them riding high and keep the Yankees at bay.
Entering his third start of the season and first against New York, the southpaw is coming off his first win, Saturday against the Angels. In that appearance, Kazmir hurled six scoreless innings, striking out six to become the Rays' all-time wins leader (36).
Fortunately, Kazmir has also historically done well against New York's lineup. Derek Jeter (2-for-20), Hideki Matsui (4-for-20), Jason Giambi (2-for-13) and Robinson Cano (1-for-11) are a combined 9-for-64 off Kazmir.
"We just have a great product here, and I'm just happy to be a part of it," Kazmir said after the Rays announced his long-term extension.
The move to sign Kazmir is the latest in a seemingly endless list of positives for Tampa Bay in the season's first six weeks.
"We're kind of getting all the boys in the stable right now, and it's a great feeling," Maddon said. "I'm very happy for him and it's great for us, also."
Rays starters have a 1.29 ERA over the last eight games, and they have allowed only three run in the first three games of the series.
The Yankees have tallied only four runs total in this series, which is good news for Kazmir, as the 24-year-old makes his 100th career start, sitting 18th on the all-time strikeout list for pitchers through their first 100 games. The southpaw's blistering fastball and devastating slider could slide him up a few more spots following Thursday's series finale.Pitching matchup
TB: LHP Scott Kazmir (1-1, 2.70 ERA)
Kazmir will make his third start of the 2008 season after missing the first month of the season while recovering from inflammation in his left elbow. In his win over the Angels, he pitched six scoreless innings, allowing three hits and three walks while striking out six. He is 2-3 with a 3.00 ERA in nine career appearances against the Yankees. NYY: RHP Ian Kennedy (0-2, 8.37 ERA)
Kennedy had been demoted to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre after going 0-2 with a 8.37 ERA in his first six appearances of the year. The right-hander has shown signs of turning his season around at Triple-A, allowing no runs on two hits over 8 1/3 innings while walking none and striking out eight, and will be recalled for Thursday's start. Kennedy is 1-1 in three starts vs. the Rays, posting a 5.87 ERA. Tidbits
The Rays agreed to let the Pirates keep righty Evan Meek in return for cash considerations. The hurler was a Rule 5 Draft pick who was designated for assignment, and after he cleared waivers, the Rays could have had him back for $25,000. ... The Rays will present a preliminary financing plan for the proposed waterfront ballpark at the St. Petersburg City Council Meeting at City Hall on Thursday at 3 p.m. ET. ... Boxing Hall of Fame legendary trainer Angelo Dundee spoke to the team prior to Wednesday night's game. ... Outfielder Nathan Haynes cleared waivers, and the Rays are waiting to see if he will accept an outright assignment to Triple-A Durham. ... Among the 20,936 people in attendance Wednesday night was Kevin Maris, son of Yankees legend Roger Maris. ... Akinori Iwamura went 0-for-3, snapping an 11-game hitting streak on Wednesday night. ... Since coming off the 15-day disabled list, Cliff Floyd has hit safely in all seven games he has appeared in. Tickets
Buy tickets now to catch the game in person. On the Internet
Official game notes On television
FSN-HD On radio
WHNZ 1250, WGES 680 (Español) Up next
Friday: Rays (Andy Sonnanstine, 5-1, 5.07) at Cardinals (Braden Looper, 5-2, 4.21), 8:15 p.m. ET
Saturday: Rays (Matt Garza, 2-1, 3.86) at Cardinals (Adam Wainwright, 3-2, 2.95), 1:10 p.m. ET
Sunday: Rays (Edwin Jackson, 2-3, 3.47) at Cardinals (TBD), 2:15 p.m. ET
Brittany Ghiroli is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.