ARLINGTON, Texas — It was plenty hot, 91 degrees with an uncomfortably warm wind. They were pretty tired, after their scheduled late-night arrival became early morning due to plane problems. And a bit ticked off, the result of MLB's discipline for Thursday's brawl.
But, still, the Rays couldn't have been happier to be in Texas on Friday.
It meant they were finally out of Boston, where they were beat, and beaten up, during an ugly and contentious three-game sweep. And it meant they looked like they did before they went, combining excellent starting pitching and timely hitting to halt a three-game losing streak with a 12-4 win over the Rangers.
"We needed to get that out of our heads and just think forward," Kazmir said. "We have something special here, and we don't want to ruin it because of what happened."
After what happened at Fenway Park, the Rays needed something big to stop their slide.
And they got plenty, improving to 36-25 and moving back to within a half-game of first place in the AL East, as the Sox lost to the Mariners.
Kazmir was the key, stepping up like aces do, when the team needs a big start to switch the momentum and save the bullpen. He held the hot-hitting Rangers to two runs and six hits over eight innings, striking out six and walking none, to improve to 6-1, becoming the first Ray to win six consecutive starts (and allowing just four runs in them).
"Everyone's going to look that we scored a bunch of runs, but it was all about Kaz tonight," manager Joe Maddon said. "We could not have done that without him. The way he pitched tonight against that ballclub was spectacular."
It was also special in a family way, because Kazmir had about 20 friends and relatives on hand from his native Houston. That didn't include his dad Eddie, who celebrated his 55th birthday by watching the game on TV at a nearby hotel with the family dog because he's too superstitious to see his son pitch in person based on previous results. ("We have to change that up," Scott said.)
Kazmir didn't quite do it all as the Rays hit a season-high four homers, including a monstrous blast by Evan Longoria that was estimated, perhaps conservatively, at 442 feet. B.J. Upton, Dioner Navarro and Eric Hinske also went deep, but not as deep.
Longoria's was just the 14th ball in the 15-season history of Rangers Ballpark to land in the second deck, well above and beyond the leftfield fence, and only the second by a visiting player. The other? Mark Mc-
Gwire, on July 5, 1997.
"That's as good as I can hit a ball," Longoria said. "Square off the barrel and pretty much as hard as I can swing."
"When it left it was zero gravity," Maddon said. "It was just going to keep going."