Matt Garza has another strong outing for Tampa Bay Rays

Matt Garza battles through four walks, gets big strikeouts to escape jams and earns Joe Maddon’s praise.

DIRK SHADD | Times

Matt Garza battles through four walks, gets big strikeouts to escape jams and earns Joe Maddon’s praise.

ST. PETERSBURG — Though RHP Matt Garza didn't pick up his fourth consecutive victory Thursday, his workmanlike effort played a huge role in the Rays' eventual walkoff win.

Garza, coming off a 120-pitch, bullpen-saving performance in his last start, delivered again against the A's, giving up two runs in 62/3 innings.

Though Garza wasn't happy with four walks, he battled out of jams and get a strikeout (eight total) when needed.

"As starting pitching goes, that's how we're going to go — period," manager Joe Maddon said. "For him to come back and right us like that, it's really important. It's to the point now where you expect that out of him."

Garza has been the most consistent Rays starter, picking up his seventh quality start in nine outings. Over his past five, he's 3-0 with a 2.29 ERA, allowing a .192 batting average.

"With Matt," Maddon said, "you really know he can dominate pretty much anybody."

IN THE SWING: Though the Rays begin interleague play tonight in Miami, pitchers started preparing with their hitting program about a month and a half ago. Count tonight's starter, RHP Andy Sonnanstine, as one of the most eager. Sonnanstine, who hit No. 3 Sunday due to a lineup gaffe, went 1-for-3 with an RBI double. Sonnanstine, who is hitting .385 (5-for-13) in his career, hasn't been alone in his success; Rays pitchers have hit .261 (12-for-46) with five RBI since 2007.

"It kind of gives you the feeling you're a position player again," Sonnanstine said. "It's something we don't get to do very often, so I really enjoy the opportunity to go out there and work on my swing."

On the mound, Sonnanstine (2-4, 7.36) says he made progress in his last start in pitching inside more and getting more committed to his changeup. "I'm not feeling bad about the way I'm pitching. I'm still confident," he said. "But I need to do a better job of mixing up my spots and throwing more quality strikes."

STAY THE COURSE: Though LHP Scott Kazmir is in a long funk, having struggled in his past five starts, Maddon said the team continues to support him and he will make his next scheduled start, Monday in Cleveland.

When Maddon was asked about when the Rays would consider bringing up prospects LHP David Price and RHP Wade Davis, he said, "We're evaluating everything."

"With David, we've always talked about (that) when we feel David's ready, that's when David will be here," Maddon said. "When Davis is ready, that's when Davis should be here. You augur out spots at those particular moments for people like that. It's an ongoing discussion. We're always talking about different topics. Our main concern right now is just to get Kaz right."

NO WORRIES: Despite another shaky outing by closer Troy Percival — two runs and two walks while getting just one out in the ninth — Maddon said the Rays will stick with him. When asked about some fans booing Percival, Maddon pointed to perspective. "I understand not being pleased," he said. "But (Percival) last year had 26 saves for us, and we went to the World Series, and a lot of it was on his back."

IN THE DARK: There was a 19-minute delay in the bottom of the first due to a power shortage caused by a lightning strike that knocked out incoming power lines from a 16th street substation. It appeared to startle A's LHP Dallas Braden. "I was bitter to quite bitter about it," Braden said. "There's not much you can do about it. I just hung out in the dugout, tried to stay warm, played catch and tried not to get struck by lightning. Nice state, Florida."

MISCELLANY: Willy Aybar has hit safely in his past 13 starts, with a .375 average (15-40), two homers and eight RBIs. … SS Jason Bartlett hit his career-high sixth home run of the season, most among AL shortstops.

Matt Garza has another strong outing for Tampa Bay Rays 05/21/09 [Last modified: Friday, May 22, 2009 6:41am]

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