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Matt Garza pitches poorly, two Angels hit two homers each as Tampa Bay Rays drop further back in wild-card race

ANAHEIM, Calif. — The first 14 runs were just the prelude Monday night.

The next one mattered most, as Angels DH Vladimir Guerrero made history by reaching the 400 home-run mark and the Rays made another mess of a game they had a chance to win, 8-7.

"We've got to start winning these one-run games somehow,'' manager Joe Maddon said. "That's two on this road trip. We just can't let them keep getting away from us like that. We have to pitch better than that. We just have to put those kind of games away.''

The Rays also missed out on their own chance for history, as Jason Bartlett fell a single short of hitting for the first cycle in team history.

Bartlett homered in the third, doubled in the fifth and tripled in the sixth but, batting with two outs in the eighth and no one on, was struck out looking by flame-throwing Kevin Jepsen. (It would have been even more historic as Colorado's Troy Tulowitzki had already hit for the cycle, and there have been only two days in MLB modern history when it happened twice.)

There were six home runs hit, and the Rays had a chance for a dramatic seventh as Ben Zobrist's shot to tie it with two outs in the ninth was caught above the low wall by leftfielder Juan Rivera, who made it look easy because he was playing unusually deep to begin with.

"It just wasn't our day today,'' Zobrist said.

The loss was the Rays' third in four games on this West Coast road trip, dropping them to 61-51 and 2½ games behind the AL wild-card leading Red Sox.

The Rays led 2-0, but Matt Garza gave them a brutal start — failing to get through the fourth — and they spent the rest of the night catching up.

Guerrero hit his 399th off Garza in the second then broke the 7-7 tie off new reliever Russ Springer in the seventh with a looping fly that ticked off the rightfield foul pole. He became the ninth active player with 400 or more homers, and the seventh to also have at least 2,000 hits.

Springer threw a fastball away, but Guerrero, a notorious bad ball hitter, got to it.

"He's made a career out of hitting pitchers' pitches and balls off the plate and still doing damage with them,'' Springer said. "I threw the ball where I wanted to throw it and he hit the rightfield foul pole with it. So, hang with 'em''

Bartlett admitted he was very aware of the possibility for history, which also would have been his first at any level.

"I was on third after that triple when it first came into my mind, and I tried to tell myself not to think about it because that's when it doesn't happen,'' he said.

But when he went to the plate in the eighth, that's exactly what he was thinking about. "I couldn't clear it out,'' he said. "I was thinking about my approach and I was trying to tell myself don't get too big. ... I should have bunted.''

The Rays scored two in the first, on a double by Evan Longoria and a single by Zobrist.

Bartlett homered in the third, extending the team's record streak to 15 games with a homer. The Rays got three more in the fifth, with doubles by Bartlett and Carl Crawford leading to the first two and Carlos Peña hitting a monstrous homer to center, his 29th to match Mark Teixeira for the AL lead. And they got one in the sixth, when new catcher Gregg Zaun doubled and Bartlett tripled.

Monday afternoon, Garza was stretched out on a clubhouse couch sound asleep with his head covered by a towel. The way it went on the mound, he may have wished he never got up.

Garza lasted 31/3 innings (his shortest as a Ray) and looked bad in doing so, allowing 11 of the 21 batters he faced to reach — allowing six hits (two homers), walking four and hitting one and throwing balls on 35 of his 80 pitches.

Maddon said Garza looked fine physically and just gave them an "uncharacterstic" performance; Garza said he didn't feel well, that was "under the weather" with a flu and/or fever.

"Out of rhythm, out of synch. I felt like I lost my arm slot. I felt like I had a different one every inning,'' Garza said. "I didn't really feel too great before the game. I just kind of went out there to see what I had and I had stuff, I just couldn't locate it or use it properly.''

The Angels got three in the second, on a loud homer by Guerrero, an error by Willy Aybar and a couple of singles. Kendry Morales' homer in the third scored two. A hit batter, two walks, a sac fly and Crawford's decision to not throw home despite catcher Mike Napoli running led to another in the fourth. Morales went deep off Lance Cormier in the fifth.

"Tough game to lose,'' Maddon said. "Our guys played hard — I loved it. They hit more homers.''

Marc Topkin can be reached at topkin@sptimes.com.

Angels 8

Rays 7

Matt Garza pitches poorly, two Angels hit two homers each as Tampa Bay Rays drop further back in wild-card race 08/11/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, August 12, 2009 4:49pm]
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