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Rays' East title hopes delayed with loss to Tigers

DETROIT — Nothing really went as the Rays planned Thursday.

So now they will try again tonight to get it right.

Manager Joe Maddon was expecting cool weather to offset the effects of a brutal schedule that had the Rays arriving at their hotel at about 3 a.m. and having to play at 1:05. But it was 83 and steamy, and it showed.

They figured Scott Kazmir, so dominant in Saturday's playoff clinching win, would give them another strong start with the American League East title on the line. But he failed them, allowing leadoff home runs in four of his five innings.

And, of course, they hoped to beat the terrible Tigers and celebrate an improbable division championship late into the night. But those plans were foiled in the 7-5 loss, leaving untouched the coolers lined up outside the visiting clubhouse with 200 bottles of Lindauer champagne on ice.

Then with the players back at and around their Dearborn hotel Thursday night, they saw their second chance — albeit in much less dramatic fashion — slip away as the Red Sox beat the Indians 6-1.

The Rays (96-63) still need just one win, or a Boston loss, during the final three days of the season to secure the division title and the accompanying homefield advantage in at least the first round of the playoffs.

The Rays play the second of four games in Detroit tonight. The Red Sox host a weekend series against the rival Yankees.

"I'm very disappointed," Kazmir said.

"It would have been great for us to go ahead and clinch it and get it done with and look forward to the postseason. But I just didn't get the job done."

Some players talked of getting together to watch the Red Sox game, which could have created something of an odd setting for the usual wild-and-wet spontaneous celebration.

"It kind of seems bittersweet watching after a loss to clinch a title, but we'll take it any way we can," Kazmir said.

And because they didn't?

"It will be a better feeling for us to do it on the field (today)," said third baseman Evan Longoria, who homered.

Kazmir got off to a rough start, allowing the first home run on his sixth pitch, and by the end of the day gave up four homers (three on two-strike pitches, two on 0-and-2) for the second time in three starts. He hadn't done it once in his first 121.

He became the fifth major-leaguer this season to give up four runs on four homers and the first Ray in franchise history, and it wasn't exactly to the well-known sluggers in the Tigers lineup.

Leadoff man Ramon Santiago, who had one homer this season and seven for his career, took him deep twice, in the first and third. Mike Hessman, who had four this season, got him in the fourth, and rookie Dusty Ryan, who had one, homered to start the fifth.

Kazmir (12-8 with a 3.49 ERA) was noticeably down after the game, talking in the past tense about how "disappointing" and frustrating his season had been and said what he often says after a bad game — that he was not comfortable on the mound and spent too much time thinking about his mechanics.

Said Maddon: "I don't have a good answer for you."

Despite their typical late rally — the Rays closed what had been a 7-2 deficit to 7-5 in the eighth on Ben Zobrist's second homer of the day and got the tying run to the plate in the ninth — the mood was somewhat subdued in their clubhouse.

After winning four games in three days in Baltimore and dealing with the rugged travel, that might have been excessive, but it was a reflection of the circumstances and missed opportunity.

"We still want to win the division," Maddon said.

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

First two rounds on cable only

No cable? No Rays playoffs for you. At least not until the World Series. TBS, the cable superstation out of Atlanta, has the exclusive rights to the division series and the American League Championship Series. Fox (locally Ch. 13) will broadcast the World Series.

Photo gallery

For more pictures from Thursday's loss, go to rays.tampabay.com.

Percival returns: Troy Percival pitches a scoreless inning in his first action since getting treatment on his back. 3C

Red Sox roll: Boston takes an early lead and beats Cleveland 6-1. 4C

Magic number

1 Combination Rays wins or Red Sox losses to win AL East.

Rays' East title hopes delayed with loss to Tigers 09/25/08 [Last modified: Friday, September 26, 2008 2:07pm]
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