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Tampa Bay Rays and Scott Kazmir get back on their feet with an 8-3 win over the Toronto Blue Jays

Scott Kazmir, delivering in the first, settled into a groove after giving up a third-inning homer, striking out seven.

DIRK SHADD | Times

Scott Kazmir, delivering in the first, settled into a groove after giving up a third-inning homer, striking out seven.

ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays were at one of those points where they just needed a win — mentally, mathematically, something to snap their five-game losing streak and the funk that had come with it.

They needed one be it a well-pitched game by Scott Kazmir, a breakout night by the offense, nifty glove work, aggressive base- running, quality relief, even extraterrestrial assistance from the more interestingly dressed members of the Sci-Fi Night crowd.

They got it all Saturday, beaming as they left the Trop after blasting the Blue Jays 8-3.

"It was big," Kazmir said. "It's always big to end a losing streak, especially at this point of the season, where we're at. I think if we can string a couple more games together like this, I think we can feel confident, a lot more confident about ourselves, and make a push."

The win kept the Rays within pushing distance; they improved to 62-54 and moved within four games of the American League wild-card lead. And before the B-52s turned the Trop into their Love Shack, the Rays improved to 14-1 on concert nights before 29,632.

Kazmir shook off a shaky beginning and a swerve at the end to deliver the quality start the Rays badly needed, working into the seventh and allowing only three runs. The bullpen took it from there, with new acquisition Russ Springer working out of a first-and-third, one-out jam in the seventh.

Nos. 2-3-4 hitters Carl Crawford, Evan Longoria and Ben Zobrist combined for half of their 12 hits as the Rays took control with a four-run third and tacked on from there, scoring more than they had in their past three games combined.

Mix in some heads-up work in the field and on the bases, and 22/3 more scoreless innings by the pen, and this was more like what they have to do over the final 46 games.

"It's more of what we're looking for, no question, more of a complete game," manager Joe Maddon said.

"And we need that to start building our confidence back up. It's funny how this whole thing works: You could be playing great or playing well, and you have a couple bad games, and the confidence wanes very quickly. It's really strange how we as humans permit that to happen. We need to rebuild it up, and I thought that was a good first step."

Kazmir, who followed two encouraging outings with a clunker Aug. 9 in Seattle, didn't start well, walking two of the first three. But he stepped off the mound to refocus on finishing his pitches and got into a rhythm that was noticeably different.

His only regret was a 1-and-2 slider he hung to Aaron Hill that became a two-run homer in the third, but from there he got even sharper, retiring 11 of the next 12, including a seven-pitch fifth and striking out the side in the sixth.

"A lot better than Seattle," he said. "I'll take that outing."

With the season-high-matching skid behind them, the Rays had a lot of things to feel good about. "It's never fun losing that many games in a row," Maddon said. "We just strung together a pretty good game tonight."

Rays 8

Blue Jays 3

Tampa Bay Rays and Scott Kazmir get back on their feet with an 8-3 win over the Toronto Blue Jays 08/15/09 [Last modified: Sunday, August 16, 2009 12:06am]
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