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Tampa Bay Rays defeat Baltimore Orioles 4-3

ST. PETERSBURG — There's always a lot of words flying around Matt Garza.

And if he can keep pitching the way he did in Wednesday's 4-3 win over the Orioles that gave the Rays their second 2-0 start in franchise history, there's going to be a lot to talk about at the end of the season.

About Garza joining the game's elite. About the Rays winning a lot of games. And about manager Joe Maddon working at Garza's new organic grape farm.

The agricultural angle will have to wait, as neither will reveal what goals have to be met for Maddon to spend November on 35-40 acres in northern California picking greens and whites. "I would like to see it happen,'' Garza said, "because that means we did everything we had to do and 2010 turned out to be a great year.''

The pitching part, Garza got off to a pretty good start Wednesday. He worked an impressive eight innings, overcoming an admittedly over-amped beginning and allowing only four hits and one earned run while striking out nine.

He had help, especially from Evan Longoria, who had a two-run double in the fifth to put them ahead and a homer in the eighth that provided the final margin. Of the eight Rays runs in two games, Longoria has driven in four. Carl Crawford was in the middle of the action, with a heads-up baserunning play, another big catch and an umpiring controversy not of his doing. And new closer Rafael Soriano converted his first save opportunity.

The Rays talked a lot during the spring about the need to get off to a good start, and sitting in first place as the only 2-0 team in the American League, they had reason to smile.

And laugh.

Hearing Todd Kalas talk on the TV postgame about their record, Longoria went into the players lounge and joked aloud, "We're 2-0 and we're going to win the World Series."

But seriously, he said, "Obviously it's very, very early, but a 2-0 start is just where we want to be, and hopefully we go 3-0 (tonight). You've got to win them one at a time."

Garza, 26, has tremendous talent, but it's his impatience that tends to be a flaw. That was a bit the case Wednesday when he stumbled through a 25-pitch first, worsened by an uncharacteristic error by first baseman Carlos Peña on a low throw that scored a run and put the Rays in a 2-0 hole.

But Garza allowed only two singles the rest of the way in his 114-pitch effort, seemingly getting stronger. "I think he starts to impose his will," catcher Kelly Shoppach said.

After a winter of intensified workouts and a huge raise to $3.35 million, Garza reported to spring training intense from the start.

"He's definitely focused and motivated right now," Maddon said.

"I'm a firm believer he should be among the elite pitchers in this league. He already is, but really set himself apart. He's capable of being an annual All-Star."

Garza wants more.

"Yeah, of course I want to be up there with those guys who are always up in top five for the Cy Young voting and are always talked about," he said. "But in order to get there, I have to start somewhere, and today was a good start."

Rays 4

Orioles 3

Tampa Bay Rays defeat Baltimore Orioles 4-3 04/07/10 [Last modified: Thursday, April 8, 2010 7:37am]
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