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Tampa Bay Rays starter Matt Garza works in and out of trouble for five innings

ST. PETERSBURG — RHP Matt Garza probably knew Sunday's start would be a battle when Blue Jays SS Marco Scutaro led off the game with a 13-pitch at-bat.

It didn't get much easier as Garza had to work out of several jams, including a bases-loaded, no-out situation in the third. But he minimized the damage, giving up just one earned run over his five-inning, 103-pitch outing.

"He did the Houdini act today," manager Joe Maddon said. "He had good stuff, but they kept getting runners on. He battled through it."

Garza, coming off his shortest outing of the season in which he was sick and labored through 3‑1/3 innings, said he felt great Sunday and had good stuff. He struck out seven and walked two, and the Jays, he said, "had a lot of seeing-eye singles."

When it counted, Garza delivered, holding the Jays to 2-for-12 with runners in scoring position, including five strikeouts.

Maddon said he liked Garza's fortitude and effort, and Garza was pleased with the result; he'd just like to last longer.

"I'm just disappointed that I only went five," Garza said. "I'm a better pitcher than that."

CLOSE CALL: The Jays scored their first run on a strange play at the plate in the fifth. With two on and one out, Vernon Wells hit a single to centerfield. Aaron Hill tried to score, sliding and colliding with C Dioner Navarro, who did a good job blocking the plate on B.J. Upton's throw. Hill was called safe.

Navarro was initially hurt and sat for a few minutes while being attended to before staying in. Maddon said Navarro turned his ankle a bit and is fine. With Maddon's vision of the play blocked, he asked Navarro if he had an argument, and Navarro told him he didn't tag Hill.

RED-HOT CC: The Jays seem to bring out the best in LF Carl Crawford. He finished the three-game series 7-for-12 with five doubles and three RBIs. He entered Sunday's game having hit .379 against the Jays since 2006, best among active players.

"I don't have an explanation for it," Crawford said. "It just happens to be one of the teams I play well against."

NO HARD FEELINGS: Though both teams were warned after Jays RHP Brandon League hit Upton with a pitch in the eighth, Maddon said he didn't believe it was intentional.

Maddon said the warnings by home-plate umpire Jim Joyce were more a product of the situation, with League having given up a grand slam to Gregg Zaun in the previous at-bat.

"Jimmy had to do it because a grand slam had just been hit; based on that, and the way the baseball world works today," Maddon said. "By no means was that intentional."

GETTING BACK: Maddon said DH Pat Burrell's neck was feeling better Sunday, and he was available to pinch hit. Burrell took batting practice in the cage before the game, and Maddon said he should be ready to return to the lineup Tuesday against the Orioles.

MEDICAL MATTERS: 2B Akinori Iwamura, rehabbing from left knee surgery, is 2-for-6 with a double, walk and two runs scored in two games for Triple-A Durham. Iwamura was off Sunday but will DH today and play five innings in the field Tuesday.

SLAM FACTS: Zaun's grand slam was the third pinch-hit slam in Rays history and second this season. It was Zaun's second career pinch-hit grand slam, the last coming June 27, 2002, vs. the Diamondbacks while with Houston. It was his fifth career grand slam; his last was Sept. 6, 2008, against the Rays (off Troy Percival) while with Toronto.

MISCELLANY: 3B Evan Longoria extended his hitting streak to nine games (.353, 12-for-34). … The Rays have won seven straight home series vs. Toronto and are 13-2-1 in their past 16 series at Tropicana Field. … According to Baseball America, the Rays gave Las Vegas high school 1B Jeff Malm a $680,000 bonus, most for a fifth-round pick this year and nearly five times MLB's $144,000 recommendation for his draft slot (No. 169).

Tampa Bay Rays starter Matt Garza works in and out of trouble for five innings 08/16/09 [Last modified: Monday, August 17, 2009 10:11am]

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