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BATS CAN'T MATCH KAZMIR

The Rays waste a strong start, getting only 2 hits.

After giving up 38 runs in their previous two games, the Devil Rays made a significant improvement Tuesday, allowing only three. But that was still too many since they didn't score any, primarily because they managed only two hits.

The result was another loss, 3-0 to the Orioles, and another frustrating night for Scott Kazmir, who was extraordinary through six innings but ordinary in the seventh, walking his last three batters to force in a run, but hardly to blame.

"We've just got to win some ballgames," Kazmir said. "We're a little inconsistent to say the least."

The Rays have lost four straight, eight of 12 since the All-Star break and 21 of their past 26. They are 38-61 through 99 games and are on pace for a second straight 100-loss season.

It was a frustrating night all the way around. The Orioles got their first run on a two-out single in the sixth by ex-Ray Aubrey Huff, who'd beaten them with a walkoff homer on May 9. And they got their next two on back-to-back bases loaded walks in the seventh, the first by Kazmir, who allowed a one-out single then three consecutive two-out walks on five, six and four pitches, and the other by Juan Salas, who came into a tough spot in his first appearance following a 50-game suspension for using performance-enhancing drugs.

Then again, getting only two hits on the night - a lone B.J. Upton single in seven innings against surprisingly effective starter Daniel Cabrera, then a two-outs-in-the-ninth double by Upton off fill-in closer Jamie Walker - wasn't much to feel good about, either. Plus they hit into four double plays.

"That's what really hurts the most," Carlos Pena said, "seeing how well (Kazmir) pitched and not being able to score any runs for him."

Cabrera came in 6-10 with a 5.30 ERA, leading the AL in walks and with a penchant for self-destructing.

The Rays had a long day off in Baltimore on Monday to reflect on, or forget about, their woeful weekend in New York when they allowed 49 runs in four games.

The 49 were the most runs allowed in a series by an AL team in more than 50 years, since the 1950 St. Louis Browns allowed 56 to Boston. The 38 they allowed in the final two games were the most in the majors for back-to-back games since 1977, and most in the AL since 1953.

Maddon made two interesting decisions in the seventh. He left Kazmir in after the first two walks of the seventh, saying he deserved the chance to get out of it, but Kazmir threw four straight balls to Kevin Millar to make it 2-0.

Then Maddon brought Salas in for his first big-league appearance since May 3.

After an extensive ceremony honoring Hall of Fame bound Orioles great Cal Ripken, the two starting pitchers launched a classic duel and the game was scoreless until the sixth.

"I thought Kaz did a really nice job," Maddon said. "That's what we've been waiting to see."

Marc Topkin can be reached at topkin@sptimes.com. View his blog at blogs.tampabay.com/rays.

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