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Florida (38-38)101000000260
Tampa Bay (41-35) «000110001371

Aybar's sac fly pushes Rays to fourth straight win

CBSSports.com wire reports
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- There's no debate over what a healthy and productive Scott Kazmir can do for Tampa Bay's chances of getting back to the World Series.

"Kaz is a huge part of what we're doing," manager Joe Maddon said after the 25-year-old made his first start in over a month Friday night, working five innings in a 3-2 victory over the Florida Marlins.

"He's one of the better left-handed pitchers in the American League," Maddon added. "And to get back there [World Series], we need him to pitch and perform at his level."

Carlos Pena hit his AL-leading 23rd home run and Willy Aybar broke a ninth-inning tie with a pinch-hit sacrifice fly, as the Rays (41-35) won their fourth straight to climb a season-best six games over .500.

Jason Bartlett singled off Burke Badenhop (5-3) with one out in the ninth. He stole second, moved to third on a wild pitch, then scored easily on Aybar's fly ball to center field.

J.P. Howell (4-2) pitched the ninth for the victory. Kazmir wasn't involved in the decision, but took a step forward.

"I was just anxious to get out there. I wanted to go out there and prove something," the Rays' all-time leader in wins and strikeouts said. "My efficiency wasn't where I wanted it to be. But at the same time, I felt like the spots that I missed, it wasn't that bad."

Brett Carroll homered for Florida, however the Marlins went 0 for 6 with runners in scoring position and have gone 1 for 16 in those situations in dropping the first two games of the weekend Citrus Series.

The Marlins, who lost Friday night's opener when the Rays scored four in the eighth to win 7-3, fell to 1-4 against Tampa Bay.

"Sometimes you match up differently with certain teams. They're an athletic club," Florida manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "You know what, these two last games, they could have gone either way. They're a tough group of guys."

Kazmir, an All-Star last season, allowed two runs and four hits in five innings. He threw 61 of his 92 pitches for strikes, walked one and struck out five, including Chris Coghlan three times.

Marlins starter Chris Volstad gave up Pena's solo homer in the fourth and a RBI bunt single to B.J. Upton in the fifth. The right-hander yielded five hits in six innings, walked three and fanned five before leaving a 2-2 tie to the bullpen.

"Two well played games so far in the series," Volstad said. "We just happen to be on the wrong side of each of them."

Kazmir, who's 4-4 with a 7.28 ERA, had not pitched in the majors since allowing seven runs in 4 1/3 innings of a loss to Oakland on May 20. He worked on pitching mechanics the past month and felt good about the adjustments he's made following a pair of rehab outings in the minor leagues.

"The repetition of his delivery, I really like that a lot," Maddon said. "I just thought he had a better feeling that if he needed to throw a strike he could tonight, whereas in the past I don't think he necessarily had that feeling."

The first inning has been a problem for the left-hander, and he fell behind quickly again this time with the Marlins taking a 1-0 lead without getting a hit. Carroll's third homer of the season made it 2-0 in the third.

Fifteen of the 30 walks Kazmir has allowed this year have come in the first inning, and he has trailed after one inning in his each of his four losses. Emilio Bonifacio drew an early pass Saturday, then stole second and third before scoring Florida's first run when Hanley Ramirez grounded out.

Ramirez, who went 0 for 4 to end an eight-game hitting streak, has driven in 14 runs in his last five games.

Notes

  • Tropicana Field is the only park in the majors where a home run has been hit in every game this season.
  • Pena's homer was his 100th as a Ray and moved him ahead of Fred McGriff into second place on the club's career list behind Aubrey Huff (128).
  • With Marlins closer Matt Lindstrom (right elbow sprain) out, Gonzalez said right-hander Leo Nunez and left-hander Dan Meyer could get some save opportunities.
 
Copyright 2014 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
 
 
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The wild celebration is on as the Rays move six games above .500 for the first time this season. (AP)
The wild celebration is on as the Rays move six games above .500 for the first time this season. (AP)

Players of the Game
Tampa Bay

J. Bartlett
AB 4
R 2
H 2
HR 0
RBI 0
Florida

B. Carroll
AB 4
R 1
H 1
HR 1
RBI 1
 
Florida Marlins
Chris Coghlan, LF4010030 .264
Emilio Bonifacio, 3B3110101 .248
Hanley Ramirez, SS4001001 .335
Jorge Cantu, DH4000011 .284
Ross Gload, 1B4010010 .294
Dan Uggla, 2B3010112 .224
Cody Ross, CF4010004 .278
Ronny Paulino, C4000003 .274
Brett Carroll, RF4111021 .298
Totals3426228  
Batting
2B - Dan Uggla (12, Kazmir)
HR - Brett Carroll (2, Kazmir)
RBI - Hanley Ramirez (50), Brett Carroll (6)
SB - Emilio Bonifacio 2 (15, 2nd base off Kazmir/Hernandez, 3rd base off Kazmir/Hernandez)
Team LOB - 7
Florida Marlins
Chris Volstad 6522351 4.63
Brian Sanches 1000000 1.62
Leo Nunez 1100120 4.01
Burke Badenhop (L,5-3) 0.2111000 3.70
IBB - Zobrist by Leo Nunez
WP - Burke Badenhop (1)
Pitches-Strikes - Chris Volstad 115-70, Brian Sanches 8-5, Leo Nunez 17-8, Burke Badenhop 15-9
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Chris Volstad 7-5
Batters Faced - Chris Volstad 25, Brian Sanches 3, Leo Nunez 5, Burke Badenhop 3
Tampa Bay Rays
B.J. Upton, CF3011100 .246
Carl Crawford, LF4010011 .314
Evan Longoria, 3B4000013 .307
Carlos Pena, 1B4111030 .238
Ben Zobrist, 2B2000200 .286
Pat Burrell, DH3010113 .238
Gabe Gross, RF4000012 .279
Jason Bartlett, SS4220000 .366
Michel Hernandez, C3010000 .273
   a- Willy Aybar, PH0001000 .284
Totals3137347  
a-hit a sacrifice fly for Hernandez in the 9th
Batting
2B - Jason Bartlett (14, Volstad)
HR - Carlos Pena (23, Volstad)
SF - Willy Aybar (3)
RBI - B.J. Upton (28), Carlos Pena (55), Willy Aybar (24)
2-OUT RBI - Carlos Pena (17)
SB - Carl Crawford (39, 2nd base off Nunez/Paulino), Jason Bartlett (16, 2nd base off Badenhop/Paulino)
CS - B.J. Upton (7, 2nd base by Volstad/Paulino)
Team LOB - 7
Fielding
E - Evan Longoria (8, Throwing)
Tampa Bay Rays
Scott Kazmir 5422151 7.28
Chad Bradford 1100010 0.00
Grant Balfour 1100010 4.58
Dan Wheeler 1000000 3.81
J.P. Howell (W,4-2) 1000110 1.70
WP - Scott Kazmir (7)
Pitches-Strikes - Scott Kazmir 92-61, Chad Bradford 19-14, Grant Balfour 15-12, Dan Wheeler 11-7, J.P. Howell 16-8
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Scott Kazmir 4-6, Chad Bradford 1-2, Grant Balfour 2-0, Dan Wheeler 2-1
Batters Faced - Scott Kazmir 20, Chad Bradford 5, Grant Balfour 4, Dan Wheeler 3, J.P. Howell 4
Game Information
Attendance - 35790
Game Time - 3:05
Temperature - 72
Umpires - Home - Jerry Meals, First Base - Mike DiMuro, Second Base - Ron Kulpa, Third Base - Dale Scott