On August 28, 2009, Rays starting pitcher Scott Kazmir was traded to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in exchange for Sean Rodriguez and two minor league players. Kazmir was once the Rays’ ace, but his performance started to decline in 2008 due to an elbow strain and other factors. Before being traded, though, Kazmir dazzled one last time for Tampa Bay when they lost 3-2 to the Toronto Blue Jays on August 26, 2009 at Rogers Centre.
Kazmir’s last game was a pitching duel, as Tampa Bay’s pitching staff recorded 13 strikeouts while Toronto’s pitchers struck out 12 batters of their own on the evening. Kazmir was overpowering right out of the gate, striking out 4 in the first two innings. Toronto’s starting pitcher, Marc Rzepczynski, loaded the bases in the top of the third inning by walking Jason Bartlett, Ben Zobrist, and Carlos Pena in a row. However, the Rays could not score any runs during the inning. Kazmir went on to strike out four of Toronto’s batters in the next three innings, but Rzepczynski retaliated by striking out four Rays batters between the fourth and fifth innings.
Tampa Bay’s bats finally came alive in the sixth inning as Pat Burrell singled to right field, followed by a home run hit by Gabe Kapler. However, the Blue Jays had an equally impressive performance in the bottom of the inning as Kevin Millar hit a leadoff double. Kazmir struck out the next batter, Randy Ruiz, only to give up a double to Jose Bautista. Millar scored on the play, but Kazmir finished the ending by striking out Travis Snider.
Toronto’s reliever, Scott Downs, pitched an impressive eighth inning against Tampa Bay. He started the inning giving up a leadoff single to Zobrist and walking Pena. Downs showed his defensive skills, turning Evan Longoria’s ground ball into a double play as he threw the ball to second baseman Aaron Hill to force out Pena before Hill threw the ball to Millar at first base to retire Longoria. Carlson struck out Burrell for the inning’s final out.
Tampa Bay’s relievers, Grant Balfour and J.P. Howell, recorded two strikeouts in the bottom of the eight inning, as Toronto reliever Brandon League threw three strikeouts in the top of the ninth inning. However, Howell fell apart in the bottom of the inning as pinch hitter Rod Barajas hit a leadoff homerun. Howell went on to load the bases by walking three of the next four batters, and Marco Scutaro scored the winning run off Howell’s wild pitch to Ruiz.
Kazmir recorded ten strikeouts in six innings while only giving up one walk and one run to the Blue Jays. The Rays’ decision to trade Kazmir proved to be a wise choice as his performance declined significantly in the 2010 season, which he finished with a 5.94 ERA and a 9-15 record in 28 starts. The Angels eventually released Kazmir during the 2011 season after having a 17.02 ERA in 5 starts for the Angels’ Triple-A Affiliate Salt Lake Bees. Despite the demise of Kazmir’s major league career, it was amazing to see Kazmir rediscover his old form for just one night and mow down the opposing team one final time in a Rays uniform.