We can see the ghosts of Tampa Bay Rays past whenever the Oakland Athletics come to town, and most notable among them is Scott Kazmir. He wasn’t just the team’s ace–once every five days, he inspired hope that the Rays could someday rank among the best teams in baseball. It is crazy to think how far the Rays have come in their run that began in 2008, Kazmir’s last full season with the team and the year that Evan Longoria took the baton from him as the Rays’ leader. On Friday, it was the new guy showing off against his forebear to lead the Rays to victory.
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The expected pitchers’ duel of Scott Kazmir versus Chris Archer did not go quite as planned. The game was 1-0 through 4 innings, with the A’s leading on a solo homer by ex-Ray Stephen Vogt, but the story was more about missed opportunities than dominance. Each team had baserunners in every half-inning but the top of the second, with Oakland going 0 for 2 with runners in scoring position while the Rays went 0 for 5. Finally in the fifth, the Rays broke through against Kazmir.
For the second time in the game, the Rays got two baserunners on to start an inning against Kazmir. This time, Brandon Guyer singled and Steven Souza Jr. reached base after a Max Muncy error on a sac bunt. Evan Longoria came to the plate, and Kazmir quickly got ahead of him 1-2. However, Kazmir’s next offering, which was supposed to be up and out of the zone, ended up mid-out and within Longoria’s reach. He hit it a long way for a three-run homer to left-center, and suddenly the Rays were up 3-1.
Kazmir finished with those 3 runs allowed in 5.2 innings, but Archer wasn’t much better. He wound up going 5.1 innings allowing 1 run on 6 hits, striking out 8 but walking 4. He allowed two singles and a walk in the sixth before departing, but Brandon Gomes retired Sam Fuld and Billy Burns to escape the jam. Gomes, Xavier Cedeno, and Kevin Jepsen then combined to keep the A’s off the board through eight innings while Souza Jr. and Tim Beckham padded the Rays’ lead with solo home runs.
Ernesto Frieri‘s struggles continued in the ninth as he allowed a run and necessitated Brad Boxberger‘s entrance into the game when the A’s made it 5-2, but Boxberger struck out Vogt to end the game without further incident. The win takes the Rays to 24-19, good for 1.5 games ahead of the Yankees for first place in the AL East. The Rays will hope to extend that lead on Saturday as they send Nate Karns to hill against Kendall Graveman at 4:10 PM.