If the Rays somehow make the playoffs, Juan Cruz needs to receive at least a 1/8th playoff share as for the second straight nights, the former Type A free agent has been unable to hold a lead. Two nights ago, Evan Longoria took Cruz deep and last night, Pat Burrell continued his hot July hitting his eighth extra base hit of July and driving in his ninth run of the month which tied the game up. That then allowed the best bench player in baseball, Willy Aybar, to get his fourth hit of the night to drive in pinch-runner Joe Dillon who caused the game to be delayed five minutes while he was forced to remove cobwebs and mothballs from his uniform. That said, the story of the night was the stellar performance by Scott Kazmir.
Kazmir really deserved a win but left the game in a 1-1 tie with forearm cramps while warming up for the 7th. The one run he allowed came on a knuckling line drive off the bat of Alberto Callaspo that Carl Crawford did not play well. Kazmir threw 101 pitches on the night which includes first pitch strikes to 13 of 24 batters, 63 strikes and only 38 balls, and a 14 to 1 groundball to flyball ratio. Quite honestly, that is one the two or three best games I have seen him pitch in the last two seasons. That said, the Royals are not exactly fielding the best offense in the world these days. A look at the image below from brooksbaseball.net shows Kazmir’s pitch location and results from last night:
Against a free-swinging team such as the Royals, Kazmir’s approach was excellent. My only complaint on the night was that he walked Miguel Olivo on four pitches – the same Miguel Olivo who had three walks on the entire season coming into this series. That makes two consecutive games in which the undisciplined Olivo has been put on base via the free pass. That should earn a pitcher at least a $500 Kangaroo Court fine. That is as offensive as surrendering a homerun to Juan Pierre. Speaking of fines, B.J. Upton deserves one after being thrown out and picked off in his first two appearances on the bases. Being thrown out by Olivo is not bad but being picked off by a right-handed pitcher after a couple of earlier toss-overs is rather inexcusable. On the plus side, that means Upton got on base three more times last night making him 5 for 10 in the series out of the lead-off spot.
One has to feel bad for Royals fans. Early in this season, they looked good and were the talk of the league in April as they surprised everyone going 12-10. Since then, they’ve gone 25-41 and it is mainly due to nights like the last two where good starting pitching has given way to disastrous bullpen results – a story all too familiar to Rays fans. Sometimes, Royals fans have to feel as if they’re watching this scene repeatedly:
The Rays go for the sweep today as they send out Matt Garza to oppose Luke Hochevar. Garza has to hope the Rays can provide some run support for him because he is jonesing for a win as badly as as Brett Favre is for media attention these days.