PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- Too bad for Tampa Bay it only plays
Philadelphia in interleague games.
The Devil Rays have always done to the fading Phillies what the
rest of baseball has done against them lately -- win and knock them
further down in the NL East standings.
Rocco Baldelli, Carl Crawford and Jorge Cantu homered, Scott
Kazmir pitched five solid innings and Tampa Bay extended
Philadelphia's misery with a 7-2 win Saturday night, the Phillies'
season-high sixth straight loss.
The Phillies (33-35) have lost eight of nine and fell two games
under .500 for the first time since they were 12-14 on May 2.
The Devil Rays have a 10-4 career mark against Philadelphia,
their second-best record against any opponent (Arizona, 3-0).
"It's one of those things," Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon said.
"They're a very good ballclub."
Not lately. And not against an ace like Kazmir.
Kazmir (8-4) outpitched fellow 2002 draft pick Scott Mathieson,
making his major league debut for the Phillies. Kazmir allowed two
runs and struck out nine, making him the 23rd lefty since 1900 to
reach 300 career strikeouts before his 23rd birthday.
He effectively pitched out of all his jams, especially when
Phillies slugger Ryan Howard was at the plate. Three times Howard
failed to deliver with two runners on base against Kazmir, retired
on a strikeout, groundout and double play.
"It was a good confidence boost," Kazmir said. "I wish I
could have went a little bit deeper."
Even though Kazmir was cruising and had thrown only 96 pitches,
Maddon made the decision to pull his ace after only five innings
because the pitcher was set to hit in the sixth. He pitched five
shutout innings in his last start against Detroit and was yanked
after 98 pitches.
"We've been waiting for this for a while," Maddon said.
"We've always believed we had this in us. We thought it would get
The Phillies are falling so far back behind the New York Mets in
the division, they have little choice but to start thinking about
the wild card. With the Yankees coming to town Monday, the Phillies
might just turn their thoughts to staying out of last place.
Their frustrations are spilling over.
For the second time this week, manager Charlie Manuel was
ejected. He rushed out in the eighth inning to defend pitcher Cory
Lidle, who was tossed from the bench after he started yelling at
Julio Lugo for trying to bunt late in the game. Manuel got
bill-to-bill with first base umpire Bill Miller and was thrown out
for the fourth time this season.
"Some of it was probably from frustration," Manuel said. "I'm
not against the umpires. They didn't beat us."
With their rotation hampered by injuries, the Phillies have
turned to rookie prospects like Mathieson (0-1) and Cole Hamels to
keep them afloat in the standings.
Mathieson, who played for Canada in the World Baseball Classic,
allowed four earned runs, eight hits and struck out five in six
innings. Mathieson, who bypassed Triple-A, did what all the other
Phillies starters have done lately -- put them in a first-inning
Baldelli poked an RBI single off third baseman David Bell's
glove and Aubrey Huff had an RBI double in the first for a 2-0
lead, making it the fifth straight game the opposition has scored
in the first inning against the Phillies.
"We just have to stay positive," Manuel said. "If you don't
have the right attitude, it's pretty hard to play this game."
Baldelli hit his first homer of the year to center in the third,
pinch-hitter Jonny Gomes added an RBI double in the sixth and
Crawford hit a two-run drive to right in the seventh for a 6-2
lead. Cantu added a solo homer in the ninth.
"We're starting to click well, I don't know what it is,"
Crawford said. "Maybe it's summertime. It just seems like we're
starting to swing the bats well. You start doing that, you don't
want to ask too many questions. You want to keep it going."
Nunez's homer was his first since July 24, 2005. It also
doubled his season RBI total. ... The Phillies hit back-to-back
homers for the second time this season. ... Nunez started for
slumping 2B Chase Utley (5-for-43). ... To make room for Mathieson,
the Phillies optioned RHP Brian Sanches to Triple-A Scranton
Wilkes-Barre before the game.