ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) -- This time, Scott Kazmir got plenty of runs to work with.
Kazmir went eight innings to win a team-record sixth straight start, Evan Longoria hit one of Tampa Bay's four homers, and the Rays beat the Texas Rangers 12-4 Friday night.Kazmir (6-1) allowed two runs and six hits, struck out six and walked none. His winning streak is also a career-best mark.B.J. Upton, Dioner Navarro and Eric Hinske also connected to help the Rays avoid matching their longest skid of the season.The Rays had scored three runs or less in three of the games during Kazmir's winning streak. Tampa Bay had managed two runs or less in five of its previous seven games overall.But against shaky Texas pitching that has yielded seven runs or more in five of the last six games, Kazmir's teammates provided Tampa Bay's third double-digit run total of the season."We scored a lot of runs, but it was all about Kaz," manager Joe Maddon said. "The way he pitched against that team kept us in the game and allowed us to get all those runs late. He was able to throw strikes when he wanted to. I loved his composure. He was in command."Kazmir twisted his left ankle covering first base on an infield hit in the second inning. After the game, he had the ankle wrapped in ice, but said he was fine.The Rangers had scored eight or more runs in their previous six games, but Kazmir kept them in check as Tampa Bay pulled within a half-game of the first-place Boston Red Sox in the AL East."For the most part everything was working," said Kazmir, who has allowed four earned runs in his last six games, a stretch of 41 innings. "I got ahead of hitters. That was my key. I owe it all to my defense. I can make pitches in the zone that are pretty good to hit when I'm ahead in the count because they'll make the plays. It's not like I have to strike everybody out."Kazmir threw 111 pitches, but he was still strong at the end of his outing, firing fastballs in the mid-90s in the eighth."He pounded the strike zone, he kept his pitches down and he made pitches when he had to," Texas' Marlon Byrd said. "He kept his fastball into the eighth inning. Tonight he was throwing 90 percent fastballs."All was calm with the Rays following Thursday night's bench-clearing brawl with the Red Sox.Tampa Bay pitchers James Shields (six games) and Edwin Jackson (five), outfielders Jonny Gomes (five) and Carl Crawford (four), and second baseman Akinori Iwamura (three) were suspended for their role in the incident.All five were available for the opener of the three-game series due to appeals and because the suspensions were scheduled to start at staggered times."We want to get [the brawl in Boston] out of our heads," Kazmir said. "We've got something special going here."Vicente Padilla (7-3) allowed three runs and five hits in six innings for the Rangers. He had won a career-best seven straight decisions.Padilla retired 12 of the first 13 batters he faced before Longoria belted his eighth homer leading off the fifth to tie it at 1.Upton hit a solo drive and Cliff Floyd scored on Padilla's wild pitch in the sixth to make it 3-1.The Rays scored three in the eighth and six in the ninth. Navarro hit a two-run homer off Robinson Tejeda in the eighth and Hinske had a two-run drive in the ninth.Ian Kinsler hit a solo drive in the eighth for Texas.Padilla missed a start while he was on bereavement leave earlier this week. He was in his native Nicaragua attending to a personal family matter before returning late Thursday night."Padilla was going well, then he gave up the two homers and the wild pitch," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "We just couldn't stop them. This wasn't our night."Rangers shortstop Michael Young was scratched from the lineup due to a broken left ring finger. Young had started 60 of Texas' first 62 games and currently carries a 21-game hitting streak, longest in the majors this season and four short of his career high.Washington said Young would be back in the lineup on Saturday night.
Until Kinsler's drive, Kazmir hadn't given up a home run since Sept. 4, a stretch of 68 innings. ... RHP Sidney Ponson was designated for assignment by the Rangers in a surprise move before the game. General manager Jon Daniels was vague about the reasons for the decision, saying Ponson had been dumped "for disrespecting teammates and club personnel." ... Texas' Gerald Laird, normally a catcher, made his first career start at 3B. Laird had no trouble with the first two grounders hit his way, then bobbled the third on what was ruled an infield single.