MINNEAPOLIS -- Scott Kazmir can't seem to find the plate and his Tampa Bay Rays are having a devil of a time locating the mojo that made last season so memorable.
Kazmir walked four and threw two wild pitches that allowed runs to score in an 8-3 loss to the Minnesota Twins on Wednesday night."It's just not going our way," Kazmir said. "Small plays that turn into big innings, stuff like that."Kazmir (3-2) lasted just four innings, the second rough outing in his last three starts. The All-Star left-hander gave up eight runs -- six earned -- nine hits and struck out four. He was all over the place in a 34-pitch first inning.Nick Blackburn (2-1) gave up two runs and eight hits and Justin Morneau had three hits, a walk and an RBI for the Twins, who took two of three from the defending AL champions.The Rays (8-14) never lost more than two series in a row during last season's magical run to the World Series. But they have dropped six straight series since taking two of three from Boston to open the season and are back in last place in the AL East."We're not really pleased with what's going on, there's no question about that," manager Joe Maddon said. "We should have been able to win more than one series to this point. But it's early. It truly is early and I'm very optimistic that we can turn this around. I have a lot of faith in our guys, it's just not working right now."The Twins took a 4-0 lead in the first inning, with two runs coming on a bloop single by Jason Kubel and an infield hit by Michael Cuddyer. Kazmir threw two wild pitches with runners on third, allowing Denard Span and Kubel to score.It didn't get much prettier from there for the Rays, who face the surging Red Sox twice in the next two weeks, with Baltimore and the Yankees sandwiched in between.Shortstop Jason Bartlett left the game in the fifth inning with tightness in his left hamstring, but the game was already decided by that point."It would be big if we were able to win some games against the Red Sox, that's for sure," Kazmir said. "We just need a kick start. We just need to get going."The Twins hit Kazmir hard for the first time in the fourth inning, getting a triple from Span, a line-drive single from Brendan Harris and a double high off the baggie in right-center field from Morneau to jump ahead 7-1.Second baseman Akinori Iwamura then was charged with two errors on one play when he bobbled a ball that allowed Kubel to reach first base, then threw the ball away to allow Morneau to score from second to make it 8-1.Two starts ago against the White Sox, Kazmir gave up six runs and two homers in just four innings of an 8-3 loss.Kazmir has had trouble locating his fastball, and the Twins took him deep into the count often."He wasn't really throwing his fastballs for strikes," said Harris, a former teammate of Kazmir's who had three hits and an RBI. "That's the most sliders I've ever seen him throw. That means he was really feeling for it a little bit and couldn't put his fastball where he wanted to. With a guy with such a live arm like that, that's going to be tough. That's his money pitch."Pat Burrell had two hits for the Rays.Span had three hits for the Twins, who have won two straight series and get All-Star catcher Joe Mauer in the lineup for the first time this season on Friday."I think we're starting to play great baseball and it's very exciting," said Blackburn, who battled through a light-headed feeling for most of the game. "If this lineup heats up like it's starting to, it's going to be some good stuff."
Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said CF Carlos Gomez's wife gave birth to a baby boy, Yendel, on Wednesday morning. Gomez is scheduled to return to the team from Florida on Friday. ... The Twins hosted the Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs, who won the NCAA Division II championship last season.