Garza, Rays roll; remain tied for first

Garza, Rays roll; remain tied for first

ST. PETERSBURG -- For most of the season, Tampa Bay's pitching and defense have been good enough to carry an occasionally struggling offense. At other times, the lineup has had to make up for lackluster pitching efforts. On Tuesday night, the Rangers got a taste of what the Rays can do when they are hitting on all cylinders.

Right-hander Matt Garza struck out 10 batters in seven scoreless innings, his lineup racked up a season-high-tying 15 hits, and the Rays rolled to a 10-1 win over the Rangers before 18,156 at Tropicana Field. With the victory and the Yankees' 6-2 win over the Tigers, the Rays (73-46) remained tied for first place in the American League East.

"Garza was really good. I thought he got better, actually, and I thought he threw the ball the best in his last inning," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "The velocity was better, the delivery -- everything started getting better, and I really think that going into his next outing, it was good to build off the way he finished today.

"Offensively, we just kept coming through and just kept adding on good at-bat after good at-bat. I think we saw close to 200 pitches tonight, if we didn't see 200 pitches. It was just a good overall offensive night with everybody."

The Rays continued their recent success at the plate, as they are hitting .338 over their last four games, by putting up three runs in the first, two in the fourth and five in the seventh to back up Garza against the AL West-leading Rangers (67-51) in one of the team's most complete performances of the season.

Before Tuesday's start, Garza said he couldn't change his approach when facing the hot-hitting Rangers, as Texas would have to beat his strengths to earn the victory. Garza stuck to his usual game plan, hammering the Rangers with an array of fastballs and sliders, and Texas simply couldn't get anything going.

The right-hander struck out a season-high 10 batters in seven innings en route to his career-high 12th win of the season. While Maddon said he only got better as the game went along, Garza struck out the first three batters he faced and didn't give up a hit until the top of the third, when he surrendered back-to-back singles and threw a wild pitch that put both runners in scoring position. He responded by striking out Josh Hamilton for the second time with a slider down in the zone to get out of the inning.

"I had great stuff tonight. I was locating my fastball well, and my slider came right off that," Garza said. "I got a couple big swing-and-misses and a couple watching, so that was good. The changeup -- everything was there tonight. I really can't complain. The results were there -- finding what worked and I'm sticking with it. That's just staying aggressive and keeping guys on their toes with my heater. That's where I think my success will lie."

Garza had plenty of early run support, as the Rays jumped out to a quick lead and never looked back. Ben Zobrist drew a one-out walk in the first, moved to second on a passed ball and scored when Carl Crawford knocked his 100th career triple to center field. Evan Longoria followed that up with an RBI triple, making it 2-0, and he scored on the next at-bat when Carlos Pena nailed a double to right field off Rangers right-hander Tommy Hunter.

Crawford's milestone triple put him in elite company, as the 29-year-old left fielder is the youngest player to reach 100 triples since Stan Musial did so in 1949 at 28 years and eight months. Crawford is just the 15th player in the modern era and only the seventh since 1937 to steal 400 bases and record 100 triples.

"I was trying to do it earlier, but I wasn't able to. It was nice to get that 100th, still, a real cool thing," Crawford said. "I never really thought I would do something like that, but since I did, I'm really excited about it."

In addition to his impressive career achievement, Crawford is starting to round into form at the plate after a slight slump. He hammered his 14th home run of the year off the right-field foul pole to make it 10-0 in the seventh, and he finished 3-for-5 and just a double shy of the cycle.

"Carl's just starting to get toasty again," Maddon said. "We talked about that, where Carl hit a little bit of a slide. But he slides, then he gets warm after that. He's in the middle of that right now. You can just see in the at-bats, when he's laying off of borderline pitches in a good body position, which he was. He's kind of getting back on task, so he looked good tonight."

Longoria was also in the chase for the cycle Tuesday night, as he left the game after the seventh having gone 3-for-4 with three RBIs and just a home run shy of the accomplishment. B.J. Upton currently owns the only cycle in club history, as he accomplished the feat on Oct. 2, 2009, against the Yankees.

"I love Longo's first triple to the gap. He hasn't done that in a while," Maddon said. "That was a really good hack right there, the one that kind of drew into the left-center -field gap. Then he battled for the base hit up the middle."

The Rangers' only run of the game came in the top of the eighth off left-handed reliever Randy Choate, as David Murphy's single to center field scored Hamilton.

"I just think we got beat," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "Garza stifled us early in the game, and we just couldn't get anything going."

The Rays' 73rd win of the season was also the 400th of manager Maddon's career. Nineteen of those victories came in 1999 as the interim manager of the Angels. He is 381-386 with the Rays and four games over .500 (400-396) overall.

"And many more to come," Maddon said with a smile when told of his achievement. "At least 400 more."

Adam Berry is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.