Kazmir gets the call vs. Dice-K

Kazmir gets the call vs. Dice-K

The last time the Rays faced Daisuke Matsuzaka, the scouting reports read "fastball pitcher," and Dice-K was anything but. Rays designated hitter Jonny Gomes said then that he didn't see anything too special about the Japanese righty's pitches, just that there were too many for him to keep track of.

Scott Kazmir was also on the mound the last time the Rays faced Matsuzaka. Although the youngster was battling high pitch counts at the time, he seems to have overcome them since then. Maybe, just maybe, things will be different for Tampa Bay during Sunday's series finale.

At 23, Kazmir's already got a fairly impressive portfolio as well and has long been a thorn in the Red Sox's side. He's worked to a 3.03 career ERA against them and has held slugger Manny Ramirez to a .129 career batting average against him -- Ramirez's lowest average against any hurler he's faced at least 30 times.

"Kazmir, to me, is one of the premier young, left-handed starters in all of baseball," Red Sox pitching coach John Farrell said. "He pitched very well against us in Boston ... but he's got dominant-type stuff, and any given night, he can shut anybody down."

The two starters have faced off once this season, Dice-K emerging with a win after he held the Rays scoreless through eight innings in the 4-1 victory. Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon said perhaps one reason his team struggled so heavily against Matsuzaka that day was a product of conflicting reports.

"He definitely has a great gift for what he's doing out there," Maddon said. "He's as good as advertised, it's just that [last time we saw him], he was a different style pitcher than what I'd read."

Dice-K, 26, remains first among Major League rookies in wins. Though adjusting to American professional baseball often takes a bit of time, Farrell isn't, and wasn't, surprised the Japanese righty hasn't faltered.

"The success that he had [in Japan], combined with the talents that he possesses, makes him a pretty special individual," Farrell said. "What we've come to find over the first half of the season is an undeniable, competitive spirit, a tremendous teammate and someone who really cares.

"I think the success he's had is just a byproduct of all of those elements."

Pitching matchup
TB: LHP Scott Kazmir (7-7, 4.02 ERA)
Kazmir is on a hot streak over his last two games in which he's defeated Cy Young winners Roger Clemens (Yankees) and Bartolo Colon (Angels) in conseutive outings. During that 13-inning span, he's allowed just one earned run, seven hits and five walks, while fanning 13.

BOS: RHP Daisuke Matsuzaka (12-7, 3.79 ERA)
Last time out, Dice-K snapped a three-start slump by firing seven scoreless innings against the Indians and limiting Cleveland to four hits while fanning five. So far, he's held left-handed opponents to .208 hitting in his 21-game career.

Player to watch
B.J. Upton is hitting .431 (22-for-51) since the All-Star Break, fourth-best in the Majors.

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Up next
• Monday: Devil Rays (Andy Sonnanstine, 1-6, 5.57) vs. Blue Jays (Dustin McGowan,7-5, 4.45) 7:10 p.m. ET
• Tuesday: Devil Rays (Edwin Jackson, 2-10, 7.00) vs. Blue Jays (Jesse Litsch, 3-4, 4.01), 7:10 p.m. ET
• Wednesday: Devil Rays (Jason Hammel, 1-1, 5.33) vs. Blue Jays (TBD), 3:10 p.m. ET

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