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Kazmir leads Rays with career game

Kazmir leads Rays with career game

ST. PETERSBURG -- Talk about friendly competition, game on between Scott Kazmir and James Shields.

A night after Shields tossed a gem against the A's, Kazmir took the mound for the Rays and dominated -- establishing a new Rays strikeout record -- in a 14-3 Rays win over Oakland in front of a crowd of 18,163 Saturday night at Tropicana Field.

"I'd like for [such a friendly rivalry] to last the next 10 years minimum," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "... We've had some really good back-to-back starts by Shields and Kazmir. Kaz and Shields are wonderful building blocks for the future. Any organization would like to have that one-two punch."

Kazmir struck out the first five hitters he faced and eight of the A's first 10 outs came via Kazmir punchouts. Kazmir struck out Nick Swisher in the seventh for his 12th strikeout of the game, which tied the club record for strikeouts and established a new career high for Kazmir. He then struck out Shannon Stewart for the third out in the eighth for his 13th strikeout to establish a new team record, breaking the old mark shared by Shields (2007) and Dan Wheeler (1999).

Earlier in the week Kazmir complained about always having to worry about a high pitch count prompting an early hook from Maddon on many occasions. The Rays manager defended constantly taking out the left-hander by saying he had to look out for the future.

Saturday night, Kazmir took the decision out of Maddon's hands by keeping his pitch count down. Through seven innings he threw just 73 pitches.

"It's a good feeling to look back there after the seventh inning and not seeing triple digits up there," Kazmir said. "Just felt like I had everything going. My fastball, I could locate it pretty well. My breaking ball, felt like I could throw it for a strike or bury it when I wanted to. I felt great, and the defense like I had behind me today. ... It's kind of easy when you have J.P. [Josh Paul] back there calling an unbelievable game. I don't think I shook him off one time. It's fun to have him back there. It makes things a lot easier."

Kazmir started the ninth, but Scott Dohmann had to get the final three outs.

Kazmir claimed his 10th win of the season -- to tie Shields for the team lead -- while extending his Rays single-season strikeout record to 189, leaving him 11 strikeouts shy of becoming the sixth pitcher this decade to reach 200 strikeouts at 23 years old or younger.

When the subject was broached, Kazmir and Shields each seemed excited about the possibilities of their one-two punch for future seasons.

"To follow [Shields] like that just shows what we have in the future," Kazmir said. "It's exciting. And you see what we can do with the bats. It's only a matter of time before we put everything together on a consistent basis."

Shields smiled when told of Maddon's comment about seeing such an inner-team rivalry for the next 10 years.

"That'd be nice," Shields said. "Kaz and I are friends, it's something he thrives off of and I thrive off it."

While Kazmir took care of the A's offense, the Rays' swingers lived large for a second consecutive night, pounding out a season-high 20 hits; every Rays hitter had at least one hit. In two games the Rays have scored 26 runs on 35 hits. The game also marked the first time in team history the Rays have won consecutive games by 10 or more runs.

Jonny Gomes put the Rays on the scoreboard first with his 14th homer of the season, a two-run shot in the second off A's starter Joe Blanton.

Carlos Pena doubled home Carl Crawford in the third to give the Rays a 3-0 lead and establish a new career high for RBIs with 83.

Akinori Iwamura tripled to lead off the fifth and scored on Crawford's sacrifice fly. Gomes then tripled home Brendan Harris in the sixth and scored on Paul's double to make it 6-0 Rays.

The Rays added three more runs in the four-hit seventh when Pena, Delmon Young and Harris all had doubles, and they finished off their scoring in the eighth with five runs.

"They have a bunch of athletes over there," Blanton said. "They have confidence right now and they are running with it."

Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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