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Prophet Kazmir can deliver win to Rays

Prophet Kazmir can deliver win to Rays

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BOSTON -- Scott Kazmir caught everyone's attention during Spring Training, when he said he felt the Rays would be a playoff contender in 2008.

"I just felt like in Spring Training we really had something special," Kazmir said.

That was February. This is September, and the Rays have made Kazmir appear prophetic as they do have something special. The left-hander has a chance to put an exclamation mark on his forecast by stopping the second-place Red Sox on Tuesday night.

"This team, we've just got to get back on track," said Kazmir, noting that he, along with his teammates, need to step it up. "This is an important series for us. ... Just continue what we've been doing, not worry about what happened in Toronto. We've got to look at this series here. This is a big one for us."

Kazmir is 4-4 with a 3.02 ERA in 10 career starts at Fenway Park and generally has made a good showing most times he has taken the mound at the historic ballpark.

"I really look forward to games like this," Kazmir said. "I like challenges. I like going into someone else's park, like Fenway, how loud it gets and how fans feel like they're right on top of you. It really gives you that adrenalin."

Kazmir, who started the season on the disabled list with left elbow inflammation, made his first start of 2008 at Fenway Park on May 4 and picked up his first loss of the season after pitching just four innings. The Red Sox now have a different look to their lineup. Most notably, Manny Ramirez is gone and Jason Bay is now with the team.

"I wouldn't think [seeing a different lineup] would change my approach too much," Kazmir said. "I was watching NESN in my hotel room, and got to see quite a bit of the Red Sox and their new lineup. So I don't think I'm going to change anything -- just stick to my game plan.

"They still have quality hitters. I mean, Manny's a huge guy to have in the lineup. At the same time, it seems like every time they lose someone, they find someone else to fill the spot and can do the same thing. It's the same quality team."

Pitching matchup
TB: LHP Scott Kazmir (11-6, 2.99 ERA)
The ace picked up his 11th win of the season on Thursday night, tossing six scoreless innings against the Yankees. Kazmir allowed just one hit, fanning seven and walking five. Despite a solid performance, Kazmir has still struggled to go deep into games. He totaled 98 pitches (56 strikes) in Thursday's game, and hasn't lasted longer than six innings on the hill since his win on July 21 vs. Oakland. He is still struggling to gain control of his slider which has historically been his best pitch. Kazmir will face Boston for the third time this season, looking to earn his first victory. In 19 games against the Sox, he is 6-6 with a career 3.02 ERA.

BOS: RHP Daisuke Matsuzaka (16-2, 2.88 ERA)
Matsuzaka threw 112 pitches in six innings on Wednesday against the Orioles, laboring through long at-bats and four walks and making it difficult to go deep in the ballgame with such a high pitch count. Matsuzaka is unbeaten in his past seven starts, going 5-0 with a 2.54 ERA, and has 28 strikeouts in his past 25 innings of work.

Tidbits
At the urging of veteran Cliff Floyd, Rays players held a closed-door meeting prior to Monday night's game against the Red Sox. "It wasn't a meeting, it was a get together," Floyd said. "It was basically to end the season on a good note, you know. ... Just to make sure we were all on the same page. ... It has nothing to do with us losing a few games. ... I think it was good for our team to have a sit down and a little family conversation." Floyd said several players talked. "It's not a one-man show, it's a team thing we've got going on and it's tough. ... We've got some tough situations going on. We've got to beat the odds and beat the adversity." ... The Rays have renewed their player development contract with the Hudson Valley Renegades of the New York-Penn League (short-season Class A) through 2010. The Renegades, managed by Joe Alvarez, finished the 2008 season on Saturday with a 40-35 record. The Rays longest-running Minor League affiliate, Hudson Valley, began the affiliation in 1996, when the franchise's Minor League system was born. They won the New York-Penn League championship in 1999 and won the division title in '98. ... Matt Garza and Toronto's David Purcey exchanged 1-0 decisions 12 days apart. According to the Elias Sport Bureau, the last time a pair of starting pitchers traded 1-0 games was 1976, when Milwaukee's Bill Travers and New York's Dock Ellis did so on May 25 and June 25 that season. ... Triple-A Durham has advanced to the International League Governor's Cup Championship following its 9-1 win over Louisville (Reds) Sunday night in Durham, winning the best of five series, 3-1. The Bulls will play Scranton (Yankees) for the championship beginning Tuesday night in Pennsylvania. Tickets
 Buy tickets now to catch the game in person.

On the Internet
 MLB.TV
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television
• FSN

On radio
• WHNZ 1250, WGES 680 (Español)

Up next
• Wednesday: Rays (Andy Sonnanstine, 13-7, 4.66) at Red Sox (Josh Beckett, 12-9, 4.20), 7:05 p.m. ET
• Thursday: Off-day
• Friday: Rays (James Shields, 12-8, 3.64) at Yankees (TBD), 7:05 p.m. ET

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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