On Sunday evening we couldn’t have felt worse about this team and the direction they were headed. Last Friday night, the Rays beat the Nationals 11-1, in what was probably the team’s best all-around game of the season. They promptly followed that game up with two tinkers to lose the series 2-1. So move ahead to Monday afternoon. The Rays just lost two ugly games to a terrible National League team, and are about to play four games against the division leading Boston Red Devils who were coming into the Trop as one of the hottest teams in baseball. We felt like a person who knows something bad is about to happen and there was nothing that could be done except cringe and brace ourselves, but baseball is a funny sport. There is an old saying in baseball…”Momentum is only as good as tomorrow’s starting pitcher.” Baseball is pitching, pitching, pitching. Enter Kid K. Scott Kazmir came out Monday night and delivered the finest performance of his young career and suddenly we were feeling a whole lot better about the D-Rays. Tampa beat Boston 3-0, behind Kid K’s 2-hit shutout, the first of his career. Kazmir walked 2 and struck out 10. He was masterful. Only one of the hits was hit hard, a double by Manny Being Manny to lead off the 9th inning. Only once was Kazmir in any serious trouble. In third inning he walked David Ortiz to load the bases with 2 outs. Then, in the most important at bat of the game, he struck out Manny Ramirez swinging. This game marked another step in the maturation of Scott Kazmir. He has pitched well against Boston before, and has even pitched well in Fenway Park. But on this night, the team needed Kid K to be his best. The team needed a boost, and they got it.
Then something strange happened Tuesday afternoon…The Rays won a game they had no right winning. It seemed like a mismatch of epic proportions. The Red Devils were sending Curt Schilling to the mound. Schilling had just been snubbed by Ozzie Guillen by not being named to the All-Star team despite 10 wins and a lower ERA than Guillen’s own Mark Buerhle. Tampa was sending Casey Fossum and the Fossum Flop to the mound. On top of that, Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz homered in the game. Schilling was strong if not dominant. But Fossum was better. In what was his best start of the season and possibly his best start as a Devil Ray, Fossum gave up only 1 run on 4 hits and 2 walks in 5 innings. He struck out 8. Not the prettiest line score for a starting pitcher, but it was good for Fossum and good enough to keep the Rays in the game. After Chad Harville gave up a solo home run to Ortiz in the 7th to tie the score, it looked like the Rays would find a way to blow the game. But then Ty Wiggington continued his sudden re-emergence from mediocrity and hit his 3rd home run in 2 games leading off the bottom of the 7th and the Rays were back in front. Shawn Camp induced a ground ball double play to end the top of the 8th and then…5 Devil Rays would cross the plate in the bottom of the 8th. A meaningless 3-run home run by Manny Being Manny in the top of the 9th and the Rays walk away with their second straight win against the mighty Red Hose.
Tonight the Devil Rays will send Tim Corcoran to the mound to try and win his third straight start and give the team its third straight win in the series. Here is hoping that tonight, momentum resides in Corky’s right arm.