Scott Kazmir did his part to get the Tampa Bay Rays back on track.
The All-Star left-hander allowed one hit in six scoreless innings, and the Rays’ bullpen weathered ninth-inning home runs by Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez to beat the Yankees 7-5 and avoid a three-game sweep on Thursday night in St. Petersburg, Fla.
Willy Aybar homered and drove in three runs for the A.L. East leaders, who avoided a three-game sweep and extended their lead in the division over second-place Boston to 3 1/2 games. The Red Sox, who face Tampa Bay six times over the next two weeks, were idle.
The Yankees’ slim playoff hopes were dealt another blow. They trail the Rays by 11 games in the division and Boston by 7 1/2 in the wild-card race.
“It’s good to keep them in our rear-view mirror because they’ve played well against us,” Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon said. “To lose three in a row here would not have been any fun at all.”
Other A.L. highlights
Blue Jays 9, Twins 0: At Toronto, Jesse Litsch threw a four-hit shutout and the Blue Jays completed a three-game sweep of Minnesota.
Minnesota fell 1 1/2 games behind the idle Chicago White Sox in the A.L. Central. The Twins have lost nine of 12.
Padres 5, Brewers 2: At Milwaukee, Will Venable hit his first career homer and San Diego beat the Brewers, handing slumping Milwaukee its fourth straight loss.
The Brewers’ wild-card lead was trimmed to four games over Philadelphia, and they fell five games behind the N.L. Central-leading Chicago Cubs with 22 games left.
What’s the count?
Rookies really do have a hard time catching a break from major league umpires.
“Hey, I struck out on a 4-and-2 pitch,” Los Angeles Angels second baseman Sean Rodriguez said after Thursday’s game. “How many guys do that?”
During Rodriguez’s fourth-inning at-bat against Detroit Tigers reliever Aquilino Lopez, plate umpire Tim Welke lost track of the count. The scoreboard showed 2-and-2 but Welke signaled to correct it to 1-and-2 – which was incorrect.
“It’s probably more my fault than his,” Rodriguez said. “He (Welke) said, ‘Hey, isn’t it 1-and-2?’ and (Tigers catcher) Brandon Inge said, ‘I think so.’ I just said, ‘Yeah, I think it’s 1-and-2.’
“He said, ‘Thanks for your honesty.’ I was trying to be honest. I thought it was 1-and-2 when they said that.”
Angels manager Mike Scioscia said Welke’s scoreboard “correction” caught him by surprise and they realized too late to do anything about it.
“That’s something that slipped by us,” Scioscia said. “He reset the count from 2-and-2 to 1-and-2. We just missed it.”
Former Mariner Cruz dies
Todd Cruz, an infielder with the 1983 world champion Baltimore Orioles, has died. He was 52.
Cruz died Tuesday while swimming at the apartment complex in which he lived in Bullhead City, Ariz. The cause of death is pending results of an autopsy.
Cruz played with six major league teams from 1978 to 1984. He broke into the big leagues with the Philadelphia Phillies, then played with Kansas City, the California Angels and Chicago White Sox from 1979-80. He didn’t play in the majors in 1981, but the following season participated in 136 games with Seattle.
He was traded by the Mariners to the Orioles in the middle of the 1983 season. He batted .208 as Baltimore’s third baseman and was on the team that won the World Series against Philadelphia in five games.