Kazmir Ready For Yanks

The New York Yankees responded to Hank Steinbrenner's criticism and manager Joe Girardi's pregame meeting with a win over the AL East-leading Tampa Bay Rays.

Their offense, however, is still looking to snap out of its slump.

The Yankees look for a split of this four-game series against the Rays, who send Scott Kazmir to the mound hoping he can continue to keep New York's bats quiet.

Oddsmakers from Sportsbook.com have made Tampa Bay -136 money line favorites (MLB Odds) for tonight's game, the over/under has been set at 9 total runs (Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 50% of bets for this game have been placed on Tampa Bay -136 (View MLB Bet Percentages). Bet this game.

New York (20-21) snapped Tampa Bay's six-game winning streak Wednesday, beating the Rays (23-17) 2-1. Robinson Cano went 4-for-4 and drove in a run and Bobby Abreu had the other RBI for the Yankees, who scored one run in each of their previous two losses.

The win came after Girardi held a 35-minute pregame meeting with the team, and after Steinbrenner made his feelings clear, saying before the game that injuries to Alex Rodriguez (quad strain) and Jorge Posada (shoulder) don't excuse the team's poor start.

"The injuries make a huge difference," he said. "At the same time, you've got to get it done. We still have plenty of good hitters. We need to get the job done."

Yankees captain Derek Jeter said Steinbrenner's comments didn't effect the team.

"Nobody is thinking about any words the owner says while you're playing. We need to win games," said Jeter, who was 0-for-4 with two strikeouts Wednesday. "Whether or not he said anything, or we didn't have a meeting, we need to win. Everybody realizes that."

The Yankees are in fourth place in the AL East, 3 1/2 games behind Tampa Bay. They have averaged 2.9 runs in the last eight games.

It doesn't bode well that they close the series against Kazmir (1-1, 2.70 ERA), who starts a day after signing a big contract extension with Tampa Bay.

Kazmir is making his third start of the year after missing the first month with a strained left elbow. He and the Rays agreed on Wednesday to a $28.5 million, three-year contract extension through 2011.

The deal has a club option that could raise the value of the contract to $39.5 million over four seasons.

"I knew coming into spring training that this is the place I wanted to play," Kazmir said. "I wanted to win and play in October in Tampa Bay."

Kazmir is 2-3 with a 3.00 ERA in eight career starts against the Yankees. Although the left-hander is just 1-2 in five starts against them at home, he has a 1.45 ERA in those outings.

Jeter is just 2-for-20 in his career against Kazmir; Cano is 1-for-11 and Hideki Matsui is 4-for-20.

The Yankees will recall Ian Kennedy (0-2, 8.37) from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to make Thursday's start. Kennedy was sent to the minors following his May 1 start when he allowed four runs and five hits in 4 2-3 innings of a loss to Detroit.

The Yankees are 1-4 in his starts this season. The right-hander has pitched past the fifth inning just once.

"We're going to give him another shot," Girardi told MLB.com. "We felt pretty good about his last start, and he threw one inning (Monday), 12 pitches, seven strikes. He knows he's got a chance to get us on a roll."

Kennedy is 0-1 with a 9.72 ERA in two starts against the Rays this season. Bet this game.

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