Time To Step Up

Coming off his record-setting performance in May, the Tampa Bay Rays certainly need Scott Kazmir to carry that success into his first start of June.

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The staff ace tries for a sixth consecutive win and end the Rays' losing streak at three as they open a three-game road set with the Texas Rangers on Friday night.

Oddsmakers from Sportsbook.com have made Tampa -128 money line favorites (MLB Odds) for tonight's game, the over/under has been set at 9.5 total runs (Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 78% of bets for this game have been placed on Tampa -128 (View MLB Bet Percentages).

Tampa Bay (35-25) was swept in a three-game set by Boston after losing 7-1 at Fenway Park on Thursday. The loss, where Rays' pitcher James Shields and designated hitter Jonny Gomes were ejected for their part in a bench-clearing brawl, dropped Tampa Bay 1 1/2 games behind the first-place Red Sox in the AL East.

The Rays now turn to Houston native Kazmir (5-1, 1.22 ERA) to help them avoid matching their longest losing streak of the season. Kazmir allowed three hits in seven innings of a 2-0 victory over the Chicago White Sox on Saturday to set a club record with five wins in May.

"I feel like I can (pitch better), said Kazmir, who has won five in a row since losing his first start May 4 after spending all April on the disabled list with a left elbow strain. "I'm getting more and more comfortable every game.''

The left-hander, who's given up two runs and struck out 33 batters over his last 33 innings, is 2-0 with a 1.86 ERA in five starts versus Texas. He allowed a run in seven innings of a 7-3 home victory over the Rangers on May 26.

Though Kazmir and the Rays took two of three from Texas (31-31) from May 26-28, they'll face a team that's scored 55 runs in its last six games.

Michael Young went 3-for-5 with a homer and two RBIs to extend his major league-best hitting streak to 21 games as the Rangers won 9-4 over Cleveland on Thursday to split the four-game set. Milton Bradley also had three hits and two RBIs while homering for the fourth time in three games.

"They're all locked in right now,'' Texas manager Ron Washington said of his team's offense. "They're feeding off each other.''

Young is batting .337 with three home runs and 12 RBIs during the streak, but is just 2-for-11 versus Kazmir.

Bradley, meanwhile, is 7-for-10 with seven RBIs in his last three contests for Texas, which despite hitting the ball well, has a major league-worst 5.09 ERA and allowed 46 earned runs in its last five games.

Texas' ace Vicente Padilla (7-2, 3.67), who has been on the bereavement list since Monday, is expected to start Friday. In his most recent outing, Padilla - 5-0 with a 2.82 ERA in his last seven starts - allowed five runs and seven hits in six innings, but got the win in Texas' 12-6 win over Tampa Bay on May 27.

That victory improved the right-hander to 1-2 with an 8.64 ERA against the Rays.

Tampa Bay designated hitter Cliff Floyd went 2-for-2 with a homer and three runs scored in that contest versus Texas and is 5-for-13 with three home runs and five RBIs against Padilla.

Tampa Bay was held to two runs total in its last two contests while being outscored 19-6 by the Red Sox.

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