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Tampa Bay Rays Inside Pitch

Tampa Bay Rays Inside Pitch
The Rays have yet to show the consistent offense team officials expect.

But they've gotten this far with some better-than-expected pitching.

The starting rotation was in full glory in the first two games of the weekend sweep of the Angels as James Shields threw a one-hit complete game on Friday and Scott Kazmir, in just his second start since coming off the disabled list following a spring elbow strain, followed with six shutout innings.

The bullpen worked the final three innings Saturday, and was even more important Sunday when starter Andy Sonnanstine lasted only five innings.

The unsung star was again lefty J.P. Howell, who has settled into a comfortable -- and successful -- role as a long reliever, usually working three-inning stints (six times in 11 appearances). That has made him effective because it limits his exposure to the hitters, and allows him to throw harder, in the 88-89 mph range.

As a starter, Howell tended to get hit hard as his hitters got more looks at him, and his velocity would drop into the low 80s.

Sunday was a textbook outing, as he worked three innings, allowing only one hit, and got the win. More impressive is an ERA of 2.88.

"For me right now, man, it's better, no doubt," Howell said. "Maybe I'll head back to starting someday, but for now, I like it in the bullpen."

RAYS 8, ANGELS 5: Carl Crawford hit a three-run homer, Cliff Floyd knocked in two runs in his first game since coming off the disabled list and the Rays completed a three-game sweep of the Angels and moved to five games above .500, at 21-16, for the first time in franchise history.

Author:Fox Sports
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Added: May 12, 2008

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