ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) -The Tampa Bay Rays are in a bit of a funk heading into a key series in New York.
Peter Bourjos hit a tiebreaking three-run homer, Scott Kazmir won for the first time in six weeks and the Los Angeles Angels beat Tampa Bay 6-3 on Sunday.
Kelly Shoppach homered for the Rays, who trail the AL East-leading Yankees by a half-game. Baseball's top two teams open a four-game series at Yankee Stadium on Monday night.
``It's fun,' Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon said. ``We'll be ready. Everybody will be ready.'
Bourjos connected on a full-count pitch from Jeff Niemann (10-7) with two out in the fourth, giving Los Angeles a 4-1 lead. Both baserunners - Howie Kendrick and Hank Conger - reached on walks.
``I'm more comfortable than I was when I first got here,' said Bourjos, who was called up from Triple-A Salt Lake on Aug. 3. ``It's still a learning process. I'm just taking everything in right now.'
Kazmir (9-14) picked up his first win since Aug. 7, allowing one run and six hits over five innings. He was 1-9 in his previous 12 starts.
Kazmir worked out of a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the first by striking out Rocco Baldelli and Sean Rodriguez. The left-hander also walked two during the 38-pitch inning.
``It feels pretty good, but it's not how I drew it up,' Kazmir said. ``First inning, way too many pitches. All in all, it felt good as the game was going on. It's a good win for all of us.'
Bobby Abreu added a pair of solo homers for the Angels, who took two of three from Tampa Bay. It was the Rays' first series loss at home since losing two of three to Arizona from June 25-27.
``Everybody's grinding it out,' Maddon said. ``The Angels are not in it right now. Nevertheless, they are going to give you their best. They gave it to us for three. They easily could have won all three games. Again, I applaud our effort.'
Abreu went deep in the first and seventh, giving him 20 homers on the year and helping the Angels build a 6-1 lead. Hideki Matsui doubled in a run in the fifth.
Abreu now has nine 20-homer, 20-steal seasons, third most in major league history. Barry Bonds and Bobby Bonds both accomplished the feat 10 times.
``Right now we're playing our game,' Abreu said after the Angels won for the seventh time in 10 games. ``We're pitching good and we're scoring some runs. The whole thing.'
Jordan Walden got the final out for his first major league save.
Niemann lasted just 4 1-3 innings, giving up five runs and six hits. The right-hander is 0-4 with a 14.43 ERA in five starts since returning from a strained right shoulder on Aug. 25.
Tampa Bay tied it at 1 when Shoppach homered in the second. Dan Johnson drove in a run with an eighth-inning grounder and Ben Zobrist added an RBI single in the ninth.
Kazmir made his first appearance at Tropicana Field since being traded to Los Angeles by the Rays on Aug. 28, 2009. He has lost two starts against Tampa Bay at Angel Stadium.
NOTES: Abreu has 15 multihomer games. ... Angels C Mike Napoli was scratched from the starting lineup because of right forearm tightness. He was available to pinch hit. ... Shoppach's homer was his first since he went deep twice and drove in five runs on Aug. 14 against Baltimore. ... Kendrick went 2 for 3 and has 19 hits in 35 at_bats overall this season against the Rays. ... Zobrist snapped out of an 0-for-23 rut with a ground-rule double in the eighth. Angels RF Torii Hunter was OK after tumbling over a short wall down the line after fielding Zobrist's hit.
The Associated Press News Service
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