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Vazquez comes through for Marlins, quiets Rays

CBSSports.com wire reports
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MIAMI -- Javier Vazquez's best start of the year began with a fast start.

For the first time this season, the Florida Marlins right-hander made it through the first inning without allowing a run. He went on to pitch seven shutout innings Saturday, and Florida defeated cross-state rival Tampa Bay for the second day in a row, 5-3.

"That first inning was not really on my mind," he said. "What's on my mind is going out and doing a good job, which I wasn't doing."

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Vazquez (3-4) had made only one quality start previously this season, but he limited the Rays to three hits and two walks. He had a season-high seven strikeouts and lowered his ERA from 7.55 to 6.41 in his longest outing since July 26.

The performance provided a welcome boost to the Marlins' rotation, which lost ace Josh Johnson when he went on the disabled list Saturday because of shoulder inflammation.

"That was a great outing by Javy," manager Edwin Rodriguez said. "He pitched a good game against a good team. It has to be a huge step for Javy, and it's going to be huge for the Marlins. Whenever we get J.J. back, if Javy keeps pitching like that, we're going to have one of the best rotations in the majors."

Vazquez outpitched Rays ace David Price (5-4), who went 6 2/3 innings and gave up five runs, including homers to Hanley Ramirez and Omar Infante.

Like Vazquez, Ramirez and Infante are trying to overcome early-season struggles. Ramirez singled and hit his fourth homer and has seven hits in the past four games, raising his average to .224. In the seventh inning, Infante hit an 0-2 pitch for a two-run homer, his first of the year.

"With J.J. out for a while, not only the pitchers but the offense has to step up," Rodriguez said.

Logan Morrison had a two-run double for the Marlins, who improved to 129-107 (.545) in interleague play, best in the NL. Florida will try for a sweep of the Citrus Series when right-hander Jay Buente makes his first major-league start Sunday filling in for Johnson.

The Marlins had a 5-0 lead when Vazquez departed for a pinch-hitter, but they needed five relievers to get the last six outs and complete a five-hitter. The bullpen walked four batters in the eighth before pinch-hitter Johnny Damon hit a two-run single.

Leo Nunez struck out two in a scoreless ninth for his 17th save, most in the majors. He has yet to blow a save.

"We played a good game until the eighth inning," Rodriguez said.

Rays manager Joe Maddon used five pinch-hitters in the eighth, but the rally ended when Edward Mujica struck out John Jaso. Tampa Bay finished 1 for 9 with runners in scoring position.

"I love the fight," Maddon said. "I really felt we had a chance to come back and win that game. There were a lot of positives."

The Rays, who began the day with a half-game lead over Boston in the AL East, have lost three in a row for the first time since starting the season 0-6. They've scored just 27 runs past nine games.

"Right now we're all probably pressing a little too much," Damon said. "Some guys are struggling."

The slump continued against Vazquez, who threw a few 92-mph fastballs early but relied mostly on breaking stuff.

"He had really good command of his off-speed pitches," Maddon said. "I have to give him more credit than I'm going to take away from us."

After a 1-2-3 first, Vazquez loaded the bases in the second but struck out Price on a 3-2 pitch to end the inning. He retired 10 in a row before giving up a double to Casey Kotchman to start the seventh, then got the next three batters to conclude his afternoon.

The effort was his best since signing a $7 million, one-year deal with Florida after he struggled with the New York Yankees in 2010.

"It's tough to go out there getting beat the way I was getting beat," Vazquez said. "It was nice I could go out there and do a good job."

Notes

  • Following the game, the Marlins optioned INF Ozzie Martinez to Triple-A New Orleans. RHP Clay Hensley (ribs) will be reinstated from the DL before Sunday's game.
  • Rays CF B.J. Upton (left buttock) walked as a pinch-hitter in the eighth and is expected back in the starting lineup Sunday.
  • Matt Joyce, who came into the game leading the majors in batting, went 1 for 3 to remain at .358.
 
Copyright 2014 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
 
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Leo Nunez earns his 17th save as the Marlins beat the Rays for a second straight day.  (US Presswire)
Leo Nunez earns his 17th save as the Marlins beat the Rays for a second straight day. (US Presswire)

Players of the Game
Florida

H. Ramirez
AB 4
R 2
H 2
HR 1
RBI 1
Tampa Bay

J. Damon
AB 1
R 0
H 1
HR 0
RBI 2
 

Related Video

Tampa Bay Rays
HittersABRHRBIBBSOLOBAVG
Sam Fuld, CF3000020 .229
   a- Justin Ruggiano, PH-RF1100101 .000
Ben Zobrist, RF-2B5000022 .260
Matt Joyce, LF3010010 .358
   b- B.J. Upton, PH-CF0100100 .258
Evan Longoria, 3B3100101 .211
Casey Kotchman, 1B2010100 .343
   c- Kelly Shoppach, PH-C0001100 .164
Sean Rodriguez, 2B3010011 .210
   d- Johnny Damon, PH-LF1012000 .269
John Jaso, C4000025 .211
    Adam Russell, P0000000 .000
    Cesar Ramos, P0000000 .000
    Brandon Gomes, P0000000 .000
Reid Brignac, SS3000111 .170
David Price, P2000013 .000
    Juan Cruz, P0000000 .000
   e- Elliot Johnson, PH-1B2010010 .271
Totals32353611  
a-walked for Fuld in the 8th
b-walked for Joyce in the 8th
c-walked for Kotchman in the 8th
d-singled for S. Rodriguez in the 8th
e-struck out for Cruz in the 8th
Batting
2B - Casey Kotchman (5, Vazquez), Sean Rodriguez (9, Vazquez)
RBI - Kelly Shoppach (7), Johnny Damon 2 (28)
2-OUT RBI - Kelly Shoppach (2), Johnny Damon 2 (5)
SB - Elliot Johnson (4, 2nd base off Nunez/Buck)
Team LOB - 8
Fielding
DP - Longoria-Zobrist-Johnson
E - Reid Brignac (4, Misplayed grounder)
Tampa Bay Rays
PitchersIPHRERBBSOHRERA
David Price (L,5-4) 6.2655142 3.89
Juan Cruz 0.1000000 2.60
Adam Russell0000000 3.60
Cesar Ramos 0.1000010 3.86
Brandon Gomes 0.2000100 2.89
Pitches-Strikes - David Price 107-66, Juan Cruz 1-1, Adam Russell 4-3, Cesar Ramos 5-3, Brandon Gomes 7-1
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - David Price 7-9, Adam Russell 1-0, Brandon Gomes 1-0
Batters Faced - David Price 27, Juan Cruz 1, Adam Russell 1, Cesar Ramos 1, Brandon Gomes 2
Florida Marlins
HittersABRHRBIBBSOLOBAVG
Emilio Bonifacio, CF3100100 .279
Hanley Ramirez, SS4221000 .224
Logan Morrison, LF4012021 .322
Gaby Sanchez, 1B3010101 .311
Mike Stanton, RF4000012 .262
John Buck, C3000002 .221
Wes Helms, 3B3110011 .220
Omar Infante, 2B3112000 .232
Javier Vazquez, P2000000 .231
   a- Ozzie Martinez, PH1000010 .125
    Mike Dunn, P0000000 .000
    Ryan Webb, P0000000 .000
    Randy Choate, P0000000 .000
    Edward Mujica, P0000000 .000
    Leo Nunez, P0000000 .000
Totals3056525  
a-struck out for Vazquez in the 7th
Batting
2B - Logan Morrison (9, Price)
HR - Hanley Ramirez (4, Price), Omar Infante (1, Price)
RBI - Hanley Ramirez (16), Logan Morrison 2 (16), Omar Infante 2 (16)
Team LOB - 3
Florida Marlins
PitchersIPHRERBBSOHRERA
Javier Vazquez (W,3-4) 7300270 6.41
Mike Dunn 0.2022210 2.61
Ryan Webb0011100 3.05
Randy Choate0000100 1.35
Edward Mujica (H,3) 0.1100010 3.68
Leo Nunez (S,17) 1100020 2.66
IBB - Brignac by Javier Vazquez
Pitches-Strikes - Javier Vazquez 106-64, Mike Dunn 23-11, Ryan Webb 5-1, Randy Choate 7-3, Edward Mujica 6-5, Leo Nunez 20-13
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Javier Vazquez 7-7, Leo Nunez 1-0
Batters Faced - Javier Vazquez 26, Mike Dunn 4, Ryan Webb 1, Randy Choate 1, Edward Mujica 2, Leo Nunez 4
Game Information
Attendance - 21814
Game Time - 2:57
Temperature - 90
Umpires - Home - Wally Bell, First Base - Laz Diaz, Second Base - Scott Barry, Third Base - John Hirschbeck