It was another all-around ugly night for the home team at Marlins Park.
Only this time, insult was accompanied by injury.
Starting pitcher Carlos Zambrano had his shortest and roughest outing of the season, lasting just 2 1/3 innings before stiffness in his lower back helped force him out of the game Saturday.
Fortunately for the Marlins, it doesn’t appear like Zambrano will be out long – if at all. But add Zambrano to the growing list of worries for Miami, which lost for the fifth time in a row – this time 13-4 to the Rays in front of an announced crowd of 30,963.
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“I don’t think he’ll miss a start,” Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen said.
“It was a very tough situation because I wish my players trusted me more. I can appreciate what Carlos did. He wants to pitch. He wants to stick up for us. He didn't want me to use the bullpen. We appreciate that. But meanwhile, I wish he could be more honest. I'd rather lose a game than lose a player and really lose him for no reason.”
After needing just seven pitches to get through the first inning, Zambrano threw 36 pitches in the second as he struggled with control. The Rays parlayed two walks and four singles to score five runs as they batted around their order in the frame.
Although he struggled, there weren't any signs something might be physically wrong with Zambrano until he walked Carlos Pena with one out in the third. Moments after walking Pena and throwing a couple pitches to Ben Zobrist, third baseman Hanley Ramirez and catcher John Buck jogged over to the mound. Kozak, Guillen, and pitching coach Randy St. Claire quickly followed along with plate umpire Brian O'Nora.
“Carlos told me he was okay twice -- in Spanish and English,” Guillen said.
After a short meeting, Zambrano remained in the game. He threw two more pitches to Zobrist before the switch-hitting second baseman crushed an 86-mile per hour fastball into the upper deck in right field -- an estimated 379-foot blast -- for a two-run home run.
After that, Ramirez and Buck returned to the mound and waved Guillen onto the field to come take out the pitcher. Afterward, Zambrano admitted he came in feeling tight and should have spoken up sooner.
“I feel much better now,” Zambrano said. “I had a treatment today. I'll continue tomorrow. I've been through this before -- tight back. When I feel like that it's hard for me to pitch, get nice and loose.
“I learned something today. I learned it's not about being a hero. It's about being smart. Even if you've been in the big leagues for 11 years you learn something everyday.”
If there was a positive from Saturday's defeat for the Marlins (31-28) it was that their hitless streak with runners in scoring position finally came to an end. Giancarlo Stanton put the clamps on the woes at 27 consecutive at-bats when he delivered a one-out, run-scoring single deep in the hole at short in the sixth inning.
Justin Ruggiano then followed it up with a three-run, 399-foot home run blast to left field. But all that offensive outburst did was make the final score a little less ugly.
The Rays (34-25) jumped out to a 9-0 lead -- thanks to a pair of Zobrist two-run home runs and a five-run second inning -- and were hardly threatened. Hitting starved Tampa had scored double digits just once prior to Saturday -- a 12-2 win at Toronto on April 18.
Left-hander Matt Moore faced an all right-handed lineup for the Marlins, but still cruised. Moore (3-5) struckout nine, scattered five hits and gave up four earned runs over six innings and escaped what little trouble the Marlins created for him in the second and fifth innings.
Chad Gaudin relieved Zambrano and pitched a season-high 4 2/3 innings, giving up three hits -- including a two-run homer to Zobrist in the fifth.
“I think Gaudin saved us for a week,” Guillen said. “He sucked up four, five innings. Without him we'd have to make moves to the minor leagues to get people here [Sunday]. We're going to be ready for [Sunday] just because of him.”
Sandy Rosario, who pitched well in relief Friday, bombed in his second appearance, failing to record in out while giving up four hits and three earned runs in the eighth.
The Marlins bullpen has been atrocious of late. Over their last 15 games, they've given up 31 earned runs in 42 innings of work, an ERA of 6.64.
The only thing the Marlins have been worse at this month has been hitting with runners in scoring position. After going 2-for-11 Saturday, Miami is now 7 for 62 in those situations (.113) in June.