Marlins stung by Rays' big start

Marlins stung by Rays' big start

MIAMI -- Misery reached another level for the Marlins on Friday night.

Along with getting blown out, the Marlins -- at least in the short term -- will be without their Opening Day starting pitcher.

Ricky Nolasco allowed eight runs in two innings, his shortest start in three seasons, and the Marlins were unable to contain the Rays in a 15-2 loss in front of 16,226 at Land Shark Stadium.

After the game, the Marlins optioned Nolasco to Triple-A New Orleans.

"We've got to get him fixed," Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "We'll get him a couple of starts -- two or three [at New Orleans] -- and get him straightened out."

Nolasco, who started the season opener, fell to 2-5 with a 9.07 ERA.

The Marlins, meanwhile, continued their downward cycle. They've lost three straight and are 2-6 in their 10-game homestand.

A year ago, Tampa Bay won five of six in Interleague Play against the Marlins. The Rays are off again to a fast start in the Citrus Series.

"It's not great to keep going through this," Gonzalez said. "But I think the spirits of the guys are good. You don't see guys giving at-bats away."

Once again, the long ball victimized the Marlins. Dioner Navarro, Carlos Pena and Gabe Gross each went deep. In the eight games thus far in the homestand, the Marlins have surrendered 15 home runs.

In the last five games, the ball has left the park 12 times off Florida pitchers.

Tampa Bay's 15 runs and 17 hits are both season highs allowed by the Marlins this year.

The 13-run margin of victory is the most ever by Tampa Bay over Florida. A year ago, the Rays enjoyed a 12-run win (15-3) on June 25.

Throwing on three days' rest, Nolasco endured his shortest start since also working two innings on Aug. 25, 2006 against Milwaukee. Nolasco's career briefest start came on July 8, 2006 against the Mets, when he lasted 1 2/3 innings.

What's noticeably wrong with Nolasco is he appeared to lack conviction with his pitches.

Catcher John Baker sensed Nolasco has been putting undo pressure on himself.

"I think he needs to try less hard," Baker said. "When you've had a year of success like Ricky has, and you come out and get off to a slow start, it's not because of a lack of effort."

In 2008, Nolasco finished 15-8 with a 3.52 ERA, and his pitches moved with a downward plane, making him more difficult to hit. While his velocity has been about the same -- in the 93 mph range -- it was noted that his pitches this year have tended to flatten out more.

The Marlins were able to get on the board in the fourth inning on Hanley Ramirez's eighth homer of the season, but they had already surrendered 13 runs before their All-Star shortstop circled the bases.

With the game well out of hand, position player Ross Gload pitched the ninth inning to preserve the bullpen. Primarily a first baseman, the left-handed Gload allowed two walks to open the inning, but he did not give up a run.

Florida's bullpen has been heavily taxed this week, and four relievers were used before Gload was handed the ball.

Tampa Bay right-hander Andy Sonnanstine entered the game 0-4 with a 9.00 ERA on the road, but he allowed only one run on five hits in six innings. Even though the Rays won big, a save was awarded to Dale Thayer, who tossed three innings.

In the second inning, the Rays sent 10 to the plate and scored six runs. Navarro belted a two-run homer and Pena connected on a three-run shot off Nolasco in the inning.

Nolasco threw 67 pitches in two innings, and his night was done. The Marlins turned to Nolasco on three days' rest, instead of his usual five, because he threw 76 pitches in 3 1/3 innings on Monday night in a game that was called for rain in the top of the fourth inning.

Once Nolasco was lifted, the Rays kept pouring it on in the third off lefty Dave Davidson, who was making his third big league appearance after getting called up from Triple-A New Orleans on Thursday.

The Rays sent 11 batters to the plate in the third, scoring five times off Davidson who racked up 52 pitches in the inning. Davidson was designated for assignment after the game.

After the Rays poured on 13 runs in three innings, a Marlins pitcher had something to cheer about. Davidson delivered a clean single to left field in the bottom of the inning for his his first MLB hit, and the crowd gave a mock cheer.

Otherwise, it was a long night.

"We've got to get through this," Jorge Cantu said. "This is a tough game. We've got to stay tough and get through this."

Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.