The visiting Rays look to re-establish their recent dominance of the struggling Marlins on Friday night when the teams begin their second Citrus Series in as many weekends.
Tampa Bay (41-25) is 9-13 since May 23, as its onetime six-game lead atop the AL East has vanished, becoming a tie with the New York Yankees. Third-place Boston looms two games back.
After dropping two of three at home to the Marlins (31-35) last weekend, the Rays lost two of three at NL East-leading Atlanta, including a 3-1 defeat Thursday.
Florida failed to build any momentum of its own from the last Citrus Series, getting swept by Texas in three home games. The Marlins fell 6-4 in Thursday’s finale.
The Rays have won seven of their last eight road games in this series, hitting .303 with 15 homers and outscoring the Marlins 72-24.
Evan Longoria(notes) is batting .414 with seven doubles, two homers and nine RBIs in six career games at Florida. The third baseman is struggling overall heading into this series, going 4 for 23 in his last six contests.
He earned Tampa Bay’s lone win last weekend, allowing four runs and nine hits in 5 2-3 innings of Saturday’s 6-5 victory, ending a personal season-high three-game losing streak.
Garza was superb in his only previous start at Florida, throwing a one-hitter while striking out 10 in a 6-1 victory June 26, 2008.
The Marlins have dropped eight of 11, and struggled in nearly every facet of the game while getting swept by the Rangers. They hit .176 with one homer, the bullpen had a 7.88 ERA, and Florida’s fielders committed four errors in the series with the AL West leaders.
“The last three games it doesn’t seem like we’re pitching, hitting, and playing defense,” said left fielder Chris Coghlan(notes), who is 2 for 13 in four games following a 12-game hitting streak. “It’s tough, we’re better than this.”
Coghlan is batting .407 in seven career games against Tampa Bay, including a 4-for-4 effort last Saturday.
Pressed into relief duty Saturday after starter Ricky Nolasco(notes) was chased with one out in the third, Robertson helped the Marlins get back in the contest by limiting the Rays to one run and four hits the rest of the way.
Robertson is 0-2 with a 5.73 ERA in his last four starts overall, and 0-4 with a 4.76 ERA in six career starts against Tampa Bay.