Marlins 11, Devil Rays 4
The right-hander pitched seven strong innings to earn his career-high sixth straight victory Sunday, beating Tampa Bay 11-4 to end the Devil Rays’ 13-game interleague winning streak and lift the defending World Series champions back into first place.
“He’s our MVP right now,” said Florida’s Jeff Conine, who had three of the Marlins’ season-high 17 hits, including a three-run double.
“Any time that you’ve got a couple of losses in a row, and you need somebody to stop the bleeding, so to speak, he’s our man. … He’s our tourniquet.”
Pavano (9-2) allowed one run on five hits and matched a season high with eight strikeouts. He hasn’t lost since May 19 at Houston, and each of his last five starts have followed Marlins losses.
Sunday’s victory ended a three-game slide that dropped Florida one percentage point behind Philadelphia for first in the NL East.
“He’s a big-time pitcher now. Every time he goes out there, you kind of feel that he’s going to be in command,” Marlins manager Jack McKeon said.
“We’ve been looking for this. Hopefully it’s the start of something good. … It was a good way to leave town. We had so many opportunities the previous days, and we didn’t do it. This is more like our club.”
The Devil Rays, whose interleague winning streak tied a major league record, lost for just the second time in 17 games, falling back to .500 (36-36) a day after becoming the first team in major league history to climb above the break-even point after being 18 games below.
Tampa Bay is 26-8 since May 20, including the 13-game interleague streak that matched the run the New York Yankees began against NL opponents last season and continued until San Diego ended the stretch on June 11.
Despite Sunday’s loss, the Devil Rays have won six straight series and are 9-1-1 in their last 7 to turn around their season.
“Any time you win two of three from the World Series champions, you feel good,” Tampa Bay manager Lou Piniella said. “We didn’t pitch well, obviously. That’s the story of the game.”
Fred McGriff, who remained seven homers shy of 500 for his career, had two of Tampa Bay’s five hits off Pavano, who also yielded singles to Rey Sanchez, Rocco Baldelli and Brook Fordyce. The Devil Rays scored their only run off the Florida starter on Carl Crawford’s sacrifice fly in the third.
Damion Easley hit a solo homer off Chad Gaudin (1-2) and also drove in a run with a seventh-inning double for Florida. Juan Pierre added a two-run double during a four-run seventh against Tampa Bay’s bullpen, and had a run-scoring fielder’s choice in the ninth.
The Marlins also scored four in the third on Mike Lowell’s RBI double that glanced off Crawford’s glove in left field and Conine’s bases-loaded double that sailed over the head of center fielder Joey Gathright.
“Birthday or no birthday—especially after a couple of tough losses in a row here—you want to come back and have a good game,” Conine said. “We had the right guy on the mound, and I had a big hit, which is nice.”
Miguel Cabrera’s sacrifice fly made it 5-1 in the fourth and Easley’s fourth homer of the season put the Marlins up 6-1 in the sixth.
Pavano struck out the side in the second and matched his previous season high of eight when he fanned Baldelli and Jose Cruz Jr. in the fourth.
“Things are coming together, I guess,” Pavano said.
“I feel like my command has gotten better over these last couple of weeks, and I’m making pitches when I need to. And I feel like I’ve got a little bit of luck on my side. … Some things have to go your way, obviously, through astretch like this.”
Gaudin allowed six runs and 10 hits in five-plus innings after failing to get out of the first inning against Toronto last week. … In 10 games on his birthday, Conine has batted .388 (14-for-36) with nine RBIs. … Crawford has 15 RBIs in his last 15 games. … The Devil Rays are 8-2 against first-place teams and have won three series against division leaders duringtheir surge.