Marlins 6, Devil Rays 2

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP)—Manager Jack McKeon offered a few words of encouragement to Scott Olsen before the pitcher’s impressive major league debut for the Florida Marlins, urging him to relax and enjoy himself.

“I told him … if you throw strikes, it’s just like the Carolina League,” McKeon said Saturday night.

The 21-year-old left-hander heeded the manager’s advice, exhibiting the poise of a veteran in beating the Tampa Bay Devil Rays 6-2.

“I wasn’t thinking it would be easy, but I wasn’t as nervous as I thought I’d be,” Olsen said. “It was the most exciting thing I’ve ever been through.”

Filling in for the injured Josh Beckett, Olsen (1-0) allowed two runs—one earned—and four hits in 5 2-3 innings to help the Marlins defeat their intrastate rivals for the sixth straight time.

About 15 family members and friends flew in from Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Tennessee for Olsen’s debut.

“It didn’t feel like a major league game,” Olsen said. “It just felt like something I’ve always done before.”

The Marlins purchased the rookie’s contract from Double-A Carolina on Thursday night, then staked him to a 4-0 lead before his first big-league pitch.

Carlos Delgado, Mike Lowell, Paul Lo Duca and Juan Encarnacion drove in runs in the first inning off Casey Fossum (3-6), and that was more than enough support for Olsen.

The Devil Rays were limited to three singles and an unearned run that scored on a double-play grounder until Eduardo Perez hit a solo homer off Olsen with two outs in the sixth, trimming Tampa Bay’s deficit to 4-2.

Florida added a pair of insurance runs in the eighth on Miguel Cabrera’s RBI single and Delgado’s sacrifice fly off Dewon Brazelton.

Fossum was coming off his best performance of the season, a seven-inning stint in which he yielded just one run and three hits in a 5-4 victory at Yankee Stadium last Monday night. He gave up more than that in the first six batters against the Marlins.

Juan Pierre and Luis Castillo began the game with singles, and Fossum allowed Lowell’s RBI grounder and run-scoring singles to Delgado, Lo Duca and Encarnacion before the inning was over. Lo Duca finished with three hits and one RBI, and Alex Gonzalez singled in the eighth inning to extend his hitting streak to a career-best 15 games.

Olsen, 6-4 with a 3.92 ERA in 14 starts at Double-A Carolina, allowed a leadoff single to Carl Crawford in the first and two-out single to Alex S. Gonzalez in the second before handling the first jam of his career with the poise of a more experienced pitcher.

The Devil Rays loaded the bases with no outs in the third on Lowell’s fielding error, Perez’s bloop single and a walk. Olsen escaped with minimal damage, allowing an unearned run when Damon Hollins grounded into a double play and striking out Gonzalez to finish the inning with a 4-1 lead.

“That kid was impressive,” Tampa Bay manager Lou Piniella said. “He threw strikes and kept the ball down all night.”

McKeon agreed.

“He never got rattled. … He wasn’t afraid of anybody. I don’t think he’s cocky, but I think he’s confident,” the Marlins’ manager said.

Fossum allowed four runs and nine hits in 6 1-3 innings before being replaced by Brazelton, making his first appearance for Tampa Bay since May 11, when the Devil Rays’ opening-day starter pitched poorly against the Chicago White Sox and was demoted to the minor leagues.

Brazelton refused to report to Triple-A Durham, though, and went into hiding for more than three weeks—an unexcused absence that he still has yet to explain. The Devil Rays recalled him from Double-A Montgomery on Friday.

The 24-year-old right-hander was greeted by a smattering of boos among the crowd of 13,232.

“Whatever,” Brazelton said of the crowd reaction.

“At a certain point when people don’t know what’s going on, they make their own decisions. I really can’t be bothered or concerned with anybody that’s negative at this point. I’m trying to move forward with my life and my career.”

Notes

Beckett is on 15-day disabled list with a blister on his right middle finger. He threw a bullpen session Saturday and could return to the rotation next Thursday against Atlanta. … The Devil Rays have lost a season-high five straight at home. … Tampa Bay’s Aubrey Huff did not start for the third straight night due to a bruised right knee. He pinch-hit in the ninth inning and grounded to second to end the game.

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