ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Desmond Jennings was dropped from the Tampa Bay Rays' leadoff spot to rediscover his offense in the low-pressure seventh position.
The speedy center fielder appeared to figure something out in a high-pressure spot on Tuesday, singling home the winning run with two out in the bottom of the ninth as the Rays came back to defeat the Miami Marlins 7-6 at Tropicana Field.
"I felt that I had the (good) at-bats all night. I felt good," said Jennings, who went 3-for-4 with a double, run and RBI. "I didn't panic or anything like that."
Jennings took reliever Chad Qualls' second pitch opposite field to right, allowing Kelly Johnson to score from second. Johnson had led off with a single off reliever Mike Dunn (1-1) and moved to second on Evan Longoria's single.
"Just a beautiful piece of hitting," Rays manager Joe Maddon said of Jennings' hit.
Tampa Bay (27-24) swept the two-game "Citrus Series" matchup. They play two more beginning Wednesday at Miami, which has the worst record in the majors at 13-39. The Rays have won three straight as the Marlins tied a season-worst in losing their seventh in a row.
"We coughed up two leads. We had a couple chances to shut them down and win that ballgame," Marlins manager Mike Redmond said. "We just couldn't get them out."
The Marlins had their chances, opening a 4-0 lead against Rays starter Jeremy Hellickson through three innings. Marcell Ozuna (2 for 3, three runs) doubled and scored on former Ray Justin Ruggiano's single for a 1-0 lead in the second.
Two triples led to a breakout inning for the Marlins in the third. Placido Polanco's single began the rally with two out and the bases empty. Derek Dietrich followed with a run-scoring triple to right center. After Ozuna walked, Chris Coghlan mashed another triple over the head of right fielder Matt Joyce to score two for a 4-0 lead.
"He just was not strong with anything," Maddon said of Hellickson. "Nothing was really normal for him. Today he was just off."
Tampa Bay trimmed the lead in the bottom of the third with a rally that still seemed to sputter after the Rays loaded the bases with three singles to start the inning.
Joyce's sacrifice fly to left made it 4-1, but the Rays got just one run on Johnson's double. Marlins starter Kevin Slowey retired Longoria and James Loney to escape further trouble.
The Rays pulled within a run in the fourth when Jennings doubled and scored on Yunel Escobar's double. The Rays' Nos. 6-9 hitters -- Luke Scott (3-for-5), Jennings (3-for-4), Jose Lobaton (2-for-3) and Escobar (3-for-4) -- collected 11 of the team's 16 hits.
Coghlan hit his first homer of the season in the sixth to push the lead to 5-3. Hellickson retired one more hitter but left after 5 1/3 innings. He gave up five runs, seven hits and a walk. He struck out three.
The Rays chased Slowey and tied the score in the sixth. Ryan Webb relieved after Scott's one-out double but promptly walked Jennings and surrendered a two-run double into the right-field corner by the normally light-hitting Lobaton.
Slowey was charged with four earned runs and eight hits, with four strikeouts, in 5 1/3 innings.
"You're disappointed any time your team gives you the lead and you can't hold onto it or you're unable to win the game," Slowey said.
The Marlins took their last lead of the game in the eighth when Ozuna scored from third on Greg Dobbs' two-out bleeder to left off reliever Joel Peralta. Ozuna had taken second on a fielder's choice and third on a wild pitch.
Tampa Bay responded yet again in the bottom of the inning when Escobar fought off an 0-2 pitch from Dunn to score Scott, who had singled with one out.
NOTES: Rays LHP David Price, the 2012 American League Cy Young Award winner, reported no problems after playing catch for the second straight day. Price was placed on the 15-day disabled list on May 16 with a triceps strain. Price threw 35 times from between 60 and 75 feet. He's scheduled to throw again on Thursday. ... Marlins 1B Logan Morrison began a rehab stint (right knee surgery) on Tuesday with Double-A Jacksonville in Pensacola. Morrison, on the 60-day DL, is expected to return in about two weeks. ... The Rays entered play having blown five ninth-inning leads, four in the last 20 games. They lost four of those five. Tampa Bay failed to hold a ninth-inning lead just twice in 2012. ... Ozuna took a scary spill in the bottom of the fifth chasing a Longoria foul ball as he tripped over a bullpen mound and slid face-first into a padded wall. ... The Rays optioned rookie RHP Jake Odorizzi to Triple-A Charlotte after two underwhelming outings. A call-up will be made on Wednesday.