Rays-Marlins Preview

The Associated Press

The Tampa Bay Rays have broken out of a slump with some opportunistic offense in their last two games. The Miami Marlins certainly hope they're due to do the same.

The Marlins look to stop the longest losing streak in their new ballpark Saturday night as Carlos Zambrano takes the mound against Rays rookie Matt Moore.

Tampa Bay (33-25) had batted .157 and averaged 2.6 runs while losing six of eight prior to Thursday, when it won 7-3 to avoid a sweep at Yankee Stadium.

After going 4 for 11 with runners in scoring position in that game, the Rays were 4 for 12 in RBI situations during Friday's 5-1 win - their fifth straight victory over the Marlins.

Miami (31-27) was 0 for 8 with runners in scoring position, squandering eight walks by Tampa Bay pitching. The Marlins have totaled four runs during their four-game skid - entirely at home - going 1 for 28 with men on second or third.

"The only thing I don't see is running across the plate," manager Ozzie Guillen said. "Whatever they're doing, do the opposite. We have to do better."

Hanley Ramirez is 0 for 12 during the slide, although he walked three times Friday. Logan Morrison struck out as a pinch hitter and is 0 for 16 with no walks in his last five games.

Jose Reyes is doing his best to spark Miami. He had two hits Friday and is batting .360 in his last 18 games.

"We just have to keep battling," Reyes said. "We're going through a rough stretch, but we are better than what we're showing right now."

Zambrano (4-3, 2.81 ERA) has been showing his best stuff, with four wins in his last six outings and nine quality starts in his last 10 - including an impressive performance Sunday at Philadelphia. He allowed a run and four hits while striking out seven in 7 2-3 innings of a 5-1 win.

"He continued to throw the ball very well," Guillen said. "He threw a lot of strikes and his breaking ball was outstanding."

Zambrano also had two hits, including his first home run of 2012. He has a .440 career slugging percentage against left-handed pitchers, well above the current MLB average.

"The Lord gave me ability to be able to hit and I'm not a small man," Zambrano said. "I'm a big man and every time I hit the ball good, the ball will travel far."

That means the southpaw Moore (2-5, 4.45) won't have an easy out at the bottom of the order in his first career start in an NL park. Moore, though, has the ability to shut down elite hitters, and he may be rounding into form after a shaky start to his first full season in the majors.

He has allowed four runs - three earned - over 13 innings in his last two outings, striking out 14 in that stretch and picking up his first win in six starts Sunday against Baltimore.

"I'm going to do everything I can to feed off this," Moore said. "It's good to get a win."

The Rays could use a long outing from Moore after four relievers combined to pitch 4 2-3 scoreless innings Friday, but he's completed seven innings just once in 11 starts.

The Tampa Bay bullpen has a 1.98 ERA since the beginning of May.

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