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Rays lose to Marlins 5-3

When the ball left Johnny Damon's bat, he thought he had hit a go-ahead homer.

The towering fly ball hung in the air before Mike Stanton caught it against the right-field wall. The long out came in a pivotal eighth inning of the Tampa Bay Rays' 5-3 loss to the Florida Marlins on Friday night.

With the score 3-all, Sean Rodriguez led off the Rays' eighth with a double. He was still at second with two outs when Damon lifted his deep fly.

"I hit it good," Damon said, "but it was just not meant to be. When I saw Stanton go back, I thought, 'You've got to be kidding me.'

"Maybe I need to be in the weight room a little bit more."

Florida scored twice in the bottom of the inning against Joel Peralta (1-3). Hanley Ramirez led off with a single, took third on Logan Morrison's double and scored on a sacrifice fly by Gaby Sanchez.

With the infield in, Stanton hit a popup that sent first baseman Casey Kotchman retreating to the grass to make the catch with his back to the plate. An alert Morrison tagged up and scored when the hurried throw home was wide.

"I thought maybe he left early," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "The replay showed that he had not."

The Marlins fell behind 2-0 but rallied for their 14th come-from-behind win, which tied them with Colorado for the most in the majors.

Stanton was credited with a sacrifice fly when his popup scored Morrison, and he hit his 10th homer, a line drive that quickly reached the club seats.

"That might have been the hardest ball I've ever seen hit," Damon said.

Florida's Mike Dunn (4-2) pitched the eighth. Leo Nunez needed only seven pitches in a perfect ninth for his 16th save, most in the majors leagues. He has yet to blow a save.

The first game of the Citrus Series between the state's two attendance-challenged teams drew a paid crowd of 18,111. The Marlins improved to 128-107 (.545) in interleague play, best in the NL.

Matt Joyce tied a Rays record with two triples, but they lost for the fifth time in seven games. They have scored 22 runs during the slump.

Florida starter Anibal Sanchez departed for a pinch-hitter after seven innings with the score 3-all.

Andy Sonnanstine, making his third start this year, went five innings for the Rays and allowed three runs, including two homers in the fourth. Morrison led off the inning with his sixth homer, and with two outs Stanton homered to put Florida ahead 3-2.

"I felt pretty good," Sonnanstine said. "The one pitch to Morrison I'd like to have back. The one to Stanton, I hit my spot. I have to tip my cap to him."

Stanton, who started slowly this season after injuries to both hamstrings, leads the NL with eight homers in May.

"I had to get my legs back," he said. "I still can't run full speed, but I feel under myself finally, and I'm not worrying if my leg is going to go. I've just been relaxed lately."

Rays reliever J.P. Howell, activated before the game, pitched a scoreless sixth. The appearance came one year and one day after he underwent surgery to repair a shoulder injury that sidelined him all last season.

"It's not as fun when you lose, but it's still a great time," Howell said.

Rays center fielder B.J. Upton left the game in the third with tightness in his left buttock.

"The trainers were afraid it was a hamstring, but it's not," Upton said. "After my first AB, I kind of got jammed and my foot stuck and I stumbled."

Upton might be available off the bench Saturday, Maddon said.

Notes: The Rays arrived at their hotel at 4 a.m. after flying to Miami from Toronto, and they head for Detroit next. "If we were actually getting mileage, it would be awesome," Maddon said. ... Rays LHP David Price will bat for the first time this season Saturday. "I've got zero chance," he said. Price is 2 for 10 in his career. ... Eight of Stanton's 10 homers have come with the bases empty. ... Coghlan is 5 for 48 (.104) against left-handers.