St. Petersburg, FL – It may have been Memorial Day, but Kelly Johnson's bat didn't take a holiday at Tropicana Field.
The Tampa Bay Rays jumped out to a sizeable lead before eventually prevailing against the Miami Marlins by a 10-6 score.
Johnson clubbed a pair of three-run homers as part of a 4-for-5 performance on Monday afternoon. He provided the big blow during the Rays' six-run second inning against Miami starter Jose Fernandez, but the Marlins rallied for three runs in both the fourth and fifth frames to close the gap to 7-6. Johnson, however, iced the game with his second blast off A.J. Ramos in the eighth.
The Rays and Marlins played the first of four straight against one another. These in-state foes will play again at Tropicana Field before the Citrus Series shifts to Marlins Park on Wednesday and Thursday.
Miami nearly climbed out of its early 6-0 hole. Justin Ruggiano hit a solo homer to left field off Rays starter Jake Odorizzi in the fourth. Greg Dobbs then singled and Adeiny Hechavarria followed with a ground-rule double before Dobbs scored on a Jordan Brown groundout. Chris Coghlan plated Hechavarria with a base hit.
"Offensively I was happy," Marlins manager Mike Redmond said. "We were able to string some hits together and get some big hits and actually sustain a rally."
It was a disappointing homecoming for Fernandez (2-3), who attended high school in Tampa. He was removed after giving up back-to-back singles with one out in the fourth. Johnson greeted Duane Below with a base hit to load the bases, but Tampa Bay got just one run on Evan Longoria's sacrifice fly.
Odorizzi, filling in for the injured David Price, pitched out of a bases- loaded jam in the opening frame. He wasn't given an opportunity to see if he could escape more trouble when Miami loaded the bases with no outs in the fifth.
Josh Lueke relieved Odorizzi, and Dobbs drove in a pair with a one-out single to left-center. Brown pushed home another run with a base hit.
Johnson put to rest Miami's comeback bid with his drive to right field in the eighth. Jake McGee (2-2) was credited with the win after working two innings of relief.
"We can't score early and put it in cruise control. I don't think that's a good recipe for any team," Johnson remarked. "We just have to keep plugging away and keep trying to score as many runs as possible."
The Rays loaded the bases without a hit in the second as Fernandez issued two walks before hitting Desmond Jennings. Jose Molina put Tampa Bay on the board with a sac fly and Yunel Escobar followed with a run-scoring single.
With men on the corners, the Marlins misplayed a bunt, leading to a third Tampa Bay run. Miami catcher Rob Brantly fielded a Ben Zobrist bunt and fired to second base, but the throw pulled Hechavarria off the bag. After Matt Joyce struck out, Johnson sent a Fernandez offering over the wall in right-center.
The Rays have now won 10 of their last 11 games versus Miami ... Johnson now has eight career multi-homer games ... All eight of Ruggiano's home runs this season have come on the road ... Miami right fielder Marcell Ozuna went 1- for-3 to extend his hitting streak to 12 games, the longest by a Marlin this season ... The Marlins placed starting pitcher Alex Sanabia on the 15-day disabled list Monday with right groin weakness and recalled pitcher Dan Jennings from Triple-A New Orleans.