The Tampa Bay Rays nearly let a big lead slip away in the opener of their Citrus Series with the struggling Miami Marlins.
However, Kelly Johnson's bat made sure the Rays didn't give a game away and the club seeks a third straight victory on Tuesday evening when it again hosts the Marlins.
Johnson had four hits in yesterday's 10-6 victory, hitting a pair of three-run homers. His first came during a six-run second inning, but Miami plated three runs in both the fourth and fifth innings to pull within 7-6.
However, Johnson took Marlins reliever A.J. Ramos deep in the eighth frame for his 10th home run of the season, giving Tampa Bay its second straight win following losses in four of five.
"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 have certainly plugged away versus the Marlins. They have won 10 of the last 11 meetings in this series, going 6-1 at home during that span. Tampa Bay will visit Miami for two straight starting on Wednesday.
Justin Ruggiano hit a solo homer and Marcell Ozuna extended his hitting streak to 12 straight for the Marlins, who have lost six straight and 16 of their past 19 games.
"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."
The Marlins' Kevin Slowey looks to avoid a fourth straight losing start tonight, a slump that has come since he picked up his first and only win this season back on May 5.
Slowey was tagged for a total of 11 runs and 18 hits over just 7 2/3 total innings versus the Arizona Diamondbacks and Los Angeles Dodgers before his last outing on Wednesday versus Philadelphia. The righty gave up a run on six hits without a walk, but was pulled after five innings due to a strained lat muscle in his lower back and lost a 3-0 decision.
Slowey, who is 1-5 with a 3.30 earned run average in 10 starts this season, was able to throw a pain-free bullpen session on Saturday and is on target to start this game.
The 29-year-old will be facing the Rays for the third time in his career, having gone 0-1 with a 6.75 ERA in the previous two.
Set to take the hill for the Rays is Jeremy Hellickson, who brings a 2-2 record and 5.37 ERA through 10 starts into this outing.
It has been an odd past two starts for the right-hander, who won a 12-10 decision at Baltimore on May 17 despite giving up eight runs and 10 hits over 7 2/3 innings. He then faced the Blue Jays in Toronto on Wednesday, but did not get a decision in his team's extra-inning loss after allowing two runs over eight frames of work.
Hellickson, 26, has faced the Marlins once before and yielded a run over 4 1/3 innings. He had to work around five hits and seven walks and did not get a decision.