ST. PETERSBURG — With Derek Dietrich back down in the minors, the door has opened for Donovan Solano to get a little more playing time at second base — at least until Rafael Furcal is finally ready to go.
On Wednesday night, it turned out to be a good thing for the Marlins that Solano was making a rare appearance in the lineup.
His three-run home run off David Price in the third inning — along with some nifty defensive work alongside double-play partner Adeiny Hechavarria — helped lift the Marlins to a 5-4 come-from-behind victory over the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field.
Closer Steve Cishek endured a grueling ninth inning, as the Rays (23-37) loaded the bases with nobody out and then had the winning run on second base with one out. But he escaped by getting Ben Zobrist to ground out to first base for the second out, and then James Loney to pop out to Solano at second — after intentionally walking Evan Longoria to load the bases — to end the game.
“It got a little hairy there at the end, but I’ve seen that happen here at this place – the high choppers and bloops,” manager Mike Redmond said. “But fortunately Shrek kept it together and was able to pitch through it and get a couple outs and locked down that win.”
Tampa, which lost for the ninth consecutive game, probably should have tied the score at 5 when Zobrist sent a chopper to first base for the second out in the ninth. But rookie Kevin Kiermaier, who was on third base, never moved further than 15 feet down the line as Garrett Jones jumped up to catch the bouncer and then stepped on the bag for the out.
“I couldn't believe it,” Cishek said. “It's a tough judgement call for him, but I figured he was going on contact in that situation. Worked out in the end for us.”
Tom Koehler, who fell behind 3-1 after a rough first inning, gritted his way through 98 pitches and five innings to pick up the victory, which clinched the annual Citrus Series between the in-state rivals.
The Marlins (31-28) will go for their first season-series sweep of the Rays since 2005 at 4:05 p.m. Thursday.
On Wednesday, Miami scored four unearned runs with two outs in what turned out to be a wild third inning.
And what sprung it was a bad baserunning decision turned lucky break.
With two outs, Marcell Ozuna broke for third base on a high chopper toward the bag. Longoria fielded it and applied the tag on Ozuna as he was sliding into the base. But as Longoria was removing his glove from Ozuna’s legs, the ball popped out and onto the dirt. Giancarlo Stanton ended up scoring on the play.
“That's a play that kind of gets overlooked because he was safe,” Redmond said of Ozuna’s dash for third. “But if he's out there's definitely something we talk about.”
Solano quickly made the Rays pay for Longoria’s error, smacking Price's next pitch over the wall in left. It was his first home run since last Sept. 14.
“I just wait for my opportunity and today they gave me the opportunity and I gave the best I can,” Solano said. “[On the home run] I was just trying to get a hit into the middle of the field. My previous at-bat he struck me out with that same curveball. And when he threw it again I just reacted.”
Price, the Rays’ ace, gave up a single to Jeff Mathis right afterward, but he settled in and retired 14 Marlins in a row after that. But the 5-3 lead turned out to be more than enough.
New Marlins reliever Bryan Morris, acquired Sunday in a trade with Pittsburgh, tossed two scoreless innings of relief in the sixth and seventh.
Mike Dunn then pitched a 1-2-3 eighth before Cishek ran into trouble in the ninth and escaped.
The entire Marlins pitching staff got plenty of help from Hechavarria, who made a trio of stellar stops and ended the seventh by teaming up with Solano for their third double play of the night.
“Solano looked great out there,” Redmond said. “It's probably been a little frustrating for him over the course of the year because he hasn't played a whole lot. But I know he's a competitor and he's ready to play every single day whether he's in the lineup or not. It was great to see him not only play a great defensive game, but get a big hit too. That just shows you what Solano is made of.”
> The Rays played Wednesday’s game with heavy hearts after the news of Don Zimmer’s passing broke in the middle of the game. Zimmer, 83, was a senior baseball advisor for the Rays.
Marlins pitching coach Chuck Hernandez considered Zimmer one of his coaching mentors and a close friend and nearly broke down talking about Zimmer after the game.
> Left-hander Brad Hand made his first rehab start since going on the disabled list May 24 with a right ankle sprain and tossed six no-hit innings for Single A Jupiter. Hand struck out eight.