Zobrist, Rays back Moore in rout of Marlins

Zobrist, Rays back Moore in rout of Marlins

Zobrist, Rays back Moore in rout of Marlins
MIAMI -- Every Rays fan's dream inning unfolded in the second Saturday night.

That five-run outburst -- and all the little pieces that made the inning so delicious -- paved the way for a 13-4 Rays win over the Marlins at Marlins Park with 30,963 watching.

"Just a nice night for us, we played a really good game of baseball," Rays manager Joe Maddon said.

By winning, the Rays moved to 34-25 and remained in first place in the American League East. The Rays have won six straight against their in-state rival.

B.J. Upton opened the second inning with a chopper to third off Carlos Zambrano that turned into an infield single. Carlos Pena and Ben Zobrist followed with walks before Elliot Johnson singled to right to score two.

With runners on the corners, Jose Molina fouled off a bunt attempt and then came through on a hit-and-run by poking a single to right field that allowed Johnson to reach third.

Matt Moore then stepped to the plate for his first big league at-bat and the Rays starter watched two balls go by before third-base coach Tom Foley called time out to have a conference to tell Moore to lay one down.

"I told him, 'Hey, I'm ahead right now, it's 2-0, you sure you want me to bunt?" Moore teased.

Moore did as instructed, placing a perfect bunt on the next pitch and Johnson scored, offering a clinic on how to properly execute a safety squeeze.

Molina moved to second on the play and to third when Will Rhymes grounded out to short. Desmond Jennings then powered a shot to first baseman Austin Kearns, who dove to knock the ball down but was never able to get a handle on it. Jennings won a foot race with Zambrano to first, allowing Molina to score.

Dink! Dink! Doink! Rays baseball.

"During the course of a baseball season you're going to do it right sometimes, sometimes you're going to mess it up," Maddon said. "Tonight, we didn't mess it up. We got it right."

The icing on the cake for Rays fans came throughout the inning when a large contingent of Rays fans took over Marlins Park with a "Let's Go Rays" chant reminiscent of those by Red Sox and Yankees fans so often heard at Tropicana Field.

When Zobrist connected on a 3-1 Zambrano pitch for his seventh home run, a two-run shot that ricocheted off the upper deck in right field, the Rays had a 7-0 lead and the chant began again.

In fairness to the Marlins and the Miami area, Saturday night's game coincided with the NBA Miami Heat's clash with the Boston Celtics in Game 7 of the Eastern Finals in Miami. No doubt, many fans attended that game while others stayed home to watch on TV.

"There are a lot of Rays fans here, to go out on the road and get that kind of support," Upton said. "Of course, they were more concerned about what was going on across town."

Zambrano struggled with his command and did not make it out of the third, leaving the game with lower back stiffness after throwing 57 pitches, of which just 27 were strikes.

"I don't know what was wrong with him, but he had some wicked stuff," Upton said.

Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen said he appreciated Zambrano trying to pitch.

"He wanted to pitch, stick up for us in the second inning and not want me to use the bullpen," Guillen said. "Whatever the reason was, he wanted to stay in the game, but I wish he was more honest."

Zobrist added his eighth home run in the fifth with a two-run blast off Chad Gaudin to push the lead to 9-0.

Meanwhile, Moore seemed to put to rest some of the doubts that have clouded the first part of his rookie season.

Expectations for Moore were high considering the way he pitched for the Rays during his September callup. Twenty wins, a sub-2.00 ERA, and 300 strikeouts might have filled the lofty expectations for the 22-year-old left-hander, but, obviously, the road to those numbers has not been paved thus far.

However, Moore is capable of pitching in a fashion that makes baseball fans dream. Saturday night was one of those nights. Moore resembled the projected whiz kid with six scoreless frames before Giancarlo Stanton finally broke his spell with an RBI single in the sixth and former Ray Justin Ruggiano added a three-run homer to make it 9-4.

"I feel like I did a good job whenever runners were on, I was doing a decent job of being able to slow myself down," Moore said. "That way I could stay within whatever thought process I wanted for that next pitch."

Molina added a two-run double in a three-run eighth, and the Rays tacked on one more in the ninth.

Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.