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Tampa Bay Rays beat Florida Marlins 9-8

MIAMI — The headache from the 41/2 hours of listening to the shrill sound of soccer-style vuvuzela horns given away at Saturday's game hardly mattered to the Rays by the end of the long, loud night.

The 9-8 11-inning win over the Marlins was a product of perseverance and patience as the Rays blew a three-run lead in the eighth, took a four-run lead in the 11th (including four of the team-record 12 walks they drew) and hung on only after being rescued by the one pitcher of the team-record nine they used who wasn't supposed to pitch, Andy Sonnanstine.

"What a baseball game,'' manager Joe Maddon said. "Obviously we had chances to win it in a more normal fashion and we chose not to.''

The annoying soundtrack of the horns — an idea by the Marlins' promotion department that might have sounded good in theory to capitalize on World Cup fever but didn't sound good, creating a steady shrill hum — wasn't the only other distinguishing characteristic.

(Although the umpires and several players and coaches resorted to wearing earplugs, Maddon called the horns weird and annoying and said they should be banned by MLB, and umpiring chief Tom Hallion noted, "You don't see this kind of stuff at baseball games.'')

One Rays starting pitcher, James Shields, got the victory after the first relief appearance of his major-league career and snapped his five-game losing streak. Another, David Price, spent the night resting at the team hotel after being hit in the groin by a thrown ball during warmups. (And the one who actually started the game, Jeff Niemann, worked six solid innings.)

"Man,'' Shields said, "That was a crazy game."

Closer Rafael Soriano, meanwhile, made his first appearance in the eighth inning and blew his first save, snapping his streaks of 16 as a Ray and 21 overall.

He wasn't the only reliever to have a bad night as Lance Cormier gave away most of the four-run lead they took in the 11th, forcing the Rays to turn to Sonnanstine, who had thrown 55 pitches over 42/3 innings Friday and joked Saturday after the game that he was just hoping to get a chance to pinch-hit.

But as the game unfolded, Sonnanstine told pitching coach Jim Hickey he could be used, and the Rays summoned him with the lead down to 9-8 and runners on first and third with no outs.

Sonnanstine struck out Brian Barden and pitcher Anibal Sanchez — pinch-hitting because the Marlins were out of position players — and got Dan Uggla to line out to rightfield to end it, and earn his first big-league save.

"You've got to put kudos on top of kudos for Andy,'' Maddon said. "That's an incredible piece of work. I've never really seen anything like that from a pitcher.''

Said Sonnanstine: "Total team effort. It was absolutely huge to pull this one out.''

The Marlins did their part, cited for batting out of order in the ninth as Barden drew a leadoff walk then was called out, leading to a protest from Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez and his ejection.

Maddon noted the mixup, and Gonzalez claimed home plate ump Lance Barksdale got it wrong.

Hallion said the noise from the horns could have led to the mixup: "It was the most uncomfortable baseball game I've been a part of in a long time.''

With the win, the Rays snapped a season-high-matching three-game losing streak and hung on to a share of first place with the Yankees at 42-26 while keeping the rallying Red Sox a game back in the AL East.

The Rays seemed to have the game won much earlier, taking a 5-2 lead in the eighth and handing it to a bullpen that had previously been immune from the breakdowns that hurt the rest of the team. But not this time, and the collapse was a team effort.

Randy Choate and Dan Wheeler made mistakes on the mound, allowing the Marlins within 5-4, then Jason Bartlett made a big one in the field, failing to backhand Jorge Cantu's grounder, wasting good a chance of getting Hanley Ramirez hung up and instead putting Marlins on first and third.

And then came something that hadn't happened this season. Actually, two things.

First, Maddon summoned closer Soriano to work in the eighth inning, citing his recent light workload. Second, Soriano blew his first save, as for the first time in 32 games the Rays led after seven innings and didn't win in regulation. An error by third baseman Evan Longoria factored into Soriano's demise, as he couldn't start what could have been a double play.

The Rays were determined to do what they could, and the decision to use Shields — who started Thursday — in the 10th was a prime example. "A game-in-progress" decision, Maddon said. He had thrown only 77 pitches in Atlanta and had already decided to delay his usual between-starts bullpen session from Saturday until today due to Monday's off day, so when he offered to work an inning, Maddon took him up on it.

"I went from kind of relaxing and not doing anything to let's get it going,'' Shields said. "It was a weird game. I'm just glad we pulled it off.''

Marc Topkin can be reached at topkin@sptimes.com.

Rays 9

Marlins 8

11 innings

Tampa Bay Rays beat Florida Marlins 9-8 06/20/10 [Last modified: Sunday, June 20, 2010 2:30am]

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