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Colome debut helps Rays sweep Marlins

The Rays’ Yunel Escobar dives back to first base as the Marlins’ Greg Dobbs takes a throw in the third inning. Escobar had walked and was left stranded at second.
The Rays’ Yunel Escobar dives back to first base as the Marlins’ Greg Dobbs takes a throw in the third inning. Escobar had walked and was left stranded at second.
Published May 31, 2013

MIAMI — Manager Joe Maddon had simple advice for Alex Colome as he made his major-league debut Thursday night against the Marlins:

Don't cloud your head by reading scouting reports or watching video. Keep your emotions under control. And pitch your game.

Colome did all that and more in an impressive introduction, working into the sixth inning to lead the Rays to a 5-2 victory over the Marlins that extended their winning streak to five and pushed them to a season-best five games over .500 at 29-24.

"Check. Check. Check," Maddon said. "He was really good. … Everything was met. Expectations were probably exceeded a little bit."

Colome, 24, was thrilled at the somewhat-unexpected opportunity and the outcome.

"It's my dream," he said. "It's very good. I'm very excited."

Colome earned a few historical notations for his efforts: the first American Leaguer in nearly three years to make his major-league debut as a starter without allowing an earned run (since Cleveland's Jeanmar Gomez in July 2010) and the second in Rays history, joining Scott Kazmir (August 2004). And he became the seventh Ray to win his debut as a starter, the first since Jeremy Hellickson in August 2010.

Colome picked up a couple of souvenirs to take home, two balls from the game. And he got the obligatory first-win celebration of a beer shower.

"Really good," he said. "And really cold."

Colome got off to a bit of a shaky start, hitting 95 mph several times and an occasional 96 but throwing only 11 of his first 24 pitches for strikes. He walked the second and third hitters, gave up a single that loaded the bases and then his only run — unearned at that — on a pitch that struck out Justin Ruggiano but got by catcher Jose Molina.

Colome said it wasn't exactly nerves that got him. "I was, like, too excited," he said. "My first time here, I look up and say, 'Oh my God, you've got to help me.' "

He settled down and settled in after that, allowing four more hits but no runs, retiring eight straight in one stretch. He worked off the fastball with an equally effective cutter and changeup, throwing 96 pitches (61 strikes) on the night.

Veteran reliever Joel Peralta checked in with Colome by phone Thursday morning, then talked with him again before the game, stressing the importance of remaining under control, telling him, "just breathe, try to calm down, and you're going to be fine."

Down 1-0 and not doing much through the first five innings against Miami's Ricky Nolasco, the Rays took a 2-1 lead in the sixth on a homer by Matt Joyce. They expanded the margin in the seventh with a solo shot by James Loney.

The Marlins closed to 3-2 when Josh Lueke walked in a run, but Ben Zobrist gave Tampa Bay some breathing room in the ninth with a two-run double, and Fernando Rodney, feeling "more better" with a fourth consecutive scoreless outing, finished for his 11th save, sending the Marlins to their ninth consecutive loss.

Colome, given the start as a result of Alex Cobb's finger injury, said it couldn't have gone better.

Maddon agreed.

"I was most impressed with his ability really to stay calm throughout this whole thing," Maddon said. "But the stuff is a little bit overwhelming; it's really good."

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