ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) -- There's nothing like a strong pitching performance to squash a disagreement between batterymates.
Tampa Bay's Matt Garza and Dioner Navarro put their differences of a week ago behind them on Saturday night, working together to help the Rays beat the suddenly punchless Florida Marlins 4-1."It was a huge step in the right direction," Garza said after allowing one run and three hits in seven innings."We've always been on the same page, even when we fight," Navarro joked, adding the pitcher and catcher having been laughing since the day after the heated confrontation they had during a loss at Texas."It was great, just the way he went about it tonight," Navarro added. "We had a conversation before the game. We stuck with the plan and everything worked out for us."Jonny Gomes homered in his first at-bat since serving a five-game suspension for his part in a bench-clearing brawl in Boston, and Jason Bartlett's two-run single off Mark Hendrickson (7-5) snapped a 1-all tie in the fourth inning.Reliever Dan Wheeler worked a scoreless eighth, and Troy Percival added a perfect ninth to finish the three-hitter for his 15th save in 17 opportunities.Garza, who had lost two straight, got into it with Navarro on the mound during a loss to the Rangers on June 6. They clashed again in the dugout after the young right-hander gave up a home run.The Rays starter was in control from the beginning against the Marlins, who have lost three straight and are hitting .162 over their past six games.Garza limited them to Jeremy Hermida's fourth-inning double and singles by Matt Treanor and Luis Gonzalez. Mike Jacobs drove in Florida's lone run with a fourth-inning sacrifice fly."What happened to our offense? Good pitching," Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "When you get good pitching against you, it's tough to swing the bat. Garza was terrific, then you get into Wheeler and Percival."Manager Joe Maddon urged Garza to do a better job of controlling his emotions in tight game situations and was confident his pitcher and catcher would be fine."I had no concern, no trepidation whatsoever. I thought it was going to good on both parts, and it was," the manager said."There were times where I got a little upset," Garza explained, "but I was able to step off, regroup and come back and get the next guy."Tampa Bay has won 22 of its last 25 at home, including eight consecutive series. The crowd of 31,195 was up from 19,312 for the opener of the annual Citrus Series, thanks in part to a post-game concert featuring Grammy-winning artist Gilberto Santa Rosa.Gomes homered on the first pitch he'd faced since June 5, when he was ejected during a fight between Tampa Bay and Boston that led to the suspensions of eight players, including five Rays. The slugger rejoined the team Friday, but did not play.The second-inning homer, Gomes' first since May 21, was the sixth allowed by Hendrickson over his past four starts. Even though the left-hander leads Florida with seven victories, he's dropped three straight decisions since his last win three weeks ago.The Marlins starter failed to get past the fourth inning in two of his previous three starts, allowing 19 runs in 12 innings. He barely lasted until the fifth Saturday night.The Rays loaded the bases on B.J. Upton's single and two walks before Bartlett, who had been 0-for-5 with the bases filled this season, singled up the middle to drive in two runs for a 3-1 lead.Hendrickson avoided further damage by getting Akinori Iwamura to ground out to end the inning. He threw 103 pitches in five innings, allowing three runs and four hits.
Rays OF Rocco Baldelli, sidelined since May 2007 because hamstring problems and mitochondrial disorder, will begin a rehab assignment at Class A Vero Beach on Monday. His status will be re-evaluated after he makes starts as the designated hitter on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Baldelli remains hopeful of a return to the major leagues this year. "It's a good step. We'll see how it all plays out," manager Joe Maddon said. "There's no kind of timetable. There's no kind of pressure involved. We just want to get him out there playing and see how he reacts to it." ... The Marlins used Hanley Ramirez at DH, giving the shortstop a break from playing in the field. ... Florida OF Josh Willingham, out since April 27 with a strained lower back, is on a rehab assignment at Double-A Carolina and will be re-evaluated after Wednesday.