Marlins' Nolasco dumps Rays, falls just short of complete game

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) -- Fredi Gonzalez wanted a complete game as bad as Ricky Nolasco, so there was no hesitation in giving the young Florida Marlins pitcher an opportunity to pursue the first of his career.

"It would have been my first as a manager as well. I've never had one, so I guess we were both cheering hard for it," Gonzalez said Sunday after the Marlins stopped a three-game losing streak with a 9-3 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays.

Nolasco fell an out shy of going the distance, but did throw more pitches -- 132 -- than any major leaguer this season in nearly posting Florida's first complete game since Anibal Sanchez went eight innings in a 2-1 loss at Atlanta on Sept. 16, 2006.

The Marlins have gone 245 games since their last complete game, the longest current streak in the majors and second-longest stretch ever behind the Washington Nationals' 261-game drought from Aug. 16, 2006 to May 31, 2008.

"Fredi gave me every chance," Nolasco said. "I just couldn't get that last out."

Nolasco (7-4) allowed three runs and six hits in 8 2/3 innings to win for the sixth time in his past seven decisions and tie Mark Hendrickson for the team lead in victories. The right-hander struck out a career-high 12 and walked one.

Jacobs and Helms both homered off Edwin Jackson (4-6), who made his last start before he's expected to begin serving a five-game suspension for his part in Tampa Bay's bench-clearing brawl at Boston on June 5.

The victory stopped Florida's three-game skid and prevented the Rays from sweeping the weekend Citrus Series. The intrastate foes, who've never truly developed a rivalry, meet again next week in Miami.

"That's our goal, and it's wonderful that we're disappointed," Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon said of the wasted opportunity to take all three games of the series. "That's something that hasn't happened here in the past. The expectations have been raised."

The Rays scored on Jason Bartlett's RBI single in the fifth and Eric Hinske's 12th homer in the sixth before adding an unearned run in the ninth off Nolasco, who retired the first two batters in the inning before running out of gas.

The Florida starter walked Evan Longoria and gave up a single to Cliff Floyd before being replaced by Joe Nelson. Hanley Ramirez mishandled a grounder for an error that loaded the bases, then Gabe Gross singled to drive in the other run charged to Nolasco.

The Marlins don't expect the high pitch count to have an adverse effect on Nolasco, who is 6-1 over his his last eight appearances following a 1-3 start. His 12 strikeouts were the most by a Florida pitcher since Dontrelle Willis fanned 12 in a complete game against Philadelphia on Sept. 10, 2006.

"Normally I don't like to push guys past 125, but he deserved the chance," Gonzalez said, noting the Marlins have an off day Thursday, meaning the 25-year-old right-hander will have an extra day of rest between starts.

"I threw more than that in high school. I threw 188 there," Nolasco said. "But that was only pitching once a week. ... I'll be fine, and I'll recover fine."

The Marlins only had five hits off Jackson, but made the most of them. The Rays starter hurt himself by walking two batters ahead of Helms' first homer since May 17 in the second inning, and Jeremy Hermida and Jorge Cantu singled with two outs before Jacobs' 16th homer put Florida up 6-0 in the fifth.

Florida began the day leading the major leagues with 101 homers, but had not hit one in three games. Before the stretch Helms ended, the Marlins had not gone consecutive games without a homer this season.

Cody Ross had a two-run triple in the eighth and Cantu added an RBI single in the ninth.

Game notes
Marlins RHP Josh Johnson, who had Tommy John surgery last August, made his first rehab start Saturday, allowing two runs on eight hits and striking out seven in five innings for Class A Greensboro. He's expected to make his next rehab start for Class A Jupiter. ... The Rays stole eight bases in the series, boosting their major league-leading total to 80. ... Designated hitter has not been a real productive spot for the Marlins. Jacobs' homer was just the 10th a Florida DH has hit in 94 interleague road games.