Johnny Damon joins elite crowd with his 500th career double as Rays win

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Alex Cobb made sure he would have no regrets in his final start before returning to the minors.

Cobb pitched effectively into the seventh inning, Johnny Damon hit his 500th double and the Tampa Bay Rays beat the sliding Florida Marlins 7-4 on Saturday night.

"A wonderful job by a young guy," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "Great poise. Really good stuff. He's going to be a very good major league pitcher."

Cobb (2-0) gave up two runs, scattered three hits, walked two and struck out two in 6 1/3 innings. The rookie right-hander has been filling in for the injured Jeff Niemann, who is scheduled to be reinstated from the 15-day disabled list to start Monday night's game at Milwaukee.

After his strong outing Saturday, the Rays confirmed that Cobb was being optioned to Triple-A Durham to make room for Niemann.

"It was a bonus to even be up here," Cobb said. "It's only going to help me with my career moving forward. I'll use it to my advantage."

Damon, with an opposite-field bloop double to left in the first, became just the 11th player all-time to have 500 doubles, 100 triples, 200 homers, and 2,500 hits.

"It's awesome," Damon said. "It means so much."

All of the other players accomplishing the feat -- George Brett, Lou Gehrig, Goose Goslin, Rogers Hornsby, Willie Mays, Paul Molitor, Stan Musial, Babe Ruth, Al Simmons and Robin Yount -- are in baseball's Hall of Fame.

"When you talk about deserving the Hall of Fame, absolutely, that kind of performance deserves not only top consideration, but acception," Maddon said.

Logan Morrison had two RBIs for the Marlins, who have lost nine straight and dropped to 1-17 in June.

"Same story," Florida manager Edwin Rodriguez said. "One thing for sure, those guys, they're giving it 100 percent. You see the intensity on the bench. They're pulling for each other. It's just not happening."

Sam Fuld hit a run-scoring single and Reid Brignac drove in run with a double off Ricky Nolasco (4-3) during the second as the Rays went ahead 3-1. Casey Kotchman's third-inning RBI double made it 4-1.

Florida took the lead in the first on Morrison's RBI grounder. The Rays tied it at 1 in the bottom half when Damon hit his 500th double and later scored on Matt Joyce's sacrifice fly.

Damon singled in the fifth to tie Jimmie Foxx for 72nd place on the career hits list with 2,646.

Joyce extended the lead to 5-1 on another sac fly in the fifth. Two runs scored one inning later when third baseman Greg Dobbs was charged with an error for dropping Joyce's two-out pop fly with bases loaded.

Nolasco allowed five runs and eight hits over five innings. The right-hander was coming off a start last Monday against Arizona in which he gave up nine runs -- five earned -- in three innings of 12-9 loss.

Rodriguez tweaked his lineup, having recently acquired Dewayne Wise hit first and dropping the slumping Hanley Ramirez from the top of the lineup to sixth.

Ramirez, who entered hitting just .201, had a single in two at-bats and walked twice.

Cobb retired 10 in a row before allowing a leadoff single in the fifth to Ramirez. The second run charged to Cobb came in the seventh when reliever Adam Russell allowed an inherited runner to score on a wild pitch.

Morrison had an eighth-inning sacrifice fly and Omar Infante added an RBI single in the ninth that cut the deficit to 7-4.

Game notes
Rays 3B Evan Longoria is receiving treatment for a sore spot on his left foot. "It's nothing dramatic," Maddon said. "He's fine." The 2010 All-Star went 0 for 4 and has nine hits in 47 at-bats this month. ... Florida OF Mike Stanton, scheduled to be the DH, was scratched due to a right eye infection. Rodriguez said Stanton saw an eye doctor, who reported there is no major problem. The manager said there was a slight chance Stanton could play Sunday. ... Niemann has been on the DL since May 5 with a strained lower back.