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Marlins' ninth-inning meltdown ties major league record

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) -- The Florida Marlins had another
ninth-inning meltdown.

Russell Branyan hit a two-run homer with two outs in the ninth
to give the Tampa Bay Devil Rays a 4-3 victory over the Marlins on
Saturday night.

The Marlins have lost a season-high six straight, and this was
the fourth time in five games Florida has led in the ninth only to
wind up losing. The Marlins tied a major league record -- set by the
Devil Rays from April 25-May 4, 2002 -- for consecutive games lost
when taking a lead into the ninth inning.

"It's really frustrating for all of us right now," losing
pitcher Logan Kensing said. "It's not like we're not trying. It's
just not falling in place for us. A little luck would help every
once in a while."

Branyan's shot off Kensing (0-1) drove in Travis Lee, who had
opened the inning with a double. He sent a 1-1 hanging slider an
estimated 422 feet into the right-field stands.

"You hear it, you don't look and you just walk off the mound,"
Kensing said.

Ruddy Lugo (1-2) pitched a scoreless inning for his first major
league win.

The Devil Rays won the series opener Friday when Aubrey Huff hit
a leadoff homer in the 10th inning of a 5-4 victory. It is the
first time Tampa Bay has hit walkoff homers in consecutive games.

"You think about it a little bit," Branyan said. "You think
if a runner gets on base, you get a chance to be a hero."

Tampa Bay bench coach Bill Evers filled in for the second
consecutive game for manager Joe Maddon, who is expected back
Sunday after attending his girlfriend's graduation from law school
in California. The Devil Rays won both games with Evers serving in
the interim role.

"I'm going to call Joe and tell him to hurry back," Evers
said. "This isn't good for my heart."

Josh Johnson threw 6 2-3 solid innings and Robert Andino hit a
pair of sacrifice flies for the Marlins.

"It's tough to swallow," Johnson said. "It was tough last
night, too."

Johnson gave up two runs -- one earned -- and five hits. The
22-year-old rookie was looking to go 3-0 in four starts, pitching
five innings or more in all of them, since joining the rotation on
May 4.

Josh Willingham put the Marlins up 1-0 with a first-inning
infield RBI single. Andino made it 3-0 with sacrifice flies in the
second and fourth.

The Marlins left one runner on base in each of the first eight
innings and went 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position.

"We just weren't able to get that big hit," Florida manager
Joe Girardi said.

Lee hit a run-scoring infield single during a two-run fourth
that got Tampa Bay within 3-2. The second run scored when second
baseman Alfredo Amezaga was charged with an error for an errant
throw to first on Lee's hit.

Johnson has allowed seven runs -- five earned -- over 22 2/3
innings in his past four games. He is the first Marlins starter
this season to allow less than three earned runs or less in four
consecutive outings.

Doug Waechter allowed three runs and six hits in six innings.
The Devil Rays had lost all seven previous games -- including six
starts -- that the right-hander has appeared in this season.

Game notes
Tampa Bay has won its first two interleague games. The
Devil Rays were 3-15 against the NL last season. ... Florida CF
Reggie Abercrombie had his career-high 11-game hitting streak end.
He went 0-for-2 with a walk and was hit by a pitch. ... Waechter
hasn't won a game since last Aug. 27. ... Lee is 2-for-31 with
runners in scoring position. His first RISP hit of the season came
Friday night.