MIAMI (AP) -- Joe Nelson missed by a couple of inches, and that was all the space the Tampa Bay Rays needed for yet another win.
Dioner Navarro and Eric Hinske drew bases-loaded walks off Nelson in the eighth inning to give Tampa Bay the lead, Evan Longoria hit a two-run double in the ninth and the Rays beat the Florida Marlins 6-4 on Tuesday night to stay within one game of Boston in the AL East.Akinori Iwamura had three hits, including his fifth home run, and Carl Crawford added two hits for the Rays, who improved to 3-25 when trailing after seven innings."We pitched well," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "We did not play well."Troy Percival walked four Marlins in the ninth but still managed his 18th save in 20 chances and No. 342 of his career, moving him past Rollie Fingers into ninth on the career list."Rollie was one of my idols, so it's great to say I did what he did," said Percival, who acknowledged that his troublesome hamstring was sore Tuesday. "But I don't have the time to look back at these numbers now."Jorge Cantu had two hits for the Marlins, who fell to 32-3 when leading after seven. Marlins starter Scott Olsen allowed four hits and struck out four in seven innings, but left without a win for the ninth straight time dating back to May 6."Personal wins are nice. They're good for arbitration," Olsen said. "But we're trying to catch the Phillies right now."He did his part. Instead, his bullpen failed Tuesday, allowing four runs in two innings to waste a 3-2 lead.The Rays loaded the bases with no outs in the eighth against Renyel Pinto (2-3) on three straight singles, two of which never left the infield. Iwamura singled to right, and Willy Aybar followed with a bunt single off the third-base bag. Crawford then hit a ball to the right of first baseman Mike Jacobs, who fielded it cleanly, but had no chance to throw the speedy Crawford out."At least he didn't walk three guys or that kind of stuff," Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "It wasn't as bad as the linescore will look."Still, that was it for Pinto, and the Marlins summoned Nelson -- who was one strike away from escaping.He got two grounders to force runners at home, then went to a 3-2 count on Navarro, but missed inside and Crawford scored the tying run. He then had another full count on Hinske, missed away, and B.J. Upton scored for a 4-3 lead."It's a tough spot," Nelson said, "but one I should have gotten out of."Longoria's two-out, two-run double in the ninth stretched the margin to 6-3, sending most in the announced crowd of 12,352 heading for the exits.They missed some drama.The Marlins loaded the bases on three straight one-out walks against Percival in the ninth. Florida got within 6-4 on Josh Willingham's grounder to third, which Longoria dove to keep in the infield and then flipped to second to force Cantu for the second out.Percival walked Dan Uggla, the majors' home run leader entering Tuesday with 23, to load the bases once again. But Jacobs grounded to second, Percival pumped his right arm in the air, and the Rays escaped."Good teams win ugly games," Percival said.Florida took the lead in the seventh -- and put Olsen in position for that elusive win -- on a play that seemed harmless when it began.Jeremy Hermida drew a walk against J.P. Howell (6-0) with two outs. Cantu followed with a ball to left-center that Crawford overran a bit. The ball skipped off Crawford's glove, Upton couldn't grab the carom, Cantu had a double and Hermida scored without a throw for a 3-2 lead.Florida started quickly against Rays starter Andy Sonnanstine, when Hanley Ramirez -- now the NL leader in All-Star shortstop balloting -- hit a leadoff double and scored on Hermida's single. Sonnanstine settled down from there, and left after yielding six hits and two runs in five innings, striking out five and walking two.
The Marlins optioned reliever Matt Lindstrom to Triple-A Albuquerque after the game and will make another move Wednesday to fill his roster spot. ... Sonnanstine hasn't reached the six-inning mark in any of his last six starts -- yet hasn't lasted less than five in any of them, either. ... Olsen now has 84 career starts without a complete game, sixth most among active pitchers.