Marlins chase Garza in 2nd inning, hold on to best Rays

MIAMI -- Mike Stanton stole a bat from Dan Uggla, then got a uniform fashion tip from Cody Ross.

Somehow, that was the formula for the rookie's first major league home run -- a grand slam worthy of a curtain call.

Stanton's slam was the biggest blow in a disastrous five-run first inning for Tampa Bay's Matt Garza, and it helped carry the Florida Marlins past the Rays 7-4 Friday night.

"Dan's bat and Cody's idea to put pants up," Stanton said. "The only reason I hit it. Full credit to them."

Ross and Uggla got their reward afterward, delivering the obligatory shaving-cream-in-the-face gag while Stanton did a postgame TV interview.

"Incredible," Ross said.

Garza (7-5) had a decidedly different view of the evening.

He had the shortest outing of his career, lasting just 1 1/3 innings and giving up seven runs on seven hits while walking three. His ERA climbed from 3.50 to 4.16, and he needed 49 pitches -- the second-highest total by anyone in a single inning this season -- just to record his first three outs.

By comparison, Washington star rookie Stephen Strasburg threw 47 pitches in his first 4 1/3 innings Friday against the White Sox.

"This is probably one of the lowest points of my career," Garza said. "It just can't get any lower."

Ben Zobrist hit a two-run double in the first for Tampa Bay, which has dropped three straight and six of its last eight, including three of four against the Marlins. The Rays remained tied with the New York Yankees for the best record in the majors, the AL East rivals both now 41-26.

"He could not find where the ball was going," Rays manager Joe Maddon said of his starter. "I've never seen that."

Garza gave up a double to Chris Coghlan to start the game and walked three of the next five batters, stopping to smooth mound dirt with his foot several times.

Still, he was one strike away from getting out of the first having yielded just one run, before Stanton -- who fouled off the first 3-2 pitch he saw -- sent a fastball over the wall in left-center, the first hit at home for the highly touted 20-year-old rookie and one that merited a curtain call from the crowd of 17,310.

Stanton wore his pants legs high Friday, like Uggla and Ross have done and just like he had in Double-A. Alas, he did so in the minors because there weren't pants long enough to fit his 6-foot-5 frame.

The homer came in his 32nd at-bat.

"About time," said Stanton, who hit 21 home runs in 52 games in Double-A.

Nate Robertson (5-5) gave up five hits and three runs, two earned, in six innings for Florida, striking out six and walking one. Leo Nunez worked a perfect ninth for his 14th save in 17 opportunities.

The Marlins batted for 30 minutes in the first. The only pitcher so far this season to throw more pitches in an inning, according to STATS LLC, was Pittsburgh's Paul Maholm, who needed 54 to escape the third inning against St. Louis last month.

Coghlan doubled again to lead off the second, scored two batters later on Hanley Ramirez's single. Uggla's RBI single later in the inning brought Gaby Sanchez home for a 7-2 lead, and Garza -- who had gone at least five innings in all 13 of his starts this season -- saw his night finally end.

"You'll probably never see that happen against him again," Ross said. "He's lights-out, normally."

Scott Strickland got two outs in the seventh for the Marlins, allowing a run on two hits in his first major-league appearance since Sept. 28, 2005. He'd been in the minors ever since, and considered retiring earlier this season for a full-time job repossessing cars for a family member's firm in Texas.

Andy Sonnanstine, Dan Wheeler and Lance Cormier combined for 6 2/3 innings of shutout relief for Tampa Bay, giving up a combined four hits while striking out seven and walking none.

Game notes
Garza's shortest start had been 2 1/3 innings Aug. 20, 2007 against Seattle. He threw two innings of relief against the Yankees on July 2, 2007. ... The Rays saw a chance to get perhaps within two runs evaporate in the seventh, when B.J. Upton -- who had just gotten to second on his 21st steal of the year -- was caught trying to swipe third. ... Robertson hit into an unusual 5-6-4 double play while trying to bunt in the fifth.