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MIA@TB: Marlins lose tough one on walk-off hit

ST. PETERSBURG -- Timely hitting wasn't the issue for the Marlins on Tuesday night. Stopping the Rays from rallying led to their latest setback.

Desmond Jennings laced an opposite-field, walk-off single off Chad Qualls in the ninth inning that lifted the Rays to a 7-6 win over the Marlins in front of 13,876 at Tropicana Field.

The Marlins dropped all five of their Interleague games on the road trip -- three by one run in walk-off fashion, including two at the White Sox. Tuesday's heartbreaker concluded the Tampa Bay portion of the Citrus Series, which moves to Miami for two games beginning Wednesday.

"I was happy with the way we swung the bats and battled," Marlins manager Mike Redmond said. "We coughed up two leads. We had a couple of chances to shut them down, and win that ballgame. We just couldn't get them out."

Miami's losing streak is now seven games, matching a season high, previously from May 11-18. The Marlins have dropped 14 of 16, and Tuesday's loss was especially difficult considering they led by four runs in the middle of the third inning, and 6-5 in the eighth.

"Anytime you get walked-off three times on a road trip, it wears on everybody -- not just the players," Redmond said. "The guys are battling. They're out there playing hard. I sense the attitude was good in the dugout. We're grinding. We just couldn't get it done."

In the ninth inning, Kelly Johnson singled off Mike Dunn's hand, and Evan Longoria singled to left. With two outs, Qualls relieved Dunn, and Jennings lined his walk-off single to right field on an 0-1 pitch.

"Just looking for a fastball out over the plate," said Jennings, who was 3-for-4. "Actually, I got a hard sinker."

The loss was charged to Dunn, who worked 1 2/3 innings and was a pitch away from escaping damage in the eighth and ninth innings.

"I went back and looked at some film," the left-hander said. "I felt like I made some good pitches, they just hit it where it needed to be. Just far enough left, or just far enough right. It's tough when that happens."

As the losses keep mounting, the challenge for the young Miami squad is to remain focused on improving.

"You've got to take it for what it is," Dunn said. "You've got to go out there and battle every day and do what you can, and scratch your way to a win.

"Nothing is going to be given to us. We're going to have to earn every win that we get. We're going to have to go out there and play good baseball. To be beaten on three walk-offs, tough road trip."

The bright spot for the Marlins was the offense, which scored six runs for the second straight game after scoring no more than three in their previous five losses.

Marcell Ozuna had a double and single, extending his hitting streak to 13, the longest active streak in the Majors and the most this season for the Marlins. His aggressive baserunning in the eighth factored into Miami regaining the lead.

Ozuna singled off Joel Peralta and advanced to second by running on the pitch on Justin Ruggiano's groundout to third. Ozuna moved to third on a wild pitch and scored when Greg Dobbs chopped a single to left with two outs.

Like they did all night, the Rays responded. Yunel Escobar's, two-out, RBI single off Dunn in the eighth evened the score at 6. The hit to right field came on an 0-2 count.

Both starters -- Kevin Slowey and Jeremy Hellickson -- worked 5 1/3 innings and neither was involved in the decision.

In his last start, Slowey's outing was cut short after five innings due to tightness in his left lat muscle. The discomfort wasn't serious, and the right-hander was back on the mound six days later. He gave up four runs on eight hits with four strikeouts.

Slowey was given an early four-run cushion, but it disappeared in the sixth on Jose Lobaton's two-run double off Ryan Webb, making it 5-5.

"You're disappointed any time your team gives you a lead and you can't hold onto it, or you are unable to win the game," Slowey said. "Tonight was a battle on both sides for both pitchers, both bullpens, and all the way around. You do your best to try to keep your team in the game and go from there."

The Marlins scored five runs off Hellickson, and had the right-hander on the ropes.

Ruggiano's RBI single in the second gave Miami a 1-0 lead.

A three-run third made it 4-0. Derek Dietrich had a run-scoring triple, and Chris Coghlan delivered a two-run triple. It was the second time this season the Marlins had two triples in the same inning. They did it in the ninth inning against the Reds on May 16.

Coghlan's home run in the sixth, his first of the year, increased the lead to 5-3.

"It's frustrating. Everybody is frustrated," Redmond said. "At the same time, too, we have to keep battling. If we continue to swing the bats like we've done the last couple of days we're going to win some of these games."

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