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Marlins Take On Rays In Miami

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(Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)

(Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)

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CBSMiami (AP) — The Miami Marlins had their best offensive performance in over three weeks, but they still failed to improve upon the majors’ worst record.

Fresh off his best start of the season, Jeremy Hellickson aims to extend the Marlins’ struggles.

Hellickson gets the nod for the Tampa Bay Rays Tuesday night when they host Miami at Tropicana Field.

The Rays (26-24) won their second straight with a 10-6 victory in the opener Monday, powered by Kelly Johnson’s big day. Johnson, who has a .724 slugging percentage in May, connected for two three-run homers while also doubling and singling to give him 24 RBIs in 21 games this month.

“I feel good and I feel confident,” Johnson said. “You’re always searching for something that’s going to let you feel confident and you try to just roll with it. It could be daily, weekly. That’s the way baseball is. I’m not going to sit here and try to figure it out.”

The right-handed Hellickson (2-2, 5.37 ERA) had endured struggles of his own, yielding 26 runs over 30 innings in a span of five starts from April 25-May 17. That slump was capped by getting tagged for a career-worst eight runs and 10 hits in a 12-10 loss to the Orioles.

He responded by going a season-best eight innings while yielding two runs and four hits against Toronto on Wednesday. But his record stayed at 2-2 as Fernando Rodney’s blown save spoiled his performance in a 4-3 loss.

“He did really well,” manager Joe Maddon said. “That was more like Helly tonight.”

After a sixth straight loss, the Marlins (13-38) appear to be a prime opponent for Hellickson to keep things rolling. Miami managed only 34 runs while losing 15 of 18 prior to Monday’s loss, which saw their highest run total since May 5. It marked just the third time in the last 19 games the club has tallied more than three runs.

After a scare his last time out, Kevin Slowey (1-5, 3.30 ERA) will be able to make his scheduled start for the Marlins. He left after five innings against Philadelphia due to a strained lat muscle, but he told the team’s official website he felt no pain after a bullpen session in Chicago on Saturday.

“You want to be healthy as often as you can, and sometimes you can’t control it,” Slowey said. “But it doesn’t mean you don’t worry about it. You’re like, ‘I’d really like this to be minor,’ and luckily it was.”

Before having his start cut short, Slowey had surrendered one run and six hits, looking much better than his previous two outings when he gave up 11 runs over only 3 2-3 innings. He’s 0-1 with a 6.75 ERA in two starts against Tampa Bay, though Evan Longoria, Matt Joyce and Yunel Escobar are a combined 3 for 20 off of him.

Ben Zobrist, who was 1 for 3 with an RBI and three runs Monday, is 16 for 35 with an OPS of 1.365 and nine runs driven in over his last 10 games against the Marlins.

Tampa Bay’s victory Monday evened the all-time series at 43 wins each.

(© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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