06/25/2004 10:32 PM ET
Lowell spoils no-no; Marlins fall
By Joe Frisaro / MLB.com
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- On May 12, 2001, A.J. Burnett etched his name in the record books by tossing a no-hitter on a night he walked nine, hit a batter and struck out seven.
Burnett almost witnessed a carbon copy of his performance Friday at Tropicana Field.
Tampa Bay right-hander Dewon Brazelton, making his third start of the season, flirted with a no-hitter before Mike Lowell's ground-rule double with two outs in the eighth inning.
Despite Burnett pitching superbly for eight innings, the Devil Rays prevailed behind Brazelton and RBIs from Rocco Baldelli and Aubrey Huff to beat the Marlins, 2-0, before an energized crowd of 25,157.
Brazelton and Danys Baez, who collected the save, combined on a two-hit shutout in the first of three Interleague games.
Effectively wild, Brazelton (1-0) gave up one hit while striking out five but walking six and hitting a batter.
"I thought he could have had it," Burnett said. "But our guys don't go down easy; they kept swinging, and Mikey got him."
The Marlins were just four outs away from being held hitless for the second time in franchise history. Ramon Martinez made history for the Dodgers on July 14, 1995, at Dodger Stadium.
On a nine-pitch at-bat, and after fouling off three pitches with a full-count, Lowell laced a one-hop, ground-rule double to left-center.
Lowell's liner to the gap came on Brazelton's 125th and final pitch.
"I was trying to battle back from an 0-2 count," Lowell said. "He threw me a lot of offspeed. I battled back to 3-2, and I think he threw me four fastballs. I fouled the three. He's trying to get me out every at-bat, and I'm trying to get a hit. It's not like I'm trying to do him any favors."
One batter before Lowell, Miguel Cabrera threatened the no-hit bid, but his hard grounder was nicely snared on a backhanded play by shortstop Julio Lugo, who threw on to first.
It was then that Burnett, a hard-luck 0-3, turned to pitcher Carl Pavano on the bench and said, "He might do it."
The staggering Marlins offense has gone 17 straight innings without a run since scoring four times in the first inning of a 9-4 loss on Thursday to the Braves. They were blanked for the second time this season.
Hee Seop Choi added a single in the ninth off Baez, who collected his 14th save.
After opening the season in the minor leagues, Brazelton befuddled the Marlins with his changeup.
"We didn't do anything tonight," Marlins manager Jack McKeon said. "That kid did a good job. You can't take anything away from him. He just baffled us with that changeup."
A former No. 1 draft pick, Brazelton did find himself in trouble early, walking six and hitting a batter through six innings. The Marlins had a pair of runners on in the third and fourth innings, but couldn't capitalize.
Not only did the Marlins fail to get a hit, they rarely even made solid contact. The closest they came to a hit early was with two outs in the fourth inning, when designated hitter Lenny Harris floated a soft popup that third baseman Huff retreated on and made a nice catch. The Marlins had runners at first and second at the time.
The Marlins went in order in the seventh. Harris stroked the ball hard, but his grounder to first was easily picked up by Robert Fick, who trotted to the bag. With two outs, speedy Juan Pierre dropped a bunt that Brazelton sprang off the mound to retrieve. A strong throw to first beat Pierre by a step.
Burnett, meanwhile, was also cruising before the Devil Rays snapped the scoreless tie with two runs in the sixth.
Burnett retired 14 straight before Carl Crawford's one-out single in the sixth. Joey Gathright was then hit by a pitch. On a hit-and-run, Baldelli delivered an RBI single to left, advancing Gathright to third. Huff's groundout to second pushed across the second run.
Prior to the sixth, Crawford's single to lead off the first was the only hit Burnett allowed.
A lack of run support has plagued Burnett since he was activated on June 3 after missing 13 months due to Tommy John surgery.
In his four previous starts leading into Friday, the Marlins averaged 1.27 runs of support per nine innings for the hard-throwing right-hander. In three of those games, Florida scored two or less runs.
"I think that's three starts in a row for him that he was great, but we don't get him any runs," Lowell said of Burnett. "I think it's encouraging again that it looks like he's in top shape. But we went from one run to zero to now almost getting him zero hits as opposed to getting him any runs. I think it will turn around."
The Marlins' offensive woes have been magnified of late as they are now 2-5 in their last seven games.
While the Marlins remain a game ahead of the Phillies in the NL East, the team realizes the offense misses three key players from last year's championship team: Ivan Rodriguez, Derrek Lee and Juan Encarnacion.
Mike Redmond and minor league callup Matt Treanor are handling the catching duties, while Choi has replaced Lee at first.
"When you lose a guy like Pudge, who's been doing it for 13 years -- nothing against Red or Treanor; I think they're doing a great job -- but you're talking about maybe the best catcher ever," Lowell said. "When you talk about what we got, we're going to come up short every time.
"I think Hee Seop's doing a good job, but Derrek has got six years of experience, and you're seeing him turn it on now. It's just a presence more than anything. Hee Seop doesn't even have a year in the big leagues yet. He's doing a good job, but it's just that balance of Pierre, Luis [Castillo], Pudge, Cabrera, myself, D-Lee. It looks a lot better on paper. But hey, what are you going to do?
"We're not going to get them back, and we're still playing well. I still think we're capable of getting better as a whole."
Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.