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Rays finish sweep of Marlins, 5-2

The Tampa Tribune
Published:   |   Updated: March 23, 2013 at 12:35 AM

Speed or power? It's the age-old debate in sports.

The Rays are combining the two elements at a level never seen before statistically in major-league baseball.

With B.J. Upton's third-inning home run Sunday in a series-sweeping 5-2 victory against the Marlins, Tampa Bay reached triple digits in home runs and stolen bases earlier than any team in history.

The Rays did it in 77 games (100 home runs, 118 stolen bases), seven games earlier than the 1994 Indians and 1977 Reds, and became only the fifth team to reach 100/100 before the All-Star break.

"Everybody always talks about how fast we are, how well we run and all that stuff," Manager Joe Maddon said. "But I never hear the credit for the power. That's fine, because I know we have it. You look and down the lineup and we have it."

The Rays, with 29,459 on hand at Tropicana Field, won their fifth straight and finished 5-1 during a homestand against the World Series champion Phillies and a Marlins team that had won nine of 12.

Moreover, they passed the Blue Jays, their next opponent, for third place in the American League East for the first time this season.

And they made history along the way.

"The base stealing, you've got to give that to Joe," Upton said. "Joe lets us run when we want, and we've got some guys over here with some power that can swing the bat."

Carl Crawford leads the majors with 39 stolen bases, and Upton, with one Sunday, has 28. Carlos Pena, Evan Longoria and Ben Zobrist have combined for 55 home runs, with Pena leading the AL with 23.

Zobrist's ascension as an everyday player who hits for power has put the Rays "over the top" with their 1-2 punch of power and speed, Maddon said.

"Our offense is lethal," Zobrist said. "I'm sure when the other teams are having their pitching meetings, they're saying there are a lot of things they've got to worry about."

Pitching again did the job against the Marlins, with David Price rebounding from Tuesday's 10-1 loss to Philadelphia with his first quality start of the season.

The rookie left-hander overcame to a 28-pitch first inning to go 61/3 innings, allowing only one run on two hits with four strikeouts and a still-disconcerting five walks.

"I thought I had better stuff last time Tuesday; I just pitched better today," Price said. "I got runners on and I was able to pitch out of it. That's what you were able to do."

The Rays scored five runs against Marlins 24-year-old lefty Andrew Miller (2-4), the most the former Florida High School Player of the Year (Gainesville Buchholz High) and Rays draft pick has allowed this year.

Besides Upton, Longoria, Zobrist, Jason Bartlett and Gabe Kapler each drove in a run.

The bullpen completed its excellent work during the homestand, although not before creating some anxiety in the ninth.

Chad Bradford got into trouble when Jorge Cantu worked a 10-pitch at-bat for a single and Dan Uggla reached on an infield hit. J.P. Howell, who'd gotten the win the two previous nights, hit Cody Ross to load the bases and walked Wes Helms to bring in a run.

But Howell recovered. With the bases loaded and the go-ahead run at the plate, the lefty struck out Ronny Paulino and former University of South Florida standout Ross Gload to earn his fifth save.

Howell pumped his fist after the final out.

"It was intense, you know what I mean?" he said. "We wanted to finish it off."

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