For the first six innings Friday night, the annual Citrus Series between the Miami Marlins and Tampa Bay Rays looked like a battle of pitching aces and not two of the game's most inexperienced starters this season.
In the end, it was a single, simple hit that was good enough to give the Rays their opening win in the first of three games this weekend inside Marlins Park, taking the 2-0 victory.
Tampa Bay (22-11) third baseman Yandy Diaz broke the scoreless tie in the top of the eighth inning off Marlins reliever Brad Boxberger, scoring Austin Meadows for the game's first run. Meadows singled off Marlins reliever Richard Bleier (1-1) to get on base.
The Rays would add another run in the top of the ninth on a two out single from catcher Michael Perez off Marlins reliever Josh A. Smith.
In just his second start in the majors, Marlins (14-13) pitcher Sixto Sanchez again came out on fire by striking out eight Rays hitters in the four three innings alone while finishing with a career high 10 strikeouts on the night over seven innings.
Sanchez's strikeout total was the highest for a Marlins pitcher since Jordan Yamamoto struck out 10 in August 2019 against the New York Mets.
Tampa Bay countered with left handed starter Ryan Yarbrough, who was nearly just as good as he struck out five batters while going six and two thirds innings and giving up just four hits before leaving in the bottom of the seventh with a groin injury.
Pete Fairbanks (4-1) came into the game and kept the door shut on the Marlins with an inning and a third of scoreless ball, striking out Miami center fielder Jon Berti to end the eighth inning.
The Marlins had one final chance in the ninth inning after a Garrett Cooper double down the left field line and Jonathan Villar walk, but Jorge Alfaro grounded out to third off Rays pticher Diego Castillo to end the threat and give Castillo his second save of the season.
Both teams participated in the annual Jackie Robinson Day across baseball with each player wearing a No. 42 jersey - honoring the MLB's first Black player when he took the field for the Brooklyn Dodgers wearing the same number to start the 1947 season.
Friday's game came one day after both teams saw their Thursday matchups postponed in protests over racial injustices.
Miami's series finale with the New York Mets ended before first pitch when members on each team doffed caps towards the other side before returning to their clubhouses, leaving only a black T-shirt at home.
“The words on the shirt speak for themselves, just having it in the center of everything, just knowing that both teams are unified, and that we agreed to do this,” said Marlins outfielder Lewis Brinson, who was Miami’s leadoff hitter and stood near the batter’s box for the silent display. “And it was the right thing to do.”