- Associated Press - Thursday, June 5, 2014

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) - Joe Maddon’s voice cracked with emotion. The Tampa Bay Rays are mired in the second-longest skid in the major leagues this season, yet they suffered a much greater loss with the death of club senior adviser Don Zimmer.

“We lost a good buddy tonight,” Maddon, fighting back tears, said Wednesday following Tampa Bay’s ninth consecutive defeat, 5-4 to the Miami Marlins. “I’m going to miss his advice … his feistiness and fire. He was about winning, doing whatever it takes to win.”

Donovan Solano hit a three-run homer off David Price and closer Steve Cishek escaped a ninth-inning jam the help the Marlins hold on for their third straight win in a four-game home-and-home series between the intrastate rivals.

Tampa Bay’s losing streak is the team’s longest in nearly five years and is becoming more frustrating by the day.

The Rays hit into three double plays for the second straight night, are 0-for-their-last 31 with runners in scoring position and will match the longest skid in the majors this season if they drop Thursday’s series finale at Tropicana Field.

Boston dropped 10 straight from May 15 to 25, with Tampa Bay handing them the last three losses in the streak. The Rays haven’t won since.

But that wasn’t the focal point in a somber clubhouse following the game.

Maddon said he learned of Zimmer’s death during the third inning and informed his coaches, but not the players. Word gradually spread through the dugout, where third-base coach Tom Foley was spotted weeping before slipping into Zimmer’s No. 66 jersey and wearing it for the remainder of the game in memory of the former player, coach and manager, whose career in baseball spanned more than 60 years.

“The organization wanted to do it and it fell on me,” Foley said. “Major League Baseball decided to have one of the coaches wear it. I was honored to do it.”

Star third baseman Evan Longoria said Zimmer will be missed on and off the field.

“Zim was a great man, and there are no words to explain what he brought to us and what he meant to me. It’s just been a rough go for us, and this kind of is the icing on the cake, so to speak,” Longoria said.

“I know that he would want us to continue on and just honor him by doing all the things that he preached to us, playing the game the right way and playing the game hard. Going out there on a daily basis and really caring.”

Casey McGehee had an RBI single for the Marlins, who won 1-0 on Tuesday on a bases-loaded walk.

The sputtering Rays, coming off an 0-8 trip that was the worst in team history, tumbled 14 games under .500 at 23-37 - the second-worst record in baseball. The last time they were this far below the break-even point was the end of 2007, the final season they were called the Devil Rays.

The team has made the playoffs as the Rays four of the past six seasons, but are in the midst of a horrendous offensive slump that’s seen them bat .217 on the trip to Toronto, Boston and Miami and score 21 runs during their longest skid since dropping 11 straight in September 2009.

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