MIAMI -- The Marlins continued to search for a way to end their tough times during their current nine-game homestand, but not even the team's most reliable starter was able to provide an answer.
Carlos Zambrano pitched just 2 1/3 innings before leaving the game with lower back stiffness as the Marlins fell to the Rays, 13-4, losing their season-high-tying fifth game in a row.
"We played terrible," Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen said.
Zambrano cruised through a seven-pitch first inning, but things unraveled in the second as the righty was unable to locate his pitches. The Rays sent nine men to the plate and scored five runs on four hits and two walks as they forced Zambrano to throw 36 pitches in the inning, including 19 balls.
"I don't know what was wrong with him, but he had some wicked stuff," Rays center fielder B.J. Upton said.
In the midst of the disastrous second inning, Guillen visited Zambrano on the mound, but the righty insisted on staying in the game. Guillen reluctantly obliged.
"It's a very tough situation, because I wish my players would trust me a little bit," Guillen said. "I appreciate what Carlos did. He wanted to pitch, stick up for us in the second inning and not want me to use the bullpen. Whatever the reason was, he wanted to stay in the game, but I wish he was more honest."
The struggles continued for Zambrano in the third, when he gave up a one-out walk to Carlos Pena and then fell behind 2-0 to Ben Zobrist. Guillen, pitching coach Randy St. Claire and a trainer came to the mound to check on Zambrano, but the righty remained in the game.
Two pitches later, Zobrist launched a ball 379 feet to the right-field seats to extend the Rays' lead to 7-0 and bring an end to Zambrano's night, as the righty exited the game with a team trainer and was replaced by reliever Chad Gaudin. Zambrano threw 57 pitches, only 27 of which were strikes.
"During the game it was aggravated to the point I couldn't pitch anymore," Zambrano said. "I think it was too late. I should've said something before I faced Zobrist."
Gaudin pitched 4 2/3 innings of relief for the Marlins, but didn't fare much better against Zobrist in the fifth, when the Rays' second baseman hit his second two-run homer to make it 9-0. The home run marked the second multi-homer game of Zobrist's career, with the other coming Sept. 25, 2008, against the Tigers.
Although Gaudin gave up the round-tripper to Zobrist, Guillen was appreciative of the reliever's effort to eat up innings on a night the Marlins didn't expect to need him out of the bullpen.
"Gaudin, he saved us for a week," Guillen said. "He sucked it up for four or five innings. Without him, we'd be making moves to the Minor Leagues to get people here tomorrow. He threw the ball very well and saved our bullpen for good."
The nine-run deficit proved to be too much for the Marlins, who rallied late but came up short as they fell to 0-5 on their current nine-game homestand.
"Unfortunately, we lost the game, but we have to keep fighting," Zambrano said. "We proved that we can play, we proved what kind of team we have last month. Keep fighting. That's our key here."
Giancarlo Stanton put Miami on the board in the sixth with an infield single to score Jose Reyes. Justin Ruggiano -- making his second start in center field -- followed with a three-run home run to left off Rays starter Matt Moore, who earned the win after pitching six innings and fanning nine.
Ruggiano finished 2-for-3 against his former team with a double, a homer, a walk and three RBIs -- his best game in a Marlins uniform.
Despite his team being handed its fifth straight loss, most of Guillen's concerns after the game were about Zambrano.
"I wish they can be more honest," Guillen said. "I'd rather lose a game than lose a player. We can't really lose him for any reason. We can go through a game. We'll find another way, but I wish all the players ... I don't want heroes there."
Tom Green is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.