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Zambrano knocked out early vs. Rays, leaves with stiffness in his lower back

Carlos Zambrano endured his shortest and roughest outing of the season Saturday night against the Rays.

But that wasn't the worst of the news.

Carlos Zambrano
Carlos Zambrano was knocked out of Saturday's game after just 2 1/3 innings with lower back stiffness.

The 30-year old right-hander walked off the mound accompanied by Marlins trainer Mike Kozak and was diagnosed with lower back stiffness. He gave up seven earned runs and five hits in 2 1/3 innings.

After needing just seven pitches to get through the first inning, Zambrano threw 36 pitches in the second as he struggled with control. The Rays batted around and scored five runs.

Although he struggled, there weren't any signs something might be physically wrong with Zambrano until he walked Carlos Pena with one out in the third.

Moments after walking Pena, third baseman Hanley Ramirez and catcher John Buck jogged over to the mound. Kozak, pitching coach Randy St. Claire and manager Ozzie Guillen quickly followed along with plate umpire Brian O'Nora

After a short meeting, Zambrano remained in the game and threw five pitches to Ben Zobrist before the switch hitting second baseman crushed an 86-mile per hour fastball into the upper deck in right field for a two-run home run. 

After that, Ramirez and Buck returned to the mound and waved Guillen onto the field to come take out Zambrano.

Even with his rough start Saturday, Zambrano has pitched well for the Marlins since being acquired in a trade for Chris Volstad this past winter.

He went 7 2/3 innings in his previous start Sunday in Philadelphia and hit a home run. He was 4-3 coming into Saturday. His ERA -- counting Saturday's start -- is 3.55.