It was the beginning of the end (pause to weep bitterly) as the Fish and the Phils opened their final series of the regular season Friday night at Citizens Bank Park.
With the Marlins fighting the Braves for second place in the East, and the Phillies trying to secure home field advantage in the post-season, the Fish had plenty to play for despite being eliminated from the playoffs.
Hanley–in a slump the last few weeks, and hitless in his last 11 ABs–got the night off, but a strong start from Rick VandenHurk and the bats of Jorge Cantu and Cameron Maybin were all the Fish needed to nab their 86th win of the season.
With Joe Blanton on the mound, the Marlins got on the board in the first inning thanks to a two-run single from Jorge Cantu. But the Phils answered right back in the bottom of the first when Ryan Howard went deep off of Rick VandenHurk to tie up the game at two apiece.
Despite the early home run, Hurk made his last start of the season a good one. He allowed five hits through six solid innings, and after the long ball in the first, Hurk didn’t give up another run to the Phillies.
Once Howard tied the game, the Marlins wasted no time answering back. In the top of the second, Emilio Bonifacio singled, and back-to-back RBI doubles by Cameron Maybin and Chris Coghlan gave the Marlins a 4-2 lead.
In the seventh, the Marlins loaded the bases with nobody out, but only managed to push one run across the plate on an RBI from Dan Uggla. Joe Blanton was done after he faced one batter in the seventh, and finished the night with five earned runs on nine hits through six innings.
The Marlins added on again in the eighth inning when Cantu drove in his 99th run of the season on a sac fly, and John Baker hit an RBI single to give the Marlins a five-run advantage.
Jorge Cantu continued his RBI tear and drove in three of the Marlins seven runs in the game. Cantu, who drove in 25 in the month of Setember, sits just one RBI away from the century mark with two games left to play. Cameron Maybin also impressed Friday, batting second and going 4-for-5 with an RBI and three runs scored.
With the win, the Marlins improved to 86-74, and are tied with the Braves for second place in the NL East. They also diminished the Phillies chances of home field advantage in the post-season.
Game one featured Marlins ace Josh Johnson on the hill for the Fish, and JJ impressed by striking out ten Philthies through five innings of work. But Josh also gave up four runs on seven hits in those five innings, and since the Fish bats were about as hot in game one as a glacier in Antarctica, that was bad news for the Marlins.
Part of the problem for the Fish was Joe Blanton, who shut down the Marlins offense through seven innings, striking out nine and allowing only two hits.
Burke Badenhop tossed two scoreless innings in relief of JJ, but in the eighth he got into some trouble and allowed four runs to the Phils. Andrew Miller recorded the last out of the eighth, but not before demonstrated his dominant pitching skills by walking three and giving up a ninth run to Philadelphia.
The Marlins did finally get on the board against Sergio Escalona in the bottom of the inning, but by then the deficit was a bit much to overcome, and the Marlins dropped game one of the series.
Anibal Sanchez was on the mound for the Fish in game two of the doubleheader, and recalled the days of yore (come on, 2006 can totally be considered “yore”) with his lights out pitching. Ani allowed just two hits to the Phillies in eight innings, and struck out seven.
While Sanchy was busy shutting down the Phils, the Marlins were busy trying to hit the snail-speed pitches of Grandfather Time, aka Jamie Moyer. Moyer went seven innings for Philadelphia and allowed nine hits to the Marlins.
In the bottom of the second, Uggla hit his 30th home run of the year, becoming the first Marlin to hit 30 home runs in three consecutive seasons. Cody went yard in the fourth to put the Marlins up 2-0, and in the fifth Hanley doubled to drive in the third and final run of the game.
Leo Nunez handled his 24th save with a 1-2-3 ninth, and the Marlins split the doubleheader.
After a disappointing (read: horrifying) series against the Nationals, which had 9 out of 10 sportswriters sticking a fork in the Marlins season, the Fish were at Citizens Bank Park Friday night to kick off a 3-game series with the Phillies.
The Marlins needed resuscitation, and they needed it quick.
It was Ricky Nolasco to the rescue, as he pitched seven strong innings for the Fish, and held the Phillies lineup to just four hits, while striking out seven.
The Marlins offense got going early in support of Ricky, and tagged Phils starter Joe Blanton for two runs in the first inning on an RBI single from Dan Uggla, and Nick Johnson’s first home run as a Fish. Cody Ross followed by jacking the first pitch of the second inning, and the Fish were up 3-0 after two.
The Marlins enjoyed their 3-run lead (and didn’t bother to add on to it) all the way into the seventh inning, before a home run by Ben Francisco ruined Ricky’s shutout attempt and brought the Phils within one.
A one-run lead is never good news in the the, um, cozy confines of Citizens Bank Park, and so 99.8% of Marlins fans likely conceded the game when Renyel Pinto came in to pitch the eighth inning. As is his custom, Pinto walked two Phillies, and sent the collective hearts of South Florida into cardiac arrest. But then Ryan Howard struck out and Raul Ibanez grounded out, and the panic Fish fans were all experiencing turned out to be for naught.
Leo Nunez took pity on our nails (or the bloody stumps where our nails used to be located) and treated us to a drama-free closing of the game, and the Marlins took game one of the series against the NL East-leading Philthies.
HLD&S would like to extend special thanks to Ricky Nolasco for his real fine pitching, and to Fredi Gonzalez, whose starting lineup did not include the names Hermida or Bonifacio Friday night… And whose stern talking-to of the team after their putrid performance in Washington undoubtedly cured the Marlins of at least a small portion of their suck.
Well if a sweep by Washington can essentially end the Marlins season, then one little win against the reigning world champs can re-ignite everyone’s post-season hopes. Right? I guess I’ll go ask the South Florida sports media.
I don’t know about you, but I now feel .8% better about being swept by the Nationals.