Tagged: Nick Johnson

The End is Near

f5d3c08d-9e3c-4c0d-aae4-8c30c1264577.jpgFans should have been prepared for the worst Sunday afternoon as the Marlins played their final home game of the season against the Mets at Land Shark Stadium. 

First of all, Josh Johnson was home puking with what the rest of the team can only pray is not H1N1, and had to be scratched from his start in favor of the struggle-laden Chris Volstad. Nick Johnson was also out due to the flu, and although Jorge Cantu was in the lineup, he was feeling a little queasy himself. Cody Ross, one of the few Marlins not sitting around the clubhouse with a thermometer hanging out of his mouth, was still nursing his badly bruised wrist, and was only available to pinch run. 

With all the above considered, we should have mentally prepared ourselves for the worst. But call us crazy, we still had hope the Marlins would find a way to win, and send fans home with magical, victorious memories to sustain us until April. 
They did not. 
Volstad wasn’t necessarily awful in the game, but he lasted only four innings, and gave up three runs to the Mets. The three runs naturally included Volstad’s signature long ball, this time a two-run shot by Jeff Francoeur in the third inning. 

The truth is it wouldn’t have mattered if Volstad had gone eight innings strong, and had only given up one run to the Mets. After New York was on the board in the second, the game was over for the Fish, thanks to Pat Misch. 
Misch decided to be a hero Sunday, and tossed a complete game shut out. It wasn’t as though the Marlins couldn’t touch Misch; they had eight hits and three walks off of the starter, and threatened in the first inning with men on second and third and nobody out. But they were 0-for-the-game with runners in scoring position, and were unable to put anything together through nine innings. 

Sadly, as is usually the case, when one cannot score, one cannot win.

The loss eliminated the Marlins in the NL East, and put them 4 ½ back in the wild card with a mere six games left to play. 

What a charming way to end the final homestand of the season. 

W O W (West Outduels Wainwright)


The Marlins had the special privilege of facing Cy Young candidate Adam Wainwright as they took on the Cardinals Tuesday night at Busch Stadium. 
With Sean West on the mound, I’ll be honest and admit that HLD&S mentally prepared a recap of the loss in advance. It went something along the lines of: The Marlins were no-hit last night, while rookie Sean West was brutally slaughtered by Pujols, et. al. Our season is over. Go watch football.
It would seem that we despaired a bit too soon, though.  
While Wainwright was, well, Wainwright Tuesday night, Sean West was apparently not in the mood to be outdonedueled. Not even by a pitcher who had three times as many wins as West on the season. 
The two pitchers traded scoreless innings back and forth until the bottom of the fifth, when two singles and a walk got Sean into a bases-loaded jam. With one out and Albert Pujols up, Fish fans muttered multiple expletives as they imagined the worst outcome was mere moments away, and resigned themselves to the fact that the Marlins were going to have to score at least five runs off of Wainwright and the Cardinals bullpen if they were to have any hope of winning the game. 
But Sean West simply ignored the eruption of the crowd, laughed in the face of imminent failure and limited the damage in the inning to just one run. Pujols hit a sac fly to left field that scored the first run of the game and gave St. Louis the lead, and West struck out Holliday to end the threat.
The Fish may have been spurred on by the adrenaline rush of such a close call in the bottom of the fifth, because they finally got on the board in the sixth inning. Nick Johnson singled off of Wainwright, and Dan Uggla jacked his 29th home run of the season to give the Marlins a 2-1 lead over the Cardinals. 

Sean West lasted through the sixth inning before he was lifted. The lefty gave up just one run on six hits in his six innings of work, and struck out a career-high nine Cardinals in the process. Wainwright went on to complete the seventh inning, and finished the night having allowed seven hits and two runs, while striking out eight.

Protecting a very fragile one-run lead against a potent lineup, the Marlins went to the bullpen. The ‘pen must have been sprinkled with some of Sean’s magic dust, as they gave up just one hit to St. Louis in three innings. Nunez struck out two of the three batters he faced in the ninth to earn his 21st save, and to preserve Sean West’s seventh win of the season. 
Oh, and while we’re on the subject of the miraculous, the Rockies lost, moving the Fish to within 4 1/2 games of the Wild Card lead.

Fish & Chirps Series Off to a Bad Start


You are amused by the title of this post. I promise.
HLD&S would like to issue a hearty congratulations to its readers for making it through the last several days as your seventeenth-favorite Marlins blog… uh… vacationed in Maui. Now pat yourself on the back, and prepare to read the most electrifying game recap of your entire lifetime. (Or, you know, just get ready for more of the usual drivel.)

There were 19 games left in the season going into Monday night’s series opener with the Cardinals, and the Fish were well aware that every game from there on out needed to be played as though it was game seven of the World Series, if they are to have any hope of winning the Wild Card.* 

Let’s just say that if the Marlins had been playing game seven of a World Series, there would have been no champaign corks popping in their clubhouse at the end of it.

Ricky Nolasco was on the hill for the Marlins and promptly gave up four runs to the Cardinals in the first. He made some good pitches, and the Cardinals hit them. And he made some bad pitches, and the Cardinals hit those too. Ricky threw 45 pitches to get through the first two innings, but he settled down a bit, and got through three without allowing another run.
Former Fish Todd Wellemeyer didn’t fare too well against the Marlins, who scored single runs in the second and third, and followed with a four-run fourth inning to claim the lead. Coghlan tied up the game when he tripled with two men on, and Nick Johnson hit a two-run shot that gave the Fish a 6-4 advantage. 
Wellemeyer’€™s night was over after he gave up six runs on nine hits in just four innings, but in the bottom of the fourth, it was apparent Nolasco wanted nothing to do with prosperity. Ricky did away with the lead and then some as the Cardinals scored three runs on a triple by Lugo and a sac fly by Albert Pujols that put St. Louis up 7-6.
Nolasco was finished after seven runs on ten hits in five innings, and the game would come down to a battle of the bullpens. That was unfortunate, seeing as the Marlins only managed two measly hits off of five different relievers in the last five innings. And seeing as the Cardinals were treated to Matt Lindstrom in the eighth.
Matt gave up four runs on two hits and three walks in just 2/3 of an inning, including a three-run shot to Colby Rasmus that officially sealed the Marlins fate. 
With 18 games left in the season, nights like this will do nothing to help the Marlins cause. The Fish dropped game one of the series, and continue to fade like an old shirt.
Please pass the ketchup and vinegar.
*As discussed in previous entries, HLD&S has no false hopes of this actually happening, but it does make for more exciting blogging if we keep up the facade.

Recipe For a Sweep

recipe.gif1 opponent that sucks real bad

1 whole bunch of hitting 
An overabundance of run-scoring 
a pinch of real good relief pitching 
1 broom 

Directions: Win first two games of series. Mix above ingredients thoroughly. Bake at 375 for 3 ½ hours, or until Mets fans can no longer be heard in the stands. Garnish with broom. Serve immediately. 
The Marlins were once again in line for a sweep as they faced the Mets Thursday night at Citi Field, and after the bullpen blew their chance Sunday against the Nats, it was nice to see them actually execute the sweep this time. 
For the second night in a row, the Marlins had a nice start to the game. The Fish batted around in the first inning and tagged Bobby Parnell with three runs. They went on to score single runs in the third, fourth and fifth innings, and Parnell’s night was over after giving up six runs (five earned) through five.
Sean West was on the mound for the Marlins, and didn’t have his best start, only lasting through four innings. Sean gave up two runs in the fourth inning, and in the bottom of the fifth, he put two runners in scoring position with nobody out. With the Fish up 6-2 and the Mets threatening, Fredi decided to end Sean’s night. 
The Hopper relieved West and pitched two innings for the Fish. Burke allowed just two hits, singles in the fifth that scored both the runners he inherited from West. After those two runs, which were tagged to Sean, the bullpen did not allow another run in the game. 
Once Parnell’s night was finished, the Fish didn’t stop the fun there, but proceeded to have a field day with the Mets bullpen. The Marlins scored another seven runs off New York’s relievers to ensure that our brooms would not have to be flung into a closet or hurled off a balcony in a fit of rage, as they had been in Florida’s last series. 
The Marlins obviously had a great night offensively, and clobbered the Mets with 13 runs on 16 hits. Nick Johnson drove in four of those runs, while Hanley, Cody and Helms each had two RBI in the game. Dan Uggla added to the show when he went deep in the third inning for his 27th home run on the year. 

With the Marlins victory, The Hopper logged his seventh win of the season, and for the first time since they were 11-1 in April, the Fish find themselves ten games over .500. 
Oh. And thanks to the Nationals not blowing it, the Marlins also gained a game on the Phillies. Not that we’re paying attention to that. 

Pinto, Nunez Blow (It).

blow.JPGWell if Sunday’s series finale against the Nationals had ended after the top of the ninth, Marlins fans would be celebrating a sweep right now. 

But since that’s not how baseball works, instead, fans are likely nursing throbbing headaches, dehydration and nausea due to the gallons of liquid happy amnesia they downed after one of the most depressing ends to a game in recent memory.
But let’s start at the beginning, which was decidedly less mournful.

On the three-year anniversary of his no-hitter, Anibal Sanchez had a strong start for the Fish. He struck out five and allowed just four hits and two walks to the Nationals through six scoreless innings. The problem at first was that J.D. Martin decided to put in a quality start of his own, and held Florida to just two runs in 6 2/3 innings. 
The 100th home run of Hanley Ramirez’s career put the Fish up 1-0 in the top of the fourth, and the Marlins tagged Martin for one more run with two out in the seventh, when Chris Coghlan hit an RBI single to give the team a two-run advantage. 
With two out in the bottom of the eighth, and the Marlins up 2-0, Renyel Pinto decided he was done pitching. He proceeded to give up a walk, a single, and another walk to load the bases before Fredi pulled him in favor of Kiko Calero. Kiko was unable to get out of the inning unscathed, and gave up a two-run single to Mike Morse to tie up the game.
Fish fans rejoiced in the top of the ninth when Nick Johnson played hero and hit a two-run single to give the lead back to the Florida Marlins, but the rejoicing was premature, considering Leo Nunez was heading to the mound in the bottom of the inning.
It happened really fast, sort of like a multi-vehicle crash that takes just a few seconds, but feels like it’s happening in slow motion. The first pitch Nunez threw to Willie Harris was launched into the seats, and the score was 4-3. Next, Leo gave up an infield single to Cristian Guzman. And as a grand finale, Ryan Zimmerman jacked a walk-off, two-run shot.
[Expletive deleted].

Two Heads are NOT Better than One. But Nobody Asked Me.

2head.JPGA brilliant baseball mind once said, “Doubleheaders suck real bad.” 

Or something like that.

I am inclined to agree. I’m all for bonus baseball, but I’m just not a fan of cramming two already-long games into one measly afternoon/evening. But, due to the fact that the Marlins’ retractable-roof stadium is still barely more than a twinkle in David Samson’s eye (OK, so it’s probably more like a zygote an embryo by now), when the game was rained out Saturday night, the Marlins and Rockies had no choice but to face off twice on Sunday at Land Shark Stadium.
The  doubleheader didn’t start off in the most promising manner, and Marlins fans braced themselves for an ugly afternoon when Chris Volstad was shaky to start the game. Chris threw nearly 30 pitches in the first inning, and naturally gave up his obligatory long ball, a solo shot to Carlos Gonzalez that gave the Rockies an early lead. Volstad would settle down, though, and go on to give up four hits, walk four, strike out five and not allow another run in his five innings of work. 
Hanley Ramirez got the scoring underway for the Marlins in the bottom of the first when he hit a home run off of Rockies starter Aaron Cook to tie up the score. In the second, the Marlins scored five times off of Cook. Chris Volstad came to bat with the bases loaded and singled to drive in two runs, and Chris Coghlan hit a three-run shot to put the Fish up 6-1. The Marlins would add another run in the third, and end Cook’s afternoon after just 2 1/3 innings.
Speaking of ending someone’s afternoon, Nick Johnson left the game in the first inning with a strained hamstring, as the collective hearts of South Florida dropped to our toes. He’s day-to-day.
Hanley Ramirez and Chris Coghlan were both three-for-five, and Cody Ross was four-for-six with an RBI. As a team, the Marlins had 17 hits, marking the twelfth consecutive 10+ hit game for the Fish.
The Marlins gained ground on the Rockies with the win, and climbed within one game of the wild card lead. 
And then came game two.
I didn’t catch a whole lot of the second half of the doubleheader, but if the holes in my recap bother you, I’m pretty sure that’s why God invented box scores. And beat writers. Here’s what I did catch, though, watching some of the play-by-play on my Blackberry…
Rick VandenHurk was, um, not great. He gave up six runs in 5 2/3 innings–including three home runs–but while doing so, Vandinconsistent also managed career-high strikeouts with nine. Good stuff.
Not all the blame can fall on Vandy, as the Marlins had plenty of chances to score runs, and decided instead that it was a pretty neat idea to leave said runs stranded on base. The Fish had 13 hits, bringing their streak of games with ten+ hits to thirteen. Unfortunately, thirteen was also the number of men they left on base in the game, and they were unable to come up with much of anything with runners in scoring position. 
Cody Ross set a franchise record for most hits in a doubleheader when he added another two hits in the second game to bring his total on the day to six.
The Marlins split the doubleheader, and thus remain two games back in the wild card. But the good news is they won yet another series by taking two out of three from Colorado, have won 8 of their last 10 games, and finish up their homestand 5-2. 
And that, as they say, ain’t bad.

We Just Lost to WHO???

huh.jpgIt’s always a joy to look at the Marlins schedule and see “Washington Nationals” printed there, filled to the brim with promises of multiple wins and minimal effort. And after enjoying some hard-fought series wins against the likes of the Dodgers, Braves and Cubs, a little stop in DC to sweep the Nationals would be a welcome break. 

Yeah, yeah. I’ve heard it all before. There are no easy wins in baseball. You have to bring your A game no matter who you’re playing. Blah blah blah. Well, forgive me for thinking the Marlins C or D game would be plenty to tuck three more wins neatly under the team belt. I mean, it’s the Nationals. I’ve seen these guys play the Fish, and the competition is reminiscent of the match-up that my siblings and I made against our Dad when we played board games with him when we were all under the age of seven. It never failed. No matter how hard we tried, and no matter how much my mom nagged him to go easy on us, we would leave table one by one, weeping bitterly as his pile of Monopoly money rose to the ceiling, and notices of bankruptcy and the deed to Mediterranean Avenue were all that was left on our corners of the board.
It was just an unfair match-up. 
And so, thinking along those lines, I may have mentally added a “W” to the Marlins record as the Fish opened up their series with Washington at Nationals Park Tuesday night. (Like you didn’t.)

The Marlins were well on their way to an eleventh straight win against the Nats as Josh Johnson took the mound and characteristically cruised through seven innings, striking out nine and retiring a string of 20 batters. Josh also treated Marlins fans to yet another home run, tying the franchise record for most homers hit by a Marlins pitcher in a season. Add in three hits from Chris Coghlan, RBI singles from Nick Johnson and Jeremy Hermida, and Cody’s 18th longball of the season (third in his last two games), and the Fish held a comfortable 4-0 lead.  
Just another night at Nationals Park for Josh Johnson and the Marlins.
And then the eighth inning happened. 
Josh gave up three straight singles to load the bases with nobody out before giving up a double to pinch-hitter Ronnie Belliard to cut the Marlins lead in half. The bullpen took over from there in an attempt to stop the bleeding and minimize the damage, but the Nats lineup had other ideas. Ideas such as batting around, and scoring SIX times before Marlins relievers could record the third out of the inning. Cristian Guzman singled to tie the score, and Adam Dunn hit a two-run shot to give the Nationals a 6-4 lead. 
The Marlins did attempt a comeback of sorts as Cantu doubled in the ninth, Dan Uggla walked, and the tying run came to the plate against Mike MacDougal. Unfortunately, the late-inning heroics ended there. Hermida grounded into a double play to end the game, and the Marlins lost to the Washington flipping Nationals for the first time in 2009.
I’m going to have to suggest you step up at least to your B game for Wednesday’s contest, Fish.