In the second inning Josh Johnson said, “enough of this scoreless business,” and did what the Fish have struggled to do the last few games: he hit with a runner in scoring position. (!)
Johnson drove in his 10th run of the season, doubling off of Braves starter Tim Hudson, and opened the proverbial floodgates for the Marlins. Dan Uggla, who also doubled and scored a run in the second, followed with a solo shot in the fourth inning, and Cameron Maybin added a 2-run homer in the fifth to give the Marlins a 4-1 lead. (OK, so the floodgates were more cracked slightly than fully opened. But we’ll take it.)
Still not 100% recovered from the flu, Josh worked five solid innings for the Fish. He had to work his way out of some trouble, but JJ allowed just one run on three hits to the Braves, and struck out five. With the start, JJ also surpassed 200 innings pitched for the first time in his career, and left the game with a 4-1 lead, in line for the win.
In the bottom of the sixth, Brian Sanches erased the decision for Josh when he gave up a three-run shot to Matt Diaz that tied up the game.
The good news is that Jorge Cantu decided to continue the all-new trend of driving in runs rather than leaving them on base, and reclaimed the lead for the Marlins in the seventh when he hit an RBI single to score [the clear choice for NL Rookie of the Year] Chris Coghlan. Cogs was 3-for-4 in the game with a pair of doubles, a pair of runs, and his 46th hit in the month of September, which established a new team record.
Leo Nunez capped off the game with his 25th save of the season, and the Marlins took game two of the series.
And now for the bad news. The Rockies declined to be of any help to the Fish, and selfishly came back to win their game against the Brewers in extra innings, thus eliminating the Marlins from Wild Card contention.
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.
“Ace” just doesn’t seem to cut it when looking for an appropriate word to describe what Josh Johnson is as a pitcher. In fact, there may not be a descriptive enough word in any dictionary on the planet that could properly encompass the glory that is JJ and his beastly arm. So HLD&S has made one up…
Josh was on the hill for the Fish to open a three-game series with the Rockies Friday night at The Shark, and to say that he dominated would be putting it very mildly.
Through 8 1/3 innings, Josh struck out a career-high 11 batters, and had a no-hitter going until two outs in the seventh inning, when Garrett Atkins busted it up by blasting a home run, erasing the no-no and the shutout with one powerful swing of his bat.
While of course a no-hitter for JJ would have been amazing, HLD&S was not shedding too many tears once the initial sting of disappointment came and went. Johnson’s pitch count was at 98 when his no-hit bid ended, and there were 2 1/3 innings left in the game. JJ has tossed 161.1 innings this season, after logging only 87.1 innings in 2008 after his recovery from Tommy John surgery. Call it paranoia, but we’d kind of like to preserve that beautiful arm for the remainder of the season, which made what happened next a tad confusing. With Josh’s pitch count over 100, he still came back out to pitch the eighth, even though both the chance for the no-hitter and the shutout were already gone. JJ recorded an out and walked one, bringing his pitch count to 114 before he exited the game to a standing ovation from the 15,000+ in attendance.
8 1/3 innings, 11 strikeouts, and one lonely hit for Josh Johnson… You see why we’re forced to alter the English language to accommodate him?
With Jason Hammel on the mound for the Rockies, the Marlins scored single runs in the second, third and fourth innings, and put another two on the board when Dan Uggla blasted a two-run shot off of Adam Eaton in the seventh. The Marlins also extended their streak of double-digit hits to eleven games, with ten hits on the night, and continue to enjoy the longest team double-digit hit streak in Major League Baseball this season. Hanley Ramirez was once again 2-for-4 on the night, which brought his personal hit streak to ten games, but Chris Coghlan saw his 12-game hitting streak come to an end after going 0-for-4 with a sacrifice.
The bullpen took over for Johnson with one out in the eight, and after Pinto recorded the remaining two outs in that inning, the Marlins continued their trend of making those last three outs as difficult–and frightening–as possible. No one was probably as nervous as Josh Johnson, who handed the Marlins a 5-run lead that they managed to whittle down to just one run, thanks in part to some bad defense with Brendan Donnelly on the mound, and a 3-run homer Leo Nunez served up to Chris Iannetta with two outs.
After the long ball, Nunez managed to close out the game and preserve Johnson’s 12th win of the season. If he hadn’t, HLD&S would be inventing even more additions to the English language today. Four-letter ones.
The Marlins are now just two games back from the Rockies for the wild card lead, but remain 4 1/2 games behind the aggravating Phillies–who are apparently recovering well from being swept by Florida, and are determined to win every single game they play for the remainder of the season.
In other news, we need a closer.