If the Marlins don’t go yard, they won’t win.

That’s one of the lessons learned Wednesday afternoon at PNC Park from a series sweeping defeat to the Pittsburgh Pirates 7-4. Florida began the series red hot with an 11-1 record, a seven-game winning
streak and a 6-0 road record, only to be greeted to the cold Pittsburgh conditions being outscored 18-6.

Ricky Nolasco benefited from an awakening of four runs in support only to earn his second loss in three starts this season, allowing six runs over six innings of work.

Nolasco, like the other Marlin starters this season, fell into trouble early when Adam Laroche belted a ground rule double that hopped over the center field wall and scored Feddy Sanchez.
Two innings later, Sanchez was hit by a pitch, stole second and scored off a Nate McClouth single. Pittsburgh tacked one more run in the third off an Andy Laroche sac fly.

With the Marlins down 3-0 entering the fourth, it appeared a sweep was immentinet. That was before Wes Helms lifted a 2-for-17 skid with RISP, with an RBI double to score Hanley Ramirez.

Florida would then chip away at the defecit with a Nolasco RBI single in the fifth and Ronny Paulino’s RBI single in the sixth.

Cody Ross would tie the game at 4 with an double in the sixth and for the first time this series, the Marlins would be tied with the Pirates. But not for long.

Nolasco took the ball in the sixth inning and after a quick out, pinch hitter Delwyn Young doubled off the wall and scored off a Nyjer Morgan single, who reached second on the throw home, to reclaim the lead at 5-4. Morgan swiped third and when Paulino’s throw skipped down the
left-field line, Morgan scooted home to give the Pirates a two-run
cushion.

Pittsburg tacked on another run in the seventh and Matt Capps prevented another Marlin Miracle as seen in DC.  

Florida got on the board with a run against Pittsburgh ace Paul Maholm
in the top of the fourth, but probably should have had more. Emilio
Bonifacio and Jeremy Hermida kicked things off with singles. Bonifacio
stole third to put runners at the corners. Hanley Ramirez hit a
comebacker to Maholm, who turned and fired to second to force Hermida.
But Sanchez then fired home instead of to first to get Bonifacio hung
up for the taylor made 1-4-2-5-1 double play.

Despite the sweep and their first three-game losing streak of the
season, the Marlins still had a 6-3 road trip and return home 11-4 atop
the National League East.

 
Last time the Marlins got swept in a three-game series by Pittsburgh was May
30-June 1, 2005.

The Marlins bats came alive with runners in scoring position, going 4-for-9 Wednesday with four doubles and all runs scored with two outs. Florida hit .156 with RISP their last five games.

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Marlins Win Streak Comes to Crashing Halt

The Pittsburgh Pirates pitching staff caught the nations attention Monday night.

Their major-league leading fourth shutout came against the red hot hitting Florida Marlins, resulting in an 8-0 victory. Of coarse it would come on a cold, wet and rainy Pennsylvania night in front of 8,790 brave souls.

One of those souls, the biggest question mark on the Marlins starting rotation, Andrew Miller will plead the fifth in proving a lock in the rotation.

Miller exited an out before ending the fifth inning letting four runs
score off five hits and four walks. The control problems might have
been due to a strained right oblique muscle which will sideline Miller
for the next 15 days on the Disabled List. Miller was a DL victim last season with a knee injury. Might be a bad omen, but in 2008 Miller was replaced in the starting rotation by Josh Johnson and ended the season in the bullpen.

“I just didn’t have that second gear when I wanted to put somebody away,” Miller said. “It felt like I was throwing at 80-85 percent to prevent [the injury] from obstructing with my ability to throw the ball because I just couldn’t throw through it.”

Entering Monday’s game, the exclamation point was the high powered offense that thrusted the Marlins into a seven game winning streak and dash to ten games above 500.  Pirates starter Ross Ohlendorf quietly entered and cut that streak to a half, winning just his second career major league game. The hurler earned it through a career high seven innings pitched allowing just two hits and get this, NO Homers.

The long ball were the Marlins bread and butter in their winning steak, four straight games involved a homer and every game they rocked out at least nine hits. Not Monday night as Ohlendorf was able to do what Johan Santanta, Derek Lowe and the entire Nationals rotation couldn’t do: hold the Fish from extra base hits.

Impressive numbers considering the Ivy Leaguer was trade scrap to the Yankees for Randy Johnson and then to Pittsburg for Xavier Nady. 

Pirates relievers Tyler Yates and Jesse Chavez pitched a perfect eighth and ninth, respectively.

All the things the Pirates did right, the Marlins did wrong. Both needed their starting pitcher to go deep into the game, and get quality relief from the bullpen. That didn’t happen for manager Fredi Gonzalez.

Logan Kensing entered his fifth game of the season and would last 2 1/3 banged and damaged innings. Kensing let up six hits, four earned runs with two walks, none bigger than a Nate McLouth game-icing, 433-foot, three-run homer in
the sixth that splashed into the Artic Allegheny River.

With the game out of grasp, Dan Meyer came on and pitched an eriely quiet eighth inning.

Emilio Bonifacio and Hanley Ramirez contributed the only hits for the Marlins, both singles.

Punchline Summary:

The Bucs take game one on a cold and wet night at PNC Park from a pitcher with one major league victory. Tuesday night will feature the other pitcher acquired from that Nady trade: Jeff Karstens.

Karstens will be making his second start of 2009, lasting four innings against the Houston Astros in his first. Kastens last season went 2-6 with an earned run average of 4.03. The Marlins will counter with Anibal Sanchez, who has just 2 earned runs in as many starts.

Noteworthy Points:
The rain left the downtown Pittsburgh ballpark about 20 minutes too late and delayed the game’s start time.

Marlins are the USC of Major League Baseball: An early number one in the polls….

That’s according to ESPN’s latest Power Rankings which have the beloved Fish tops in baseball (too bad the season isn’t three weeks long). The teams seven game winning streak with sweeps in Atlanta and Washington, dethroned last week’s number one (Braves) all the way down to 15th.

Down…..But Not Out

Pittsburgh has been a streaky team in 2009, take their past weekend action for instance. They shut down the Braves with wins of 3-0 and 10-0 but slipped on Sunday to get blown out 11-1.

McPherson Goes West

Ok so it appears Marlins President of Ops Larry Beinfest made the right decision sticking with Bonifacio instead of minor league home run king Dallas McPherson. According to Henry Schulman, the San Fransico Giants have signed McPherson and will send him to extended Spring Training before potentially sharing time in the Fresno Grizzles (AAA) lineup

Quick! Grab Your Badenhop Jerseys Out of The Garage

(Fort Lauderdale) Sun-Sentinel Marlins Beat Writer Juan C. Rodriguez knows his stuff:

“To replace Miller, the Marlins have promoted right-hander Burke
Badenhop from Triple-A New Orleans. Badenhop was scheduled to pitch
tonight at Round Rock (Tex.). Instead, he’ll be available to pitch in
relief tonight before taking Miller’s next start Sunday at Dolphin
Stadium against the Phillies.”

So Bandenhop (involved in the December 5, 2007 Miguel Cabera-Dontrelle Willis trade) is pitching call-up number one on the season. Ryan Tucker who also has big league experience was placed on the DL last week.

Badenhop, a righty, was 2-3 last season with a forgetful 6.08 earned run average, making eight starts in the majors. His promotion will be a blessing to the tired bullpen arms.


Hermida Strikes…Again…and Again….And Then Again

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No one on the corners has swagger like them.

Jeremy Hermida had barely cleaned the crust out of his eyes
when he lifted the Marlins to a second series win against the Washington
Nationals. With their backs against the ropes for a second straight day in
Nationals Park, the  Florida Marlins
leftfielder relived the glory from a Friday night late inning game winning
single with a pair of bombs to first tie the game, then give his team a lead.

The Marlins (and Nationals for that matter) could have
easily let up on themselves before the first inning came to a close.  On a day when a team’s bread and butter
(starting pitching) was far from solid, their sudden backbone (bullpen arms and
a tweaked batting order) came to the limelight.

Josh Johnson, who mastered his way through the Mets and Nationals
lineup in his two starts on the season, came across as solved puzzle Saturday
afternoon.  Johnson was tagged with an
Austin Kearns grand slam in the first but managed to minimize the damage
through six innings with the Marlins down 6-3.

Handing the ball over to the Marlins bullpen for a win on a
day like Saturday appeared to be a prayer entering the season.  But this so called Achilles’ heel has produced
21 1/3 straight innings without an earned run crossing the plate. You’d have to
pull up last Friday night’s game against the New York Mets to find an earned
run suffered by a Marlins reliever.

Dan Meyer, Kiko Calero (1-0), Logan Kensing, and Reynel
Pinto carried the load Saturday afternoon frustrating Nationals hitters
with a solo hit the last five innings of a game they started with hit after
hit.

Those hits transferred in waves over to the Marlins dugout.
After a Cody Ross double, catcher Ronny Paulino proved he could tag lefty pitchers
with “half a grand slam” shot in the second inning. The Marlins scraped
together a run before Nationals closer Joel Hanrahan again entered the ninth
trying to preserve the lead. But Hanrahan again fell victim to the long ball
and will be looking forward for the Marlins to leave town after Sunday’s game.

This time it was Hermida who would provide the devastating
ninth inning blast to tie the game up, a two run shot to even the score for the
first time since inning number one.  After an inning and a half of solid pitching,
Hermida reached the plate with two on and no outs and swung another pitch into
the Nationals Park bleachers.

Calero pitched a quiet 11th to earn his first win
since 2007 with the Oakland A’s.

The Marlins improved to a big league-best 10-1. The
Nationals have the worst record at 1-9.

 

 

 

 

 

Wild Finish In Nations Cap

Facing their second loss on the season just two outs away, Cody Ross
took matters into his own hands…err his own bat off a ninth inning John Hannan fastball.
Ross belted the inside pitch into the Nations Park left field seats and
told Leo Nunez to strap up because the game was going at least nine
full.

After another night of Nunez doing his job, Jeremy Hermida’s infield
single scored Jorge Cantu in the 10th inning, capping a two-out rally
to give the Marlins a 3-2 win over the last place Washington Nationals.

Hermida’s at-bat was an afterthought for Nationals catcher Jesus Flores, who started for the dugout along with reliever
Saul Rivera after Dan Uggla took a 2-2 pitch
on the outside corner with two out and Cantu on.

Just
about all involved thought it they’d hear the “SSSSSStrrrrrikkkke!!!”
call from home plate umpire Tim
Timmons, except Tim Timmons. Uggla dumped the “new life” next pitch
into short right, setting up Hermida for the game-winning RBI on an
infield single to short
Friday at Nationals Park.

Closer Matt Lindstrom survived an Elijah Dukes lead-off double in
the bottom of the 10th to notch his second save and give the Marlins
their best start in franchise history.

Noteworthy: LHP Taylor Tankersley had successful
surgery Friday to repair a stress fracture in his throwing elbow.
Tankersley, on Class AAA New Orleans’ roster, will be evaluated in six
weeks before a throwing program is determined.

Nolasco was pretty angry after exiting the game before the fifth. Not quite sure at whom but take a look at what he said after the game to decide. “I’m pretty angry I wasn’t able to go deeper”

Lucky Can of Skoal earns Marlins MVP of the Week…it’s safe to say that Cody Ross broke out of his 2 for 25 slump to enter the season with two homers in as many games. But how exactly did he break out of it? Well according to Clark Spencer and Mike Phillips in their Herald blog it was because of the empty Skoal can given to Ross by none other than Hanley Ramirez. Hey when you guys are done with it…my church league games are Wednesday nights.

Marlins Off-Season Deals

A spot in the rotation. A Closer. A backup catcher. A Leftfielder and a first basemen.

If Florida Marlins General Manager Larry
Beinfest drew up a shopping list this offseason those would be the main
entrees for them to pick up. With 17 players due to get a huge pay
raise since playing at the major league level for three seasons, it was
going to be an interesting Hot Stove for the Marlins.

For starters you parted ways with a ninth
inning pitcher whose contributions were in question. On paper, Kevin
Gregg is a proven closer with 32 and 29 saves the last two years,
respectively. However, August was a month he was happy to end last
season. Gregg lost four games including back-to-back blown saves to the
New York Mets during what was turning out to be a close race for first
place. A day after giving up a lead changing grand slam to Carlos
Beltran with two outs in the ninth, Gregg complained about
“inflammation in his left knee” and also learned he wouldn’t be
resigned next season. Matt Lindstrom won the September closer audition
over set-up man Joe Nelson, who left for greener pastures in Tampa.

Trades were inevitable for the Marlins and
none bigger when Josh Willingham and Scott Olsen were shipped to
divisional rival Washington. Willingham averaged 20 homers with a .266
batting average but his 100 strikeouts a season was far too much for
Beinfest, not to mention missing 60 games last season due to a back
injury. As for Olsen, his DUI last season mixed with
fights with teammates became too much to bear along with a 31-37
win-loss mark. We’ll be seeing the Nationals 18 times this season.

Here’s a breakdown of the players who won’t be
returning to camp this year. Interesting to note it would have cost us
20 million to retain these players.

Mike Jacobs– The power-hitting first baseman
was a centerpiece of the Carlos Delgado trade. A converted catcher,
Jacobs put up huge numbers last season with 32 homeruns and driving in
93 runs. However 119 strikeouts and just 118 hits was a major flaw in
Jacobs. He’s currently battling arbitration with the Royals, whom he
was traded to for Leo Nunez.

Expected ’09 Salary -Seeking 3.8 Million ’08 395,000

Kevin Gregg– Gregg was lights out during his
two-year stint with the Marlins. Totaling nearly 30 saves both seasons.
However struggles to the bullpen before the September stretch run saw
demotion come Gregg’s way who was playing with “Inflammation in left
knee.” With the closer role open during September, Matt Lindstrom
out-battled Joe Nelson to secure the gig.

Expected ’09 Salary 4.2 Million ’08 2.5 Million

Joe Nelson– Nelson was a very
solid reliever for the Marlins and his departure to intrastate rival
Tampa Bay will be missed. Nelson appeared in 59 games and allowed just
a dozen earned runs all season. However 1 save in 5 opportunities made
it clear who the 2009 closer would be.

Expected ’09 Salary 1.3 Million

Scott Olsen– 25 year old southpaw with plenty of potential. Hopefully things pan out for him in the nation’s capital.

Expected ’09 Salary 2.5 Million (Asked for 3.5 but agreed since he would lose arbitration) ’08 405,000

Josh Willingham– Will have to
compete with a crowded outfield in DC with Lastings Milledge, Austin
Kearns, Wily Mo Pena, Elijah Dukes, and Willie Harris.

Expected ’09 Salary Currently taken to Arbitrators (Asking 3.6 million, Received an offer of 2.55 million)

Matt Treanor

Expected ’09 Salary 750,000

Doug Waechter

Expected ’09 Salary 645,000

Mark Hendrickson

Expected ’09 Salary 1.5 million

Justin Miller

Expected ’09 Salary Invited to Giants camp

Luis Gonzalez

Expected ’09 Salary Currently Unsigned Free Agent

Arthur Rhodes

Expected ’09 Salary Signed a 2 year, 4 million dollar deal

Paul Lo Duca

Expected ’09 Salary Currently unsigned Free Agent

Jacque Jones

Expected ’09 Salary 650,000 (If he makes the Reds 25 man roster)

Uggla Wins Arbitration

So just got news that the Associated Press is reporting Dan Uggla won his arbitration case against the Florida Marlins. Uggla will get 5.35 million as opposed to the 4.4 the Marlins front office offered.

Uggla batted .260 last season with 32 homers and drove in 92 runs. Impressive numbers considering he plays a position with very few power hitters. Glad to see he got his value in the market and you can’t really blame the Marlins front office striving for efficiency. 

What will be interesting to see this season is with plenty of depth and talent in our farm system at second base, whether or not Uggla finishes the season with us. Reason I say this is because guess what, it’s another contract year for the Tennessee native. And with the Ryan Howard deals out there that I ranted and raved about, as long as Uggla produces and the offseason deals increase, Uggla could get a higher salary in 2010.

I know…….I’m getting ahead of myself. Just trying to be a good journalist and look ahead. I personally wish we could lock him up long term.

Arod’s Lasting Legacy

There is no doubt Arod is a marked man. But it’s another chapter, not the end of the book.

After the startling admission that the 3-time MVP and arguably best player in baseball took performance-enhancing drugs during the 2001-2003 season, many in the baseball world have written his legacy off. The results from six years ago of 104 players with positive tests were taken in a confidentiality agreement, but due to Rodriguez’s elite name and high contract, his results got leaked out. And since public scrutinity entailed. 

But imagine how Arod can greatly improve the game of baseball.

Let me paint you a picture… Five or six years from now, when Rodriguez is closing in on a fully tainted 762 homerun record by Barry Bonds. Imagine Arod blasting number 763. After the momentus occassion, Arod saying something like this:

“Early in my career I struggled with who I was and was unaware of my influence in the sport. Entering the league at 18 and in my first full season hitting 36 homers and 123 RBIs, it all happened rapidly. I didn’t know what I was getting into and for three seasons went along with my peers. I didn’t need the performance enhancers since my numbers didn’t even increase those seasons. After being marked in 2009, I had to prove to myself that I was a better player off them. Standing here as a clean home run king proves that.”

Isn’t that the American way? Sure his legacy has taken a hit, but what lies ahead of him is better than whats behind him. Arod has the ability and opportunity to clean his name, be an ambassador of the game and be an outspoken leader in the clubhouse by making sure his teammates are clean.

People are calling for his head. Bill Madden is asking for his job. Most are claiming he ain’t a Hall of Famer. Regardless of what they think today, prove to us and yourself that steroids gives only a mental edge by continuing your tear on the record books. If baseball writers can’t forgive you, take a page from the late, great Buck O’Neil. The first black manager in the majors with the Cubs was overlooked in 2006 when Negro League players were specially elected into Cooperstown. O’Neil, who’s legacy has been his pleasant attitude, had an excellent response. “If I’m not a Hall of Famer for you, that’s alrite with me.”

Arod can’t do anything to please the hall of fame voters. Don’t try. Just do the best you can to improve your career and clean your name. The satisfaction of a successful, clean career will be your Hall of Fame. 

I’d rather have a half-tarnished Home Run King than a fully-tainted one. Don’t just apologize and sweep it under the rug, Alex. Clean up your act, clean up the game of baseball, and break 762. America will forgive you.