Florida Marlins pitching woo-hoo to start the season

Anibal Sanchez fires away in the first inning of last night's near-no-hitter against the Rockies. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

The way Anibal Sanchez reacted after the final out in the Marlins 4-1 victory over Colorado last night, you would have thought he just completed his second career no-hitter. After recording the last putout on a toss from Gaby Sanchez, Anibal Sanchez celebrated with a fist-pumping, chest-thumping combo. You would have never known that, only five minutes earlier, Dexter Fowler broke up the no-hit bid on the first pitch of the ninth with a broken-bat single that snuck past an exasperated Omar Infante.

Maybe that’s how you react when you’ve already got a no-hitter on your resume. Or maybe, like most pitchers who flirt with baseball immortality, he was just “happy to get the win.”

All I can say is get the friggin’ ball into Javier Vazquez’ hand ASAP while Florida’s near-no-hit fever is still contagious! With last night’s dominating 3 BB, 9 K performance, Sanchez lowered his ERA from 5.51 to 3.55. Vazquez could use some zeroes tonight against the Rockies, too, to reduce his bloated 7.43 ERA.

Despite Vazquez’s hideous ERA, the Marlins now have the fourth-best ERA in the majors at 2.98 – only the A’s (2.60), Angels (2.88) and Padres (2.92) are ahead of them. The climb up the charts was aided greatly this week after back-to-back 6-0 wins over the Pirates where Josh Johnson took a no-hitter into the seventh and Ricky Nolasco gave up only four hits in seven innings. If not for Gaby Sanchez’s mind-boggling drop of an easy third-out catch in the first inning last night, the Marlins could have had a third shutout of the week.

Just how good is the Marlins’ pitching staff? They lead the majors with a 1.15 WHIP, have the third-best batting average against (.223) and have the number-one bullpen ERA (1.63) – far ahead of second-place Philadelphia (2.42).

Despite having one of the more anemic offenses in the National League, the Marlins have won seven of their last eight to creep within a half game of the first-place Phillies. The only down side to the season has been, as usual, game attendance. The paid attendance vs. the Pirates didn’t break 13,000 for any of the three games earlier this week, while only 15,069 (paid — actual was 8,912, including US skiing sensation Lindsey Vonn) were on hand last night to see Sanchez’ gem.

If the offense starts producing (are you listening Hanley Ramirez and Mike Stanton?), the Marlins’ winning ways will continue deep into the season … and fans might start showing some support for what is one of the most exciting young teams of 2011.

And in case you’re wondering if I watched the ninth inning — no. I stayed put, so I can’t be blamed for ruining this one.

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