Florida’s 4-2 victory over Los Angeles on Tuesday assured the Marlins of their sixth straight series win or tie, as well as matched their 2004 best-ever start after 22 games with a 15-7 record. After losing their season-opening series against the Mets, the Marlins have reeled off series victories against the Nationals, Astros, Braves, Pirates, Rockies and, now, the Dodgers to go along with a two-game split with the Phillies.
There’s some magic in the air in South Florida, and I’m not sure if it’s the outstanding pitching of late or a Pig Pen-like cloud of Cinderella Fairy Dust (CFD) following the Marlins around.
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The keys to regularly winning two out of three are consistent starting pitching, solid defense, top-to-bottom contributions from the starting lineup, a stalwart defense and an occasional pinch of CFD. Florida has been winning primarily with dominant pitching, starting with Josh Johnson and a supporting cast that has been getting better with every passing day. Chris Volstad had his best outing of the year Tuesday, picking up the win with a 7 IP, 5 K, 1 BB effort. The Marlins starters now have a 9-4 record, 3.61 ERA and 1.25 WHIP, while the bullpen continues to dominate with 7 S, 1.80 ERA and 0.97 WHIP. The defense has been middle-of-the-pack, while the hitting has been anything but consistent — in large part due to a woeful starts by Hanley Ramirez and Mike Stanton, who both, finally, appear to be breaking out of their slumps.
As for the CFD, the Marlins aren’t using pinches lately; they’re throwing handfuls of the stuff around the dugout. Tuesday’s win was Florida’s third consecutive come-from-behind victory and 10th in 15 wins — four of which have come in the seventh inning or later. Save for Gaby Sanchez’s lead-off homer in the second on Tuesday and an unearned run in the fourth that tied the game at 2-2, the Marlins were handcuffed by Dodgers starter Clayton Kershaw. Florida was held to three hits before tagging Kershaw for two runs in the sixth during a two-out rally that included a single by Ramirez and a two-run single by Stanton. See what happens when Ramirez and Stanton are hitting?
On Monday night, I swore there was a cloud of CFD hovering over the field (and maybe an angel or two in the outfield) in the bottom of the ninth. Trailing 4-3 and one out from defeat, the Marlins rallied when an Emilio Bonifacio walk and a Ramirez pinch-hit single put runners on first and third. The Marlins tied the game at four when Dodgers shortstop Jamey Carroll missed a Scott Cousins grounder that should have ended the game. Two batters later, Omar Infante launched a catchable line drive that Dodgers left fielder Jerry Sands misjudged, allowing the ball to fall in for a game-winning single.
Want even more evidence of CFD? Stanton – who had only one HR coming into last Sunday’s series finale against Colorado – popped a three-run, game-deciding homer to propel the Marlins to a 6-3 victory. Stanton, whose seven-game hitting streak was snapped on Monday, is 10-for-30 (.333) with 2 HR and 7 RBI in his last eight games.
If Ramirez (3-for-5 with three runs scored in the last two games) and Stanton can continue their recent productivity, and Logan Morrison can pick up where he left off when he returns from the DL next week, I’ll start believing more and more in the talent on the field and less and less in the CFD floating in the air.