July 2009

Vazquez, McCann take brief hiatus from sucking against Fish

no broom.pngObviously, walking Chipper Jones was the thing to do in the top of the tenth inning Thursday night in the series finale against Atlanta. I mean, come on, Chipper is Chipper, and who could have foreseen that Brian McCann–who was 0 for his last five games against the Fish–would choose that specific moment to decide to snap out of his Florida funk? 

Then again, we can’t blame the game entirely on McCann. Javier Vazquez undoubtedly influenced the catcher’s turnaround with one of his own. After four straight losses to the Marlins, something suddenly inspired Vazquez, and he held the Fish to one run over seven innings.

Rick VandenHurk deserved a better result from his start, as he went six, giving up just two runs and striking out a career-high nine batters. Unfortunately, the only run support Vandy’s teammates could generate was on an RBI single from Ronny Paulino in the 5th.

Cody Ross homered off of Vazquez in the eighth, and Cantu tied things up on a lucky RBI chopper to send the game into extras, but that’s where the comeback ended. Luis Ayala served up the three-run shot to McCann in the top of the tenth, and this time the walk-of magic was a no-show for the Marlins, who dropped the finale, settling for the series win.

We will resist the urge to complain about Land Shark’s “no brooms” policy, since obviously, it helped us to not look idiotic at the stadium Thursday.

6-3, Braves

win (n) – the result you automatically expect when Josh Johnson is on the mound

JJ is still awesome.jpgIt was, apparently, not enough for Josh Johnson Wednesday night that he was logging his tenth win of the season, adding an 18th game to his string of consecutive starts giving up three earned runs or fewer, and treating fans to yet another *yawn* solid performance on the mound. 

He needed to do something, you know, impressive to really drive his awesomeness home.
So Josh sauntered to the plate with two men on and two outs in the bottom of the fourth inning and connected on his second home run of the season, and of his career. And in keeping with JJ’s penchant for excellence, his home run was no cheapie (not that that would even be possible at Land Shark Stadium)– the All Star pitcher hit it to dead center, earning a curtain call from the 13,500 in attendance at Land Shark Stadium.
An underachiever, that Josh Johnson.
Hanley Ramirez and Dan Uggla obviously couldn’t allow themselves to be shown up by a pitcher, so the pair jacked home runs of their own, and for the second game in the series, long balls have secured the victory for the Fish. Tuesday’s contest was won on a walk-off home run by Ross Gload, which begs the question: Uh, what was all that stuff again about not wanting to live and die by the home run, Pres? Yeah, you might want to go over that with everybody again. Personally, though, I rather enjoy watching balls fly off of the Marlins’ bats and into the outfield seats. But maybe it’s just me.
So the Marlins have taken the first two games of the series against Atlanta, have won seven of their last eight, and are playing some pretty enjoyable baseball at present. Let’s hope the Fish can keep that going for us tonight as Henricus VandenHurk takes the hill to try for the sweep in the series finale.

You can’t spell Burke Badenhop without H-E-R-O

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The Marlins West coast road trip ended with a bang–or perhaps a better term would be plunk–Sunday evening at Dodger Stadium.
Chris Volstad wasn’t at his greatest, giving up four runs on eight hits and walking four in 5 1/3 innings, but thankfully, the Marlins bats decided to pick up the slack. The Fish scored five runs off of starter Jason Schmidt, who lasted just three innings, and tacked on another three runs against Jeff Weaver before the real show began. 
Whether it was Hanley’s multitudinous hits and RBI that had the Dodgers in a tizzy, or the memory of Josh Johnson hitting two Dodgers–including Manny Ramirez–on Friday night, or just the simple fact they were being shelled, LA decided to take aim at the Marlins superstar. 
Still down 8-0 in the top of the sixth inning, Jeff Weaver began blatantly throwing at Hanley Ramirez. It took several tries for Weaver to actually accomplish his mission, and home plate umpire Bob Davidson warned both benches. (Which was, you know, totally fair to everyone involved.)
Despite the warning, you just can’t spell Badenhop without B-E-A-N. You also just can’t let teams take the liberty of throwing fastballs at the appendages of your star player, and unlike The Toronto Incident, there was no mistaking the intention behind Weaver’s pitches. The Fish didn’t need any more post-game Hanley drama over a perceived lack of protection from the Marlins pitchers, so in the bottom of the 7th, Burke Badenhop, our long reliever extraordinaire, took one for the team when he, uh, totally by accident, “yanked” a fastball. Unlike Weaver, the Hopper didn’t miss. He beaned Orlando Hudson smack on the backside, and was promptly ejected from the game along with manager Fredi Gonzalez. 
And that, folks, is how it’s done.
The way Hopper was greeted by teammates back at the dugout, you’d think he had just tossed a no-hitter or hit his first career grand slam. Or saved planet Earth from a falling asteroid. On the HLD&S scale of heroism, the plunking was at least on par with saving babies from a burning building.
After Hop took care of business, the Dodgers attempted a comeback of sorts, scoring twice off of Leo Nunez in the bottom of the ninth. But when all was said and done, the Marlins came out on top.
So the Fish have taken two of three from the team with the best record in baseball, won five of six on the West Coast overall, and are headed home to play some series in a time zone that is far more conducive to HLD&S’s sleep schedule. Ah, life is good.
(HLD&S blames this entry in its entirety on our overexposure to Comic-Con this past week, courtesy of FSN Florida. Please send all complaints to Frank Forte.)

The Marlins are trying to kill us.

gaby pine copy.jpgFish fans all over the world danced through the streets Tuesday, shedding tears of joy and relief at the news the Marlins had at last called up third baseman Gaby Sanchez from Triple-A New Orleans. 

Not that Sanchez is the surefire answer to all or any of the Marlins offensive woes, but fans have been excited to see what Gaby can do, and more importantly, if he can do it better (if slightly slower) than Emilio Bonifacio.
The relief and joy were short-lived.
Quickly after the news of the call-up, Fredi Gonzalez announced to the media that he would use Gaby “as a pinch-hitter…[blah blah blah]…here and there…[blah blah blah].” 
Allow me to translate: 
Bonerface isn’t going anywhere, people. For reasons no sane person will ever understand, we are still wildly enamored with Emilio, and he is staying put at third base. Meanwhile, we fully intend to use Gaby Sanchez in much the same way that we used Brett Carroll earlier this season– as pine ornamentation.”
As easy as he is on the eyes, Marlins, I think I speak for all Fish fans when I say, that is not what we had in mind.
Like everyone else, I’m struggling to understand why Gaby was called up at all. He’s not here to start. He’s not here to platoon with Bonifacio. And if his role is really going to be off the bench, the question is why? Why call up Sanchez to use him in a role that is typically far better suited to veteran hitters, which we already have in Helms and Gload? 
Have we learned nothing from Brett Carroll? 
The same thing was done to Brett earlier in the season when the Marlins dubbed him Keeper of the Bench, using him as a defensive specialist and a pinch hitter “here and there.” Nobody got to see what Brett was capable of offensively because he was getting roughly one at-bat per month. Fredi even admitted that it wasn’t fair that they hardly used him, and when they finally started putting him in the lineup, Brett produced. And now they’re going the same ride-the-pine route with Gaby Sanchez.
If Gaby’s not going to play, then why is he here? Honestly, I can only come up with one thing: The Marlins are trying to torture us to death. Because impossible as it may seem, they have actually figured out a way to make The Bonifacio Experiment even more excruciating for fans to endure. Now, not only do we have to deal with watching Emilio be…Emilio, we have to be teased mercilessly by the presence of Gaby Sanchez, sitting so invitingly mere yards away, yet having no chance to prove that maybe, just maybe, he could be an improvement over Speedy the Out Machine.
I think I finally have an idea what it must be like to die of thirst when lost at sea, surrounded by billions of gallons of water.
Enjoy the pain, Fish fans. I have a feeling it’s here to stay.

Fish Rx

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Unfortunately, while all that was going on, it seemed the Philadelphia Phillies decided that they would never lose a game again, ever, so the Fish gained exactly zero ground in the East going into the series finale with the Friars. But the Cubbies helped the Marlins out with a 10-5 pummeling of the Philths Wednesday afternoon, and so the Fish have gained at least one game on the reigning world champs. Thanks, Cubs. (And be sure to get all that “win” stuff out of your system before you head to South Florida next week.) 
The Marlins are now six games back in the East, and HLD&S has discovered its new favorite antidepressant: real bad teams. 

Somebody Fetch Me My Antidepressants

andrew-miller-marlins-loss.jpgSunday’s game was a pretty big one for the Marlins. Unfortunately, somebody forgot to mention that to Andrew Miller. 

After the Fish dropped the first two games of the series and saw Saturday’s promising start by Josh Johnson rained out, the Marlins needed Big Game Andrew to come up with a quality outing to give the team a chance to salvage at least one game of the series. 
Instead, Miller chose the finale against the Phillies to have the exact opposite of a quality outing, and pitch horrendously (which may be putting it mildly). 
In the top of the first on Sunday afternoon at Land Shark Stadium, sighs of relief were breathed when a wild Miller managed to wiggle out of a bases-loaded situation without the Phillies scoring, thanks in part to a heads up play by Emilio Bonifacio. But BGA wasn’t so lucky in the second.

With two outs and the pitcher at bat, that elusive third out evaded Andrew again. Three singles later, the bases were loaded, and Miller hit Chase Utley to score the first run of the game. Things went (even more) downhill from there. By the time he was yanked, Andrew had given up four runs on six hits and four walks. 

We’re not exactly sure at which point Miller decided that less than three innings was anywhere remotely close to an acceptable start, but for the second game in a row he lasted only 2 2/3.
To be fair, Andrew Miller could have pitched a perfect game, and it would not necessarily have earned him the win on an afternoon when the Marlins lineup was playing a delightful game of “Who Can Leave the Most Men On.” Of course, HLD&S would never dream of taking anything away from talented Phillies rookie J.A. Happ–we tip our cap to you, sir– but the Fish did their best to make him look good on the mound Sunday afternoon. For real. When the bases are loaded and there are no outs, not scoring would seem to require a lot more effort than just giving in and putting a run or two on the board.
For the second game in the series the Marlins matched the Phillies in hits, but completely failed to hit when it actually mattered. The Fish blew every chance they were given, went 0-for-12 with runners in scoring position, and were shut out by the Phils for the second time in the series. It actually caused us physical pain to watch.
The one thing Marlins fans had to cheer about in an otherwise maddening game was the bullpen, which pieced things together admirably after Miller hit the showers. Brian Sanches pitched 1 1/3 scoreless innings, Burke Badenhop struck out the side in the top of the fifth and tossed a scoreless 6th, Luis Ayala and Renyel Pinto followed with scoreless innings of their own, and after Dan Meyer gave up a run, Brendan Donnelly handled the last two outs of the ninth. Unfortunately, their very nice effort was wasted due to the fact that–as previously mentioned–NO ONE on the Marlins squad could manage to hit with runners in scoring position. 
The Marlins have lost three in a row, have dropped every single game they have played against the Phils at Land Shark this season, and fall to seven games behind their division rivals as they head back out West to face several teams that, unfortunately, are not the Nationals.
 
HLD&S is officially depressed.
5-0, Phillies
Rick Vanden Hurk has been called up to start Monday night in San Diego. Andy Gonzalez was optioned to AAA to make room for the Incredible Hurk on the roster. 

What an inspiring way to start back.

retiremoyer.jpgWhen Jamie Moyer is starting a game against the Fish at home, you pretty much have two choices, Marlins fans: 1) heavily medicate yourself and watch only the top half of each inning, or 2) skip the game to do something that doesn’t make you feel like ripping all your hair out and screaming, and just check the box score the next day to confirm all of the zeros you knew were coming anyway.

Hopefully you opted for choice #2, because even the most potent of meds could not possibly have shielded you from the displeasure of watching what went down at Land Shark Stadium Thursday Night as the Fish took on the Phillies to kick off the post- All Star stretch of the season. 
Jorge Cantu singled in the fifth inning. Ronny Paulino walked. And that’s it. One single and a base on balls is all Fish fans had to cheer about offensively last night. Moyer went seven innings, gave up one hit and one walk, and then the Phils bullpen took over where he left off, not allowing a base-runner in the final two innings. 
There shouldn’t even be a Marlins lineup when Grandpa Moyer is on the mound. Seriously, what a complete waste of energy. Just give the boys a night off to relax, and send a string of lifeless mannequins to the plate in their place. The results, I assure you, could not be any worse than what we’re used to seeing from the Fish when Moyer is pitching.
While Moyer was doing his thing, Chris Volstad was doing his as well: leaving pitches up in the zone to yield his 18th, 19th and 20th home runs of the season. So instead of gaining ground on the Phillies, the Marlins are now five games back in the division.
Oh, joy.
4-0, Phillies

The Golden Hooks

HLDS Golden Hook Award.jpgWhile the rest of the nation enjoyed the All-Star Game (aka The Annual Giving of Home Field Advantage to the American League), HLD&S was busy hosting its semi-annual Golden Hook Awards.

As everyone knows, the Golden Hook is the most sought-after accolade in the game of baseball, awarded semi-annually by HLD&S to only the most deserving of Marlins. The “Hookie” is so coveted, in fact, that it is rumored to be the reason Manny Ramirez wanted to play for the Marlins last season. (True story.)
And now, without further delay, the envelope, please. And the Hookie goes to…
JOSH JOHNSON
JJ is our first recipient of a Golden Hook, for obvious reasons. The All Star ace leads the Marlins pitching staff  in every category that matters, and is one of the best pitchers in the league. Need we say more? No. But we still will, of course. It is HLD&S’s firm belief that had Johnson started in the All Star Game, the National League would have pulled out the victory.
 
HANLEY RAMIREZ
If this bestowment needs to be explained to you, then you obviously happened upon this blog while searching for information about fishing reels. Move along.
KIKO CALERO
You know that feeling where you get all queasy in your stomach and you feel like puking and your heart starts thumping wildly and chills of fear make the hair on the back of your neck stand up? No? OK, think back to the last time Matt Lindstrom came into a game. Are you with us now? Thought so. Kiko Calero has never given us that feeling. When K-Lero comes into a game, usually warm fuzzy feelings–and more importantly, OUTS–ensue.
DAN MEYER
All that stuff we just said about Kiko Calero? Yeah, just do a “find and replace” in your brain to swap Kiko’s name with Dan’s, and mentally paste that right here. Thanks.
EMILIO BONIFACIO
Seriously. Not getting benched or demoted to low-A or kicked out of the game of baseball entirely requires some serious skills when you happen to be the worst player of all time. (Admittedly, we may have gone a bit far with the “of all time” part.) Considering his struggles, the fact that Bonifacio has somehow managed to still be leading off and playing third base for a Major League club has garnered him his very first Golden Hook. (HLD&S stands by its statement that accusations we paid an awards presenter to impale the third baseman with the trophy are completely fabricated. And besides, a broken bone would be far more advantageous to us if we’re talking DL stint.)
BURKE BADENHOP
Looking at the Hopper’s contributions to the first half of the Marlins season, we would be remiss to exclude him from these honors. Whether Hop’s swooping in to save the day when a starter tanks, holding the score for multiple innings when a game goes into extras, or even starting a game when the need arises, he’s been invaluable to the team thus far this season.
RICKY NOLASCO
It’s been a while since a pitcher made the transition from “starter we are petrified to see on the mound” to “starter we are completely OK with” in just the first half of the season. In our book, that’s worthy of a Golden Hook (HLD&S reserves the right to strip you of your trophy in event that you revert back to your pre-demotion ways. Not a threat or anything. Just sayin’.)
 
And that concludes the Golden Hooks of the first 90 games of the season. We’ll try not to be as stingy with our praise after the second half. Then again, that may require that the Fish do a bit more to impress us over the next 72 games. 

Go… Southeast, Young Man

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Sean West gave up five runs in his start Saturday night against the Diamondbacks
Now, why does that sound so familiar? Perhaps it’s because West also gave up five runs in his last start. And the one before that. And the one before the one before that.
Sean lasted just 4 2/3 innings in game three of the Marlins‘ series in Arizona, a pretty short start by any standard, but certainly long enough to put the Fish in an early hole that they were never able to climb out of. 
Sean did attempt to help his own cause when he logged his first Major League hit in the third inning and scored on an RBI by Jorge Cantu. It wasn’t enough, though, and immediately following the game, West was optioned to Double A. I think we can all agree that is a far better place for the working out of growing pains than in the Marlins starting rotation. 
While West was reserving his flight to Jacksonville, The Marlins were continuing their struggle to score runs (see: Friday Night’s Game). Who can blame them, though, with the almighty Jon Garland on the mound? 
Oh. Right. Garland isn’t all that mighty, and he hadn’t won a game since May 19th. That game, [probably not all that] coincidentally, was against the Marlins as well. But mighty or not, seven hits were all the Fish could manage off of Garland Saturday, and Cantu’s RBI single that scored Sean West accounted for the Marlins only run. (You will be spared a lament on our tough luck with the bats tonight. No “he’s hit it hard, but…” stuff from HLD&S. Even if it’s true. And even if we’d be totally OK with Jeremy Hermida punching somebody in the face right about now.) 
Jon Garland isn’t the only Diamondback benefiting from the Marlins new “We Shall Heal What Ails You, MLB” campaign. Justin Upton was one for his last thirty coming into the series, and naturally decided to use the Marlins pitching staff to bust out of his slump. After a two-hit, three-RBI game to open the series, Upton went 4-for-4 with another RBI in Saturday’s game.
If you’re looking for a silver lining on the cloud of this game, we have powered up the microscope… The Marlins bullpen did their thing and held the Diamondbacks scoreless through 3 1/3 innings. Too bad the Marlins lineup was busy holding itself scoreless as well.
While the Fish were losing, the Phillies did what teams are supposed to do when they play clubs like the D-backs and Pirates– they won. The Fish are now 4 games back in the East, and sit just a game over .500.
We’re mulling over an idea for Sunday’s series finale– it involves our starter not coming to the mound and immediately putting the Marlins in a big, fat, gaping hole. Sure, coming back from a 7-run deficit is fun times and all, it’s just probably not going to happen in every game, especially not with the bats freezing up once again. So let’s consider not trying to set up the come-from-behind victory, and instead tackle the get-ahead-and-stay-ahead variety of triumph. Not quite as sexy, no, but it gets the job done.
5-1, Diamondbacks

Reason #678,883,215 to Hate West Coast Road Trips

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I knew better than to turn off the TV. 

I knew
it, and yet the beckoning of my pillow and binky uh, blanket were far too strong to resist. It
didn’t help that Andrew Miller had been yanked from the game after just 2 2/3 innings, leaving the Fish in a 6-run hole to open their series against the Diamondbacks. 

Losing sleep for an exciting
game is one thing. Losing it to watch the Marlins get routed is quite another. Off to bed I went. 

And then?

Well, then all… heaven broke
loose. Heaven, as in THE BIGGEST INNING IN MARLINS HISTORY and the biggest comeback of the season. The Fish, who were down 7-0 at one point, scored 10
runs in the eighth inning. The go-ahead run came on a pinch-hit, 3-run shot by Brett
Carroll–the first pinch-hit home run of his career. 

And I was asleep. 

ASLEEP! 

@#$%!

I woke to the news of the Marlins comeback mocking me from my radio, unsure whether to rejoice that they won, or weep bitterly that I missed one of the most exciting innings of all time. I opted for a little of both, but never again will that decision have to be made. Because I don’t intend to miss any more Marlins baseball. Ever.

Tonight, as The Fish get set for game two
against Arizona, I’ll be enjoying a dinner of No Doz, Five Hour Energy
shots and triple espressos, washed down with some Red Bull and perhaps a Monster
Energy drink or two. 

Score all the early runs you want, D-Backs,
but I will not be deterred. 

I don’t even intend to blink. 

14-7,
Marlins

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