September 2009

Ask and you shall receive…

008101209_marlins_.JPGHLD&S would like to think that all the drama in Wednesday’s Marlins-Braves series finale was a response to Monday’s lament about making the last few games of the season a bit more thrilling than watching paint dry. But whether or not that was the case, the rubber match at Turner Field was one exciting game to witness. 

Despite the bats showing up for the second night in a row, the real show Wednesday was Ricky Nolasco. In his final start of 2009, Ricky pitched like a man possessed, striking out batter after batter after batter. 
At one point, Nolasco struck out the side in three consecutive innings (third, fourth and fifth), becoming just the fourth pitcher in history to do so. The nine straight K’s were also one short of the Major League record.   
Against Javier Vazquez, the Marlins provided some run support for the dealing Nolasco, and scored three times in the second inning. Jorge Cantu and Dan Uggla both hit RBI singles, and a wild pitch scored a run to give the Fish a 3-0 lead. Ross Gload went deep off of Vazquez in the fifth, hitting a two-run shot to put the Marlins up 5-0. 
The Braves finally got on the board against Ricky with two unearned runs in the bottom of the seventh. With two out, Garret Anderson singled and Yunel Escobar reached on an error by Hanley. Adam LaRoche drove in both runs with an RBI single, and erased the shutout of Atlanta. 
Ricky recorded his sixteenth strikeout of the game in the eight inning, and his night was done after 7 2/3 innings and 123 pitches. Ricky gave up four hits, two unearned runs, and recorded a career high 16 strikeouts in the start. The K-fest set a franchise record for most strikeouts in a game, and Ricky also plowed through his career high for strikeouts in a season, ending 2009 with 195.
As if Ricky’s display wasn’t excitement enough, the Marlins generously gave us a nail-biter of a ninth inning, where–to quote Nolasco in the understatement of the week–”it got a little interesting.” 
Leo Nunez walked Brian McCann to lead off the bottom of the ninth, a botched double play and error by Jorge Cantu advanced McCann to third base, and Yunel Escobar singled to drive in the run. With one out, Wes Helms committed the second error of the inning on a throw to first that ended up in the dirt and allowed Matt Diaz to reach. Omar Infante added a pinch hit RBI single to bring the Braves within a run.    
After the performance of a lifetime, Ricky Nolasco was getting dangerously close to a no-decision. Leo walked Nate McClouth to load the bases, and the call to the bullpen brought out veteran Brendan Donnelly. 
Donnelly’s very first pitch in the game got by Ronny Paulino, and Matt Diaz started for home. He retreated as Paulino got to the ball, but couldn’t get back to third before the catcher picked him off for the final out of the game.
With that out, Donnelly got his second save for the Fish, and Ricky Nolasco won his 13th game of the season.
While HLD&S is appreciative of the Marlins attempts at entertaining us in the last few days of 2009, we could do without the cardiac arrest. And seeing as all four of Atlanta’s runs were unearned, we could also do without the sloppy defense.
But now we’re just nit-picking.
Though it’s true that nothing can compare to the feeling of one’s own team making it to the post-season, essentially taking the chance away from a division rival is kinda fun too.

The Scoreless Streak Ends! But, Um, So Do Our Post-Season Hopes.

bats alive.jpgIt took a starting pitcher to end the Marlins’ streak of scoreless innings at 22, but the bats finally came out of hibernation Tuesday night at Turner Field.  

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.

Wake me when this is over.

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The Marlins began their series with Atlanta Monday night at Turner Field, and were looking to bounce back from being shut out by the Mets and eliminated in the NL East Sunday afternoon.
Sadly, someone forgot to alert Anibal Sanchez and the Marlins bats as to the whole “bounce back” strategy.

Coming off of his gorgeous eight-inning shutout last week, Anibal did a complete about-face against Atlanta. He only allowed two hits and three runs to the Braves, but to say Sanchez “struggled” with his control would be putting it as mildly as possible. To struggle with control, there has to actually be a small amount of control with which to struggle. Ani walked a career high eight batters in the game, including three walks in the first inning to load the bases with no one out. McCann grounded out to score a run, and a fly ball from Garret Anderson put the Braves up 2-0. 

Ani settled in slightly after the first, and allowed just one more run courtesy of a solo homer to Chipper Jones in the third inning. He managed to last five innings for the Marlins, which may be close to miraculous, considering the trouble he had commanding his pitches. But, at the risk of sounding like a broken record (see yesterday’s recap), the game was already over. The Marlins were blanked, again, so Sanchez could have struck out fifteen and allowed just the solo shot to Chipper, and he still would have been tagged with the loss. 
Jair Jurrjens allowed five hits and one walk through his seven innings of work, and once again the Fish couldn’t get a run to cross the plate. There were opportunities, but any and all attempts to capitalize on said opportunities were met with failure. In the seventh inning, the Marlins had runners at the corners with no outs, and once again could not bring a single runner home.
As previously discussed, scoring runs is generally a requirement for winning ball games, and so the Marlins dropped their second straight, and reduced their wild card elimination number to one. 
It’s not as though all of HLD&S’s post-season hopes were dashed Monday night. Forget the post-season. Right now we are lamenting the fact that this is our last week to watch Marlins baseball for another six months, and the Fish are making it about as exciting as watching dust gather on great-grandma’s porcelain doll collection.

The End is Near

f5d3c08d-9e3c-4c0d-aae4-8c30c1264577.jpgFans should have been prepared for the worst Sunday afternoon as the Marlins played their final home game of the season against the Mets at Land Shark Stadium. 

First of all, Josh Johnson was home puking with what the rest of the team can only pray is not H1N1, and had to be scratched from his start in favor of the struggle-laden Chris Volstad. Nick Johnson was also out due to the flu, and although Jorge Cantu was in the lineup, he was feeling a little queasy himself. Cody Ross, one of the few Marlins not sitting around the clubhouse with a thermometer hanging out of his mouth, was still nursing his badly bruised wrist, and was only available to pinch run. 

With all the above considered, we should have mentally prepared ourselves for the worst. But call us crazy, we still had hope the Marlins would find a way to win, and send fans home with magical, victorious memories to sustain us until April. 
They did not. 
Volstad wasn’t necessarily awful in the game, but he lasted only four innings, and gave up three runs to the Mets. The three runs naturally included Volstad’s signature long ball, this time a two-run shot by Jeff Francoeur in the third inning. 

The truth is it wouldn’t have mattered if Volstad had gone eight innings strong, and had only given up one run to the Mets. After New York was on the board in the second, the game was over for the Fish, thanks to Pat Misch. 
Misch decided to be a hero Sunday, and tossed a complete game shut out. It wasn’t as though the Marlins couldn’t touch Misch; they had eight hits and three walks off of the starter, and threatened in the first inning with men on second and third and nobody out. But they were 0-for-the-game with runners in scoring position, and were unable to put anything together through nine innings. 

Sadly, as is usually the case, when one cannot score, one cannot win.

The loss eliminated the Marlins in the NL East, and put them 4 ½ back in the wild card with a mere six games left to play. 

What a charming way to end the final homestand of the season. 

Super Saturday ends on a high note

default.jpgIt was the final Super Saturday of the season as the Fish and Mets faced off for game two of their series at Land Shark Stadium, and Marlins fans were looking to rid their mouths of the awful taste left from Friday night’s blown save.

The Marlins grabbed an early 2-0 lead off of John Maine in the second inning. Cantu and Uggla singled, and John Baker walked to load the bases. A ground ball from Brett Carroll scored the first run, and Uggla scored when Maine threw a wild pitch with Sean West at bat. 
West did well enough to earn his eighth win of the season with a quality night on the mound. He pitched five innings, giving up seven hits to the Mets. Fernando Tatis tied the game with a two-run homer in the fourth, and New York took the lead in the top of the fifth on an RBI double by David Wright. 
The Marlins answered back with a vengeance in the bottom of the fifth, scoring five runs off of Maine. Perhaps they were fired up when Cody Ross was hit on the hand by a pitch, and had to leave the game. Or maybe that had absolutely nothing to do with the offensive explosion that ensued. But either way, the bats suddenly came alive. 

Jorge Cantu hit an RBI double to tie the game, Dan Uggla drove in a run with a single, and Cameron Maybin hit a three-run shot to give the Marlins a 7-3 lead, and chase Maine from the game. Elmer Dessens took over for Maine and gave up an RBI double to Brett Hayes, who pinch-hit for Sean West. Chris Coghlan capped off the inning by doubling in a run to put the Marlins up 9-3. 
Badenhop relieved West and allowed just one hit as he held the Mets scoreless through two innings. Carlos Beltran hit a home run off of Brian Sanches in the top of the eighth to make it 9-4, and then came Florida’s obligatory struggle to put the game away. 
In the top of the ninth, Matt Lindstrom gave up a single and a double, and then allowed two runs to score on a throwing error–the Marlins’ third error of the game–before the call to the bullpen mercifully came. 

It was Brendan Donnelly who handled the last out of the ninth inning. Donnelly struck out Carlos Beltran to end the game, and earn his very first save for the Fish. 
A nice note on which to end the final Super Saturday of the Marlins season.
9-6, Marlins

That Blew. In More Ways Than One.

blow nose.JPGFish fans had boxes of tissue at the ready as the Marlins kicked off their final (sniffle) home series against the Mets Friday night at Land Shark Stadium.  

Little did we know we’d need said tissues for more than just saying goodbye to the 2009 season.
Rick Nolasco was on the mound for the Marlins, and if you erased the second inning of the game, he was outstanding. Ricky’s only spot of trouble came in the second when he gave up three hits, including a three-run homer to Jeff Francoeur to put the Mets up 3-0. 
Ricky bounced back, and lasted seven innings against the Mets, allowing no runs and just one more hit after the second inning.

In the meantime, the Fish had base runners in every inning, but they couldn’t put anything together against Mets starter Tim Redding until the bottom of the fifth. With two men on, Hanley tied up the game with one swing of his bat, a three-run jack to make it a 3-3 ball game. 

Gaby Sanchez pinch hit for Ricky in the bottom of the seventh and drew a walk off of Redding. After a call to the bullpen, Pedro Feliciano threw a wild pitch to advance pinch runner Bonifacio to second, And Feliciano intentionally walked Hanley. With two out, Jorge Cantu doubled to drive in Bonifacio and Hanley, and put the Marlins up 5-3.
Brendan Donelly pitched the eighth inning for the Marlins, and some sloppy defense got Brendan and the Fish into trouble. Brian Schneider reached on an error by Dan Uggla, Angel Pagan singled, and Luis Castillo hit a sac bunt to advance the runners to second and third for David Wright. Donnelly struck out Wright, but a passed ball by Ronny Paulino allowed Schneider to score, and the Mets pulled within a run. 

After a rather exciting game for Fish fans, the top of the ninth inning was a real pleasure to witness. Leo Nunez came in and gave up two straight singles to Murphy and Francoeur to open the inning, walked Jeremy Reed on four pitches, and blew the save when Cory Sullivan singled to drive in two runs and put the Mets in the lead. 
Nunez struck out David Wright to end the top of the inning, but the damage was done. And unlike Wednesday, this time there was no walk-off magic to speak of. 
Ross Gload had a pinch hit single, but that was all Francisco Rodriguez allowed in the bottom of the ninth. Rodriguez closed the door and the Fish dropped game one of their final home series in heartbreaking fashion. 
Please pass the Kleenex.
6-5, Mets

Double Dip

3500560729_8bd39e168f.jpgThe Marlins treated us to twice the recommended daily allowance of baseball Tuesday as they faced off with the Phillies in a doubleheader at Land Shark Stadium.

Game one featured Marlins ace Josh Johnson on the hill for the Fish, and JJ impressed by striking out ten Philthies through five innings of work. But Josh also gave up four runs on seven hits in those five innings, and since the Fish bats were about as hot in game one as a glacier in Antarctica, that was bad news for the Marlins. 
Part of the problem for the Fish was Joe Blanton, who shut down the Marlins offense through seven innings, striking out nine and allowing only two hits. 
Burke Badenhop tossed two scoreless innings in relief of JJ, but in the eighth he got into some trouble and allowed four runs to the Phils. Andrew Miller recorded the last out of the eighth, but not before demonstrated his dominant pitching skills by walking three and giving up a ninth run to Philadelphia.
The Marlins did finally get on the board against Sergio Escalona in the bottom of the inning, but by then the deficit was a bit much to overcome, and the Marlins dropped game one of the series.
*deep breath*
Anibal Sanchez was on the mound for the Fish in game two of the doubleheader, and recalled the days of yore (come on, 2006 can totally be considered “yore”) with his lights out pitching. Ani allowed just two hits to the Phillies in eight innings, and struck out seven.
While Sanchy was busy shutting down the Phils, the Marlins were busy trying to hit the snail-speed pitches of Grandfather Time, aka Jamie Moyer. Moyer went seven innings for Philadelphia and allowed nine hits to the Marlins. 
In the bottom of the second, Uggla hit his 30th home run of the year, becoming the first Marlin to hit 30 home runs in three consecutive seasons. Cody went yard in the fourth to put the Marlins up 2-0, and in the fifth Hanley doubled to drive in the third and final run of the game.
Leo Nunez handled his 24th save with a 1-2-3 ninth, and the Marlins split the doubleheader.

Marlins make it two in a row in Cinci

If there was any lingering doubt as to whether the Marlins were really through with their losing ways in Cincinnati, they were laid to rest Saturday night when the Fish and the Reds faced off in game three of their series at the Great American Ball Park.

It was once again a good night for pitching. Ricky Nolasco put in a beautiful four hit, ten strikeout, seven inning performance, and Bronson Arroyo matched it with a nice night on the mound himself, allowing six hits to the Marlins through eight strong innings of work. 
The teams hit two home runs apiece to account for the only scoring in the game. 
The Reds took the lead in the first on a solo home run by Drew Stubbs, and maintained their lead until Jorge Cantu tied it up on a home run in the fifth. That was all the scoring the Fish could manage through the first seven innings of the game, so when Ricky gave up a solo home run to Ryan Hanigan in the seventh, he exited down 2-1, and in line for the loss. 
But after Ronny Paulino doubled in the eighth, Ross Gload pinch hit for Ricky and went deep to give the Marlins the lead, and a chance for Ricky to win the game.
Brian Sanches handled the eighth and one out of the ninth, and Dan Meyer got the second out of the ninth before Matt Lindstrom finished things off for his 15th save of the season. 
Thanks to Gload’s gritty pinch hit home run, Nolasco got the W, and the Marlins took their second game in a row at the Great American Ball Park.

Consider the Curse Reversed

Man_Jump_for_Joy.jpgAnother pitchers duel was in order for the Marlins and Reds as they faced off in game two of their series Friday night at the Great American Ball Park. 

Rick VandenHurk was on the Hill for the Marlins, and had a great night as he allowed just one run on four hits in six strong innings of work. It was too bad for Vandy that Homer Bailey went one better and tossed seven scoreless innings, and allowed just three hits to the Fish, taking away Hurk’s chance at the W. 

Sigh. 
One measly run was all the offense to speak of until the eighth inning, when the Reds scored an insurance run off of Brendan Donnelly. With closer Francisco Cordero coming in to pitch the ninth, it seemed that the Marlins would go quietly for their tenth loss in a row at the Great American Ball Park. 
Only they didn’t. 

The Fish rallied in the ninth. Coghlan led off the inning by reaching base on what was ruled an error, but was actually a base hit (we promise). Hanley Ramirez singled with one out, and Jorge Cantu drove in Coghlan to put the Fish on the board. Dan Uggla’s ground out scored Hanley, and Baker blooped a single into left to score Cantu and give the Fish the lead. After a single from Cody Ross, Jared Burton came out of the bullpen to replace Cordero.

Burton promptly gave up an RBI double to Brett Carroll, and the Marlins took a 4-2 lead. 

It was up to Leo Nunez (gulp) to shut down the Reds in the bottom half of the ninth, and given Leo’s affinity for the home run, and considering the tiny confines of the GABP, that was no small task. 
Naturally, Nunez gave up a long ball to pinch hitter Juan Francisco to lead off the bottom of the ninth and to put the Reds within a run. But that was all for the Reds, and Leo struck out two and closed it out for his 23rd save of the season. 
Brett Carroll’s RBI double ended up being the difference in the game, and for the first time since 2006, the Fish won a game in Cincinnati

Join us in a Victory dance, won’t you??!! 

The Curse of the GABP

GABP curse.jpgThe Marlins had lost eight games in a row at the Great American Ball Park going into a four-game series against the Reds in Cincinnati.

But all that was about to change. The curse was about to be broken, and the Marlins would prove once and for all that they are able to win games in the great state of Ohio.
Er, or that’s what we were hoping for as the series began Thursday night, but Anibal Sanchez was not in complete agreement with our personal hopes and dreams. At least not in the first inning.
Sanchez Struggled* in the first, leading off the game by giving up a home run to Darnell McDonald. Next, Anibal loaded up the bases, and Jay Bruce doubled to put the Reds up 3-0 over the Marlins.
After the first inning, Sanchez settled down and pitched four scoreless innings, but the damage, as they say, was already done. 
Against Matt Maloney, who was making a spot start for the Reds, the Fish only mustered two runs on seven hits. In the fifth inning, the Marlins scored twice when Hanley singled for his 100th RBI of the season, and Dan Uggla added an RBI double. Chris Coghlan also treated fans with a 4-for-4 performance in the game, but the Marlins couldn’t add on.
Both bullpens did a nice job in the remaining four innings of the game, and shut out their respective opponents. The Hopper tossed 1 2/3 innings, and Tim Wood finished things off for the Marlins. Unfortunately, three is greater than two no matter how you do the math, and so the Fish dropped their ninth straight game at the Great American Ball Park.
The curse apparently continues.
*Although we do understand how difficult it would be to write about Anibal without the inclusion of this phrase, Sanchez Struggled is a registered trademark of HLD&S, and is not to be used without the express written consent of this blog and its affiliates. 
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