The final score smiled 1-0 in favor of the hometown Astros, which subsequently started the Marlins season off with their first loss and officially started off Joe Girardi’s managing career.
The first of many losses? That is what most of the pundits out there would have you believe.
But don’t believe it.
The Marlins are young and inexperienced, and sure, they are fielding 6 rookies in their starting lineup – a modern day baseball record.
But don’t bet against them either.
Blasting out of spring training with the best winning percentage is not enough, to be sure. Because, it doesn’t count.
Yet, it does count for something – hope.
The young Marlins played very hard today and if not for a couple of errors on the field, and a couple of mis-timed swings, who knows how this game could have turned out. Dontrelle Willis battled with Roy Oswalt in a pitching duel that called for pure guts. Like two tomcats, each pitcher matched the other blow for blow. A couple of botched defensive plays by slick-fielding, yet still green, Hanley Ramirez may have sealed Willis’ early exit.
Willis’ pitch count was getting high – 107 pitches in just 5 innings. And Girardi did something most Marlin fans SHOULD be excited about – he pulled his starter.
Why is this significant? It marks a huge paradigm shift from the McKeon days of bludgeoning players towards a more scientific approach that Girardi and his staff champion.
Some may second guess Girardi for making the switch, but the young bullpen kept the Marlins in the game following with Josh Johnson – who gave up the game’s only run, Joe Borowski (ok, not young at all…), and Carlos Martinez (who has some electric stuff out there). The pitching staff was able to keep this game close, but Oswalt was not having any of it and continued to go after the Marlins young hitters.
Still, the Marlins battled and created a few opportunities to score, but in the end it was just not good enough. They were not as fortunate as the Astros whose only score came on a slider that got away from Miguel Olivo. But they battled, and watching Jacobs, Hermida, Cabrera and Willingham at the plate made one feel that something was going to happen. You can feel that even though this team is young, they can play and they were never out of it.
They are well coached. They have loads of talent. But they got the loss. Still, there is hope – another 161 games to go. Who knows what the season holds in store for this team. Perhaps a miracle? Perhaps.