Of all the surprise teams, none should surprise the baseball fans around the nation more than the 1st place Marlins. Why? A $21M payroll, which is almost half of what the next lowest payrolled team in the league maybe?
That is a start.
With tonight’s win, the Marlins were able to do something they haven’t done in three years – sweep the Nationals in DC. In their brand spanking new ball park, nonetheless, the Marlins defeated the Nationals with timely hitting, solid defense and gasp – good pitching.
The holy trinity for baseball success has seemed to allude this team at times over the past few seasons, but tonight it all came together in what is shaping up to be a very interesting season for the young ball club.
Jorge Cantu, a Devil Ray castoff, has come into camp and won the starting third base job with impressive hitting in spring training and solid defense. Tonight, he was three for four with two RBIs and helped the Marlins to their 6th win while also building his hitting streak up to 5 games now.
Sprinkle in some defense: three double plays tonight up the middle for the Marlins, the most dramatic coming in the bottom of the ninth to end the game. Solid defense for a team that showed a big dropoff last season, especially up the middle of the field. Yet it was Josh Willingham’s drop that actually saved the game tonight. In the bottom of the ninth, Nick Johnson hit a rocket to left field that would have gone over the wall if not for Willingham’s desperate attempt to snag it – the ball fell out of the Hammer’s glove, but saved a run for the Marlins.
A little pitching – Mark Hendrickson got the Marlins through 7 innings which is almost a miracle at this point considering no Marlin starter has been able to get through 7 innings so far this season. Kevin Gregg braved the ninth, even though he wasn’t sharp he got it done by inducing the double play from ex-Marlin Paul Lo Duca.
And that is how a sweep is built: Marlins show off their bats in the first two games, then show off their growing games as they fight and scrap for runs and eek out a heady win with timely defense, solid hitting and gutsy pitching.
Look out everyone. The next test will be Houston.