It literally started with a bang. Hanley Ramirez blasted a home run to give the Fish the kind of start they needed to snap their now 5 game losing streak. It was also just the sort of thing Hanley needed to get something going this month after a dismal July.
What nestled in between was a pitcher’s duel. Josh Johnson did his best to continue his audition for the Cy Young but was gassed after 8 innings of humid baseball. The clouds were not the only danger gathering in this game, however.
Closer Leo Nunez pounced out for the ninth inning. Yet lately, Nunez has been anything but a stable closer, blowing a 4-2 lead against Philadelphia and now coming in with a paper thin lead of 3-2 while facing one of the better offenses in baseball. Due up was Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday and Nunez has been anything but the picture of confidence at the end of games. Sure enough, the lead vaporized and the Marlins, once again, were facing another blown lead by their closer which was also another effort to plug a hole in a losing streak.
It was simply a prequel to heroics.
Dan Uggla shot out of the bottom of the 9th to tie up the game with a blast of a home run that screeched the blue seats while nearly hugging the foul pole in left field.
Then in the 10th, newly acquired Chad Tracy came to the plate and took a first pitch and redirected it into right field for a hit. Which set the stage for Hanley Ramirez to come to the plate and end the game with a walk off single.
This is a great win for the Marlins, obviously. More importantly, we see some big contributions from the franchise player which he desperately needed to be a part of. Maybe this will get Hanley rolling. Maybe it will get the Marlins rolling, too. One thing for certain is the Marlins won’t matter much if Hanley doesn’t matter. He is the face of this franchise and has the ability to play at a level to meet any opponent’s super star. They will wrap up their series today with the Cardinals and move on for three against the “Natinals” and another three against another powerful offense in Joey Votto and the Reds.
Another interesting thing to take notice of is what decision the Marlins will make going forward about their closer role. It would be wise to give Hensley the role as closer and slide Nunez into a spot he will be more comfortable – set up. Yet, it is just as hard to ignore Nunez’s 26 saves as it is his two most recent meltdowns. Closets have to be the picture of confidence at the end of games and historically, the Marlins have always found their guy. Bryan Harvey, Rob Nenn, Ugueth Urbina, even Trevor Hoffman got his start here. The last few years have seen the Fish churn out a new closer seemingly every year, but with success. Leo Nunez was brought in to be that guy groomed for the position. He just doesn’t look the part on certain nights were he has more jitters than a crackhead on Red Bull. Sweats more than a you know what in a church. But I digress. Hasn’t Clay Hensley earned the right to get a shot at closing? And are the guys in that locker room really going to feel confident when Nunez is rolled back out there again to close a game? The bullpen is already thin. Stay tuned.