Marlins show they have a grind game, too
MIAMI — Jeff Baker breaking up a double play at second, allowing the go-ahead run to score. Garrett Jones tracking down a foul ball in shallow right. A.J. Ramos turning to his offspeed pitch to strand the tying runner at third.
Last season, the Miami Marlins found ways to lose — 100 times in fact. They finished 24-35 in one-run games. Of those 100 defeats, 55 were by two or fewer runs.
In its first opportunity of 2014, the ballclub did the little things right for a 4-3 victory over the Colorado Rockies Tuesday night at Marlins Park, opening a season 2-0 for the first time since 2009.
"That’s just 100 percent focus and grinding out every pitch for every out of the game," Jarrod Saltalamacchia said. "Love what this team did tonight."
Jones, who went hitless on Opening Night and posted a .095 average against lefties in 2013, started the second with a single up the middle off Brett Anderson.
Saltalamacchia followed with an RBI double to left. Marcell Ozuna reached on an infield single and Adeiny Hechavarria drove in the second run with a sacrifice fly to right on a 1-2 pitch.
Right-hander Nathan Eovaldi, meanwhile, struck out six of the first 11 batters he faced and continued where ace Jose Fernandez left off. The 24-year-old cruised until a 24-pitch, two-run fourth aided by an infield pop-up.
Reed Johnson, a non-roster invitee that made the club after a strong spring, led off the sixth with a pinch-hit double. Anderson had retired nine in a row up to that point.
After Christian Yelich grounded out to short and Baker walked, Giancarlo Stanton beat out a potential double play for an RBI fielder’s choice. On a throwing error, he advanced to second then stole third.
Casey McGehee proved to be Mr. Clutch for the second straight day with the game-winning RBI single. McGehee has driven in five through seven at-bats.
Through their first two games, the Marlins are 10 for 19 (.526) with runners in scoring position. In 2013, they hit just .231.
"We need guys to take the opportunities they’re given and step up and get big hits," manager Mike Redmond said. "That’s given us a big lift over the last two days. Nice couple days, enjoy it tonight and go after it tomorrow. I think you saw that today, guys picking each other up."
Like Ramos for lefty Mike Dunn, who allowed back-to-back doubles to open the eighth inning.
Michael Cuddyer and Carlos Gonzalez trimmed the deficit to one, but Dunn bounced back for consecutive outs. Redmond then went with the righty-righty matchup.
Ramos jumped ahead 0-2 on Wilin Rosario before four straight balls. He came right after Nolan Arenado with runners at the corners, striking him out on three pitches to preserve the lead.
"You put any of us in a situation in the ‘pen and we’re all gonna get the guy out," Ramos said. "Everyone has the ability to get everyone out. It’s a good thing to be in the ‘pen ’cause if I’m not doing well I know someone’s going to come in and pick me up.
"That shows how we’re going to play. We’re going to score runs with guys in scoring position and we got some big hits. Whenever we do get the lead we’re going to hold it to the best of our ability. We’ve got guys out there that can come in after anybody and clean up a situation. It’s a good feeling, it’s reassuring and it kind of shows everyone that we’re a different team this year."
Closer Steve Cishek notched his 30th straight save dating back to last season — extending the franchise mark and the longest active streak in the majors — with a perfect frame.
If the club is to reverse its fortune, it will need contributions from a cast of characters.
"One big hit took us over the top and the pitching held," Cishek said. "It’s just a great team win. It just feels great to be on the other end of that. It hurt (last year). This year, first game, first opportunity we get to win a game by a run or two and be on the other end of it was great."