Marlins 6, Dodgers 1
Even though he didn't pitch long enough to quality for the victory, Brian Sanches couldn't have been any happier on a night when the Florida Marlins got a terrific performance from their bullpen.
Greg Dobbs and pinch-hitter Wes Helms each drove in two runs, Gaby Sanchez doubled twice and scored twice, and the Marlins used a bullpen-by-committee to beat the Los Angeles Dodgers 6-1 on Saturday night.
With Marlins ace Josh Johnson on the disabled list because of shoulder inflammation, Sanches made his first major league start in the same ballpark where he made his big league debut with Philadelphia on June 1, 2006.
''It was almost to the date when I made my debut here in this stadium, so it was a cool coincidence,'' Sanches said with a grin. ''My wife was here to watch, and it was a trip that we had randomly picked - because obviously we didn't know that this would be happening. She missed my debut in '06, but she got to see this. So it was pretty exciting. It was a team win.''
In the middle of the fifth, smoke started billowing toward the field from behind the upper-deck seats on the first-base side, the result of a small fire in a contained storage area. The entire area was evacuated, and fans climbed the steps to the top of the ballpark to get themselves relocated.
The Los Angeles Fire Department was quickly on the scene, contained the fire and had everything under control. Public address announcer Eric Smith informed the crowd of 29,971 of the situation, adding that it wasn't necessary to evacuate the entire stadium.
Sanches threw 58 pitches over three innings, allowing a run and three hits before he was lifted for a pinch-hitter with a 3-1 lead. He was 12-6 with a 3.21 ERA in 166 relief appearances with the Phillies, Nationals and Marlins.
Sanches' previous start in professional ball was in 2007 with the Phillies' Triple-A Ottawa club. His longest relief outing in the majors was on April 3, when he pitched four hitless innings against the visiting New York Mets.
''It was a good feeling, but I tried not to make it any more than what it was,'' the 32-year-old right-hander said. ''I just tried to make it like it was a normal relief appearance, only that it was in the first inning. I haven't thrown out of the windup since my starting days - and the last time I started regularly was 2003.''
Sanches was the most logical choice manager Edwin Rodriguez had, primarily because he was coming off a three-inning scoreless stint in the game Jay Buente started - and his pitch count was more built up than those of Edward Mujica and Burke Badenhop.
''Winning 6-1 on a bullpen day, you have to feel good,'' manager Edwin Rodriguez said. ''Brian Sanches set the tone for the pitching. We were planning to use those guys the way we did. But it was up to them to perform and execute out there.
''We were trying to mix and match with who was coming up, and it worked out fine. After we announced that J.J. was down, all the starters started stepping up - and now the bullpen did today. That's what good teams do. Everybody is doing the job.''
Mujica (5-2), the second of five Marlins pitchers, allowed one hit over two scoreless innings and struck out four to get the victory. The right-hander had made 16 previous appearances against the Dodgers, all in relief, giving up 16 earned runs, 18 hits, five homers and six walks in 18 innings.
Badenhop pitched two innings, and Mike Dunn and Steve Cishek each worked one to complete the Marlins' combined six-hitter.
''A team can be effective sometimes like that, throwing five guys out there like that,'' Dodgers third baseman Casey Blake said. ''If you can see the starter two or three times, that certainly helps. So it's a little bit of a challenge, I guess, but you can't use that as an excuse.''
Hiroki Kuroda (5-5) pitched 5 1-3 innings and allowed five runs on 10 hits, tying season highs in both departments.
Matt Kemp, who took a called third strike in the first after a two-out double by Andre Ethier, drove in the Dodgers' run in the third when he grounded an 0-2 pitch just inside third base for an RBI double. The Dodgers are 3-20 when scoring fewer than three runs.
''The last few years over here, we've gone through times like this, and it kind of leaves you scratching your head,'' Blake said. ''I think that when a team is kind of in a funk, guys try to press a little bit and try a little too hard to pick up their team. We just need to realize that we need to let the game come to us and try not to do too much and just let it happen. It's all about getting guys on, coming up with big hits and putting innings together.''
Sanchez doubled again leading off the fourth and scored on Infante's two-out single, giving the Marlins a 3-1 lead. They made it 5-1 in the sixth, when Helms batted for Mujica and drove in two more with a double to right-center. Both of those runs were charged to Kuroda.
Dobbs singled home another run in the seventh, giving him six hits and four RBIs in eight at-bats during the first two games of this three-game series.
Notes: The Dodgers, who have drawn at least 3 million in home attendance every year following the strike-shortened 1994 and 1995 seasons, will reach the one-million mark Sunday on their 27th home date. That's the longest it's taken them since 2003, when they needed 30 games to do it. ... Helms has a league-leading 73 pinch-hits since the start of the 2005 season. His 53 hits and 38 RBIs as a pinch-hitter are Marlins club records. ... Morrison singled in the ninth inning, and has reached base either on a hit or a walk in all 29 of his games this season - the longest current streak in the majors. He had a 42-game streak last year as a rookie.