Marlins start slow, lose ground in wild card
A rookie pitcher with a bum finger and no career wins kept the Florida Marlins running in place.
Emergency starter Matt Maloney gritted it out for five innings to get his first big league victory Thursday night, leading the Cincinnati Reds to a 3-2 victory that cost the Marlins a chance to gain ground in the NL wild-card chase.
The Marlins remained 4 1/2 games behind Colorado and a game behind San Francisco, both of whom were off. They couldn't break their extended slump at Great American Ball Park, where they've dropped nine in a row.
Whenever they come to Cincinnati, things never quite add up. They fell behind 3-0 in the first inning and never made up the ground in the NL's most hitter-friendly ballpark.
"It held up," manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "You figure with the way we're swinging the bats and the ballpark, it wouldn't."
It did, and a lot of it had to do with their inability to get to Maloney (1-4), who couldn't throw all his pitches because of a sore finger. The 25-year-old rookie was forced from a game on Sept. 8 because of a blister on the middle finger of his left hand, and hasn't fully recovered.
When scheduled starter Johnny Cueto got sick on Wednesday, the Reds decided to let Maloney give it a try. Maloney avoided throwing his cut fastball because it bothered his finger, staying with the softer stuff.
"It was sore, but I was able to get through it for the most part," Maloney said. "My sinker was good. I used it a lot more than I had the last couple starts."
Afterward, Maloney collected the lineup card and four balls from the game as keepsakes.
Right-hander Anibal Sanchez (2-7) gave up a leadoff homer by Darnell McDonald in the first, then let the Reds load the bases. Jay Bruce, making his second start since returning from a broken wrist, hit an opposite-field single for a 3-0 lead. Sanchez threw 39 pitches in what turned out to be the decisive inning.
"I was just trying to hit (catcher Ronny) Paulino in the strike zone," said Sanchez, who lasted five innings. "I wanted to try to make them swing."
The Marlins wasted chances to catch up by stranding runners in scoring position in the first, second, third and fifth innings.
"Rarely do you score three in the first like that and get no more and end up winning," manager Dusty Baker said.
Chris Coghlan had four hits for the Marlins, including a pair of doubles. The outfielder leads all NL rookies with 136 hits and 41 multihit games.
Hanley Ramirez, who is trying to become the Marlins' first NL batting champion, went 1 for 4 with a run-scoring single, dropping his average a point to .356. Ramirez became the ninth Marlin to drive in 100 runs in a season and the first since Miguel Cabrera in 2007. He's the second Marlin to drive in 100 and steal 20 - Preston Wilson had 36 steals and a club-record 121 RBIs in 2000.
Dan Uggla also doubled home a run off Maloney, extending his hitting streak to a season-high nine games. Florida failed to score off four Reds relievers. Francisco Cordero pitched a perfect ninth for his 38th save in 41 chances.
The Marlins have lingered in the wild-card race by winning 10 of their last 15. They've struggled against the Reds, losing 11 of their last 14 since 2007.
The Reds sold only 9,685 tickets for the game, the second-smallest gate in Great American Ball Park's seven-year history. The smallest was 9,087 for the second game of a day-night doubleheader against Pittsburgh on Aug. 31.
Marlins CF Cody Ross went hitless, ending his hitting streak at 11 games. ... Reds OF Jonny Gomes gave Dayton Daily News writer Hal McCoy the bat he used for his 20th homer on Wednesday, the night McCoy was honored by the team for his retirement. ... Reds RHP Aaron Harang bought a souped-up golf cart as a gift to clubhouse attendants, to help them transport equipment and players around the ballpark.