Before he took a round of batting practice in front of a few thousand fans at Marlins Park on Saturday afternoon, Heat forward Shane Battier warned Marlins first-base coach Gary Thurman that he only had “singles power.”
Battier had a little more oomph on his swing than that. He drove two pitches to the warning track, then took the mound about a half hour later and fired a high heater to Logan Morrison on the ceremonial first pitch.
“It’s great to know we could unite the city,” said Battier, who along with Chris Bosh were special guests of the Marlins on Saturday in celebration of the Heat’s second NBA title.
“Hopefully, these guys can get hot here, and we can do the same thing [for them] come October.”
Giancarlo Stanton is certainly doing his best to turn the tide. Although June was a rough month (8-18), the Marlins (37-40) will turn the calendar to July on Sunday riding a three-game winning streak thanks to some timely hitting from the 22-year-old slugger and another strong, seven-inning start from veteran Mark Buehrle.
Stanton, who will probably receive his first All-Star selection Sunday, crushed a 424-foot solo home run in the first and delivered a clutch, two-out RBI single in the third Saturday to help lift the Marlins to a 3-2 victory over the Phillies in front of 31,311 at Marlins Park.
“You don’t always need to hit it 400 feet to get an RBI,” said Stanton, who now has 18 home runs (the same total before the All-Star break last season) and a team-leading 11 hits with runners in scoring position and two outs.
“I just put the bat on the ball and found the hole.”
Buehrle, who threw seven scoreless innings to help end a six-game losing streak last week, picked up his second victory in a row by scattering seven hits and giving up just two earned runs. He walked two, struck out seven and danced out of trouble in key moments — including a first-and-third situation with one out in the fourth — to improve to 7-8.
“This is a good team and they’re getting guys back, which makes it kind of scary,” said Buehrle, who picked off two runners en route to the victory. “Overall, I’ll take it every start going seven innings and giving up two runs. We scored just enough runs, and the bullpen came in and held it.”
Phillies left-hander Cole Hamels, meanwhile, fell to 10-4 after losing to the Marlins for the third time in a row this season. Hamels gave up seven hits and three earned runs while walking three.
“We’re the team he doesn’t want to face now,” Stanton said.
Justin Ruggiano delivered the game-winning RBI for the Marlins when he drove Shane Victorino to the base of the wall in center with the bases loaded in the fifth. The sacrifice fly to deep center allowed Jose Reyes, who singled and stole two bases, to score easily from third.
“Whenever Jose is on fire, he makes a lot of things happen,” Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen said. “This kid is our igniter. He gets the team going. He’s exciting to see on the bases.”
Heath Bell picked up his 16th save after another dramatic ninth. He gave up a one-out double to Carlos Ruiz but battled back to strike out Hunter Pence, who had three hits, including a solo home run.
“I just happened to throw a pitch where his bat wasn’t,” Bell said of Pence, who is hitting .500 with four homers and eight RBI in eight games against Miami this season.
“Pence is an All-Star-caliber player, and he’s one of the best hitters in the game. I was just really lucky to get him there.”
Bell then forced Victorino to bounce out to Reyes, who made a long, strong throw from short to end the game on a bang-bang play.
Saturday’s victory clinched the first series win for the Marlins since they left Philadelphia in first place on June 3. They lost seven consecutive series after that.
“It’s a lot better coming to the ballpark having the feeling you’re going to win the game,” Guillen said.
“Like I said [Saturday morning], I hope this is not a tease. I hope this is for real. So far it’s been good. That’s the type of game we’ve got to play.”