Marlins 7, Giants 2

Marlins find strength on the road, take series from Giants

 

Justin Ruggiano hit two home runs, and the Marlins beat the Giants to complete their first winning road trip in more than a year.

cspencer@MiamiHerald.com

There will be a victory parade awaiting the Marlins not long after they step off the plane in the early morning hours Monday from their West Coast trip.

It won’t be for them.

But considering what misery and failure they have suffered through, could anybody blame the Marlins for basking just a little in the glow being aimed at their Miami basketball brethren — the Heat — for its successful NBA title defense?

By knocking off the San Francisco Giants 7-2 on Sunday, the Marlins completed their first winning trip in more than a year, improved their June record to 11-9 and survived a 10-game gauntlet of top teams with more wins than losses.

“Great day. Great series. Great road trip,” manager Mike Redmond said after the Marlins dusted the defending World Series champions for the third time in four days.

Said Justin Ruggiano, who hit two home runs Sunday: “We’re going to go home with our heads held high.”

The Marlins haven’t done that since May 2012.

That’s the last time they had a winning road trip, and even that one was a little five-gamer. This time they won four of their seven games on a western swing in which they faced the Giants and first-place Arizona.

Nathan Eovaldi turned in six strong innings Sunday, members of the bullpen bailed out one another, and the offense came to life with three homers — two from Ruggiano and the other provided by rookie Marcell Ozuna, who also drove in another run with a double.

Redmond sensed from the outset that it would be a good day.

“In that first inning, when we got in the dugout, guys were fired up: ‘Let’s win this game!’ ” he said. “Then Ruggiano hit that home run, and I thought, ‘All right. I think we’re going to be in business today.’”

Ruggiano made Redmond look like a genius on the second pitch of the game. Redmond started the outfielder in place of Juan Pierre in the leadoff spot for the second day in a row.

Asked to explain his lineup decision by reporters just a few hours before Sunday’s game, Redmond said: “I think this guy [Giants starter Matt Cain] throws a lot of fastballs. I think Ruggiano’s a good fastball hitter. Just a feel. He’s the kind of guy, maybe he can put one in the seats.”

Ruggiano deposited Cain’s second pitch — a fastball — into the left-center-field bleachers, and the Marlins had themselves a 1-0 lead out of the starting gate. It was only Ruggiano’s third career game batting leadoff.

“I’ve been saying I’m waiting for that first pitch to jump on, just like Rickey Henderson used to do it,” Ruggiano said. “The first pitches were balls all three times. But the second pitch [Sunday] was there, and I got him. I actually put some good wood on it.”

Laughed Redmond afterward of his decision to keep Ruggiano at the top of the lineup after his 0-for-5 Saturday: “It’s Jack McKeon-esque, right?”

Ruggiano also connected on a two-run shot, his team-leading 11th home run of the season, in the ninth to put the game out of reach.

But it took a few big plays for the Marlins to fend off the Giants. After opening a 3-0 lead, the Giants cut it to 3-2 with a run in the sixth and a Hunter Pence leadoff homer in the seventh off Eovaldi.

With runners at the corners and one out in the seventh, Ryan Webb fielded a come-backer and turned a 1-6-3 double play to get out of the jam.

And in the eighth, the Marlins caught a break when what appeared to be a poor decision by right fielder Giancarlo Stanton turned out in the Marlins’ favor. With one out and a runner on first, Stanton fielded Marco Scutaro’s single and fired to third in a hopeless attempt to get the runner there.

When Scutaro saw the ball sail over the head of the cutoff man, he took off for second. Ed Lucas took Stanton’s late throw, fired down to second and gunned down Scutaro for the second out. Chad Qualls then got Buster Posey on a ground ball to end the inning.

“You can understand Scutaro being aggressive there, but that was a huge out,” Redmond said. “If he’s safe, that could have been the game.”

In April and May, when the Marlins couldn’t buy a break, it probably would have been the game.

“When you’re not playing well, you don’t get any breaks,” Redmond said. “In April, that ball might have taken a bad hop, went over [Lucas’] head and landed six rows up in the stands. But today it worked.”

The Marlins, for the first time all season, are feeling good about themselves.

“Awesome road trip,” Ruggiano said. “It’s kind of exciting to come to the ballpark. We’re having fun. That’s all I can say. We’re having fun. I don’t think we’ll see April and May again.”

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