May 20, 2013

Ricky Nolasco finally gets run support as Marlins edge Diamondbacks

Ricky Nolasco struck out 11, and the Marlins snapped a season-high, seven-game losing streak despite managing only two runs.

Tony Perez touched the Marlins’ bats before Sunday’s game, hoping to awaken the lumber from the dead and produce some good karma. Guess what? It worked.

Well, it worked just enough.

The Marlins erupted for two runs in Sunday’s sixth inning and held on for a 2-1 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Two runs for the lowest-scoring team in the majors is a ton.

Why, the Marlins had gone a full week without scoring as many as two whole runs in an inning, a 70-inning stretch of either zeros or ones, and far more of the former than the latter.

But rookie Marcell Ozuna ended the drought with his two-run double off Arizona’s Wade Miley, and it was if the skies had opened (though the Marlins Park roof was closed).

The two-spot was barely enough, as the Diamondbacks broke through for a run in the ninth and had the bases loaded when A.J. Pollack grounded a 3-2 pitch to short for the final out.

Thus ended a seven-game losing streak and prevented the Marlins from being swept in a three-game series for the sixth time. And the season hasn’t even hit June yet.

“If he touched it, touch it again,” Ozuna said of Perez’s bat intervention.

Ricky Nolasco would surely second it. Saddled with the second-lowest run support of any starter in the majors — 105th of the 106 pitchers in that category — Nolasco must have felt like he died and gone to heaven when the Marlins scored a pair of runs for him in the sixth.

He hasn’t received much of any help whatsoever this season.

But the mini-outburst seemed to embolden him. Nolasco, who was coming off a poor outing in his previous start, gave up a pair of hits in the first inning and one more in both the second and third.

He was unhittable from the fourth inning until the ninth, though, retiring 14 in a row at one point before giving up a leadoff double in the ninth to Didi Gregorious.

From the fifth through the eighth inning — each a 1-2-3 inning — he struck out seven of the 12 batters he faced.

“I felt good, had good command of all my pitches,” Nolasco said. “The curveball was really good [Sunday], so that helped a lot. I was able to spin it pretty much whenever I wanted to. [Catcher Jeff] Mathis did a good job of realizing that, and we used it very well.”

Nolasco was closing in on a complete game when he took the mound in the ninth, but after giving up the double to Gregorious, manager Mike Redmond gave the ball to Steve Cishek to close out the win.

Cishek couldn’t do it. After giving up a run on a Jason Kubel sacrifice fly, followed by an Eric Chavez single and Martin Prado walk, Redmond decided that was enough and brought in Mike Dunn to face left-hander Miguel Montero.

“At that point, we’re trying to win the game and just mix and match, trying to get that final out,” Redmond said.

But Montero walked to load the bases, and Dunn went to a full count on Pollock before inducing the game-ending grounder.

“Had to make it a little interesting,” said Dunn, who notched his second career save.

“My job was to go in and get Montero, and I walked him. Got [Pollock] instead. Got him to roll it over to shortstop.”

Nolasco finished with 11 strikeouts, his most since May 6, 2011, and earned the win to improve to 3-5.

“Bend — don’t break — so that’s all that matters,” Nolasco said.

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