Given his workmanlike performance, it was fitting for Ricky Nolasco that he delivered a victory on Labor Day.
Though he turned in seven innings that were seldom pretty, Nolasco also took a hard shot off the leg, dropped down a bunt when the sign was given for a safety squeeze, and helped end the Marlins’ four-game losing streak with a 7-3 win Monday over the Milwaukee Brewers.
Perhaps more important for the Marlins, Nolasco has looked much better in his past couple of starts than he did before, when he was going through a stretch in which he lost six out of seven decisions.
“The last two outings have been great,” manager Ozzie Guillen said. “I’m glad to see that.”
So too, probably, are the Marlins’ decision-makers. Nolasco is under contract next season for $11.5 million, and the Marlins obviously would prefer that they receive positive results for that large sum.
On Monday, Nolasco gave up nine hits, which fits with his profile. He entered the game having given up the seventh-most hits in the National League. But seven of the Brewers’ hits were singles, and only Carlos Gomez’s homer in the second with a man on caused any real damage.
Gomez’s home run, which immediately followed a fielding error by third baseman Donnie Murphy, hit the top of the padding in left and bounced over for his 16th home run.
One inning later, Nolasco took a shot off his calf on Rickie Weeks’ come-backer up the middle. Nolasco walked around the mound for a bit, trying to shake away the pain.
“I just waited for the burning to go away,” Nolasco said. “It definitely didn’t feel good. But there was no way I was going to come out in the third inning.”
Said Guillen: “After that, he threw the ball better.”
And the Marlins came up with a big inning in the fourth off Mike Fiers, who went to Deerfield Beach High School and Nova Southeastern University. The Marlins made the most of five singles, a walk and Fiers’ own fielding miscue on Nolasco’s bunt to score five runs.
With runners at first and third, the Marlins put the safety squeeze on in an effort to manufacture a run.
“We’re going to play like that,” Guillen said. “Right now, our big boys — Carlos [Lee] and [Giancarlo] Stanton — are struggling a little bit at the plate, and we’ve got to try to figure out how to score runs.”
Nolasco’s said his immediate thought when he saw the sign was just to put down a good bunt.
“I knew the safety squeeze was on, and any time that happens, you just want to kind of deaden the ball as much as you can,” Nolasco said.
But Nolasco’s bunt was tapped straight in front of the plate, making it easily playable for Fiers. Somehow, though, the ball made it under his glove, allowing Rob Brantly to score from third.
“We just caught a break,” Nolasco said.
The Marlins scored three more runs in the inning after that, with Donovan Solano driving in one with a single and Jose Reyes plating two more with his bloop single to center.
It was a messy game, one involving six errors and four unearned runs.
Of the three runs allowed by Nolasco, only one was earned. Having just exited a shutout win over the Nationals, Nolasco has given up just one earned run over his past two outings. Over his past five starts, Nolasco is 3-1 with a 3.44 ERA.