It was only appropriate that on a night when a small fire erupted in the upper deck at Dodger Stadium, the Marlins used the baseball equivalent of a bucket brigade to douse the Dodgers.
Led by Brian Sanches, the Marlins used a patchwork collection of five relievers to pitch their way past the Dodgers in a smoky, 6-1 victory. The processional of relievers was the result of an injury to Josh Johnson that left the staff with only four starters.
“I feel J.J.’s probably better suited than I am,” Sanches said, joking.
Rather than call up a starter from its thin minor league ranks, the Marlins decided instead to lean on its bullpen. Sanches, who appeared in his 167th major league game but first as a starter, lasted three innings before sending the ball on its way to relievers Edward Mujica, Burke Badenhop, Mike Dunn and Steve Cishek.
That combination held the Dodgers to five hits.
“You can’t draw it up any better than that,” said center fielder Chris Coghlan, who had three of the Marlins’ 14 hits. “You put the whole bullpen out there, stretch every single person, and give up only one run.”
The win gave the Marlins a 4-1 record on their road trip and left them with a chance to take the series with a victory on Sunday.
Though he started and was on the mound the longest of any of the Marlins pitchers, Sanches did not pitch the requisite five innings needed to earn the win. That honor fell instead to Mujica, who worked the fourth and fifth before departing.
Mujica’s (5-2) leads the Marlins pitching staff in wins. “I want some more, why not?” Mujica said.
It was during the fifth that a small fire erupted and forced some fans in the upper deck to be evacuated and moved to other sections. Smoke from the fire hovered over the field but did not cause play to be interrupted.
“I could smell that smoke and I was, like, ‘Gosh, that ain’t no hot dog stand,’” Coghlan said. “Then I saw this huge puff and I didn’t know what happened. This place is on fire and we’re still playing. I thought it was like the movies. They’re, like, ‘Attention everybody, the place is on fire. Please do not panic. We have it under control. I thought everybody was just going to bum-rush leave.” Said manager Edwin Rodriguez: “I smelled that for six innings.”
Greg Dobbs drove in a pair of runs on three hits, Wes Helms snuck a double over the first base bag to drive in two more, and the Marlins pounded out 13 hits in all to put away the Dodgers.
Dobbs, who drove in both Marlins runs in Friday’s 3-2 defeat, is now third on the club with 22 RBI.
The Marlins were clinging to a 3-1 lead in the sixth when Helms hit a ball off the end of his bat that bounced over the bag at first for a double and scored two runs, making it 5-1.
The Marlins had five doubles and at least one hit in every inning.
But it was their cast of relievers who won the day.
Sanches gave up the Dodgers’ only run after walking pitcher Hiroki Kuroda to start the third. But he got the ball rolling, so to speak, for the rest of the pitchers.
“Brian Sanches set the tone for the game,” Rodriguez said.
Sanches worked out of the stretch all three innings.
“I haven’t thrown out of the windup since my starting days in 2003,” said Sanches, who threw 58 pitches. “I started getting a little tired.
After Mujica worked the two middle innings, Badenhop came on to pitch the sixth and seventh. Dunn pitched the eighth and Cishek closed out the win by working a scoreless ninth.
“Team win,” Sanches said. “It took everybody.”
Having used so many of their relievers on Saturday, the Marlins will be counting on Ricky Nolasco to pitch deep into Sunday’s game. The only relievers who weren’t used Saturday were Leo Nunez, Ryan Webb, Clay Hensley and Randy Choate.