Chris Volstad hadn’t added a victory to his pitching resume since the end of April. The Marlins hadn’t gained ground on first-place Philadelphia since the end of May.
As June was approaching its end on Saturday, both long droughts were finally snuffed out as Volstad and the Marlins prevailed in a 4-2 win over the Mariners at Safeco Field.
“That’s a good team right there,” Volstad said. “Hopefully we can start going a little bit.”
It was only the third victory -- against a franchise-record 21 losses -- this month for the Marlins. But it put them in position to capture their first series in what seemed like an eternity with a victory on Sunday in the finale.
Volstad not only delivered his first win since April 26, his first “W” after 10 straight failed attempts, but also contributed with his bat. His RBI single with two outs in the sixth gave the Marlins a little extra cushion.
Serving once again as the designated “home” team due to a scheduling conflict with a U2 concert in South Florida, the Marlins struck early against Jason Vargas, scoring three runs in the first.
After the Marlins loaded the bases on consecutive singles by Emilio Bonifacio, Omar Infante and Gaby Sanchez, Hanley Ramirez bounced a double over the wall in right-center to drive in two runs. A sacrifice fly to deep center by Mike Stanton made it 3-0. Those runs were all Volstad needed to come out with his first road win since last Sept. 25 in Milwaukee. Despite the long stretch without a win, Volstad has now pitched fairly well in four of his past five outings. Toss out his 8-run outing in Philadelphia on June 14 and Volstad has given up nine earned runs in the other four games for a 2.96 ERA.
“He pitched real well,” said manager Jack McKeon of Volstad (3-7). “He got in a little trouble in the seventh inning. But, up until that time, he was pretty spectacular."
For the reeling Marlins, the win allowed them to gain a game on the Phillies for the first time since May 31. They are now 13 ½ games behind Philadelphia after being just one game back on May 26 after capping off a sweep of the Giants in San Francisco.
Ramirez walked and had two hits to raise his average to .218, the highest it’s been since May 22 when it stood at .219. And he’s gone 7 for 16 since McKeon put him into the cleanup spot.
“Hanley continues to play extremely well,” McKeon said.
The four hitters at the top of the order for the Marlins combined for six of the team’s nine hits, eight of them off Vargas, who was drafted by the Marlins and began his major league career with them.
Volstad retired the first nine batters he faced before Ichiro Suzuki reached on a Wes Helms error at third, and didn’t allow a hit until Carlos Peguero hit a two-out homer in the fifth.
The Mariners came up with another run in the seventh off Volstad.
“He challenged guys tonight,” McKeon said. “He went right after them tonight. That’s the way I want him to pitch.”
Relievers Randy Choate, Edward Mujica and Leo Nunez preserved the win. The save was the 21st for Nunez, who retired the side in order in the ninth.
“Nunez blew them away in the ninth, which was nice to see,” McKeon said. “He didn’t mess around, fool around. He went right after them.”
The game was completed in 2:08, making it the quickest of the season by 10 minutes.