A sensational start as Miami Marlins win big over Rockies on opening night
The offense erupted, and Jose Fernandez was superb in the Marlins’ opener
04/01/2014 12:01 AM
07/31/2014 5:15 PM
So starved for runs were Marlins pitchers a season ago that nobody would have faulted them had they stood at home plate, shaking tin cups and begging for handouts.
They lived off crumbs.
Maybe times have changed.
Before a sellout crowd of 37,116 that was announced as the largest in Marlins Park history, and on the opening night of a new season, the reconfigured lineup showed life, providing pitcher Jose Fernandez with support the likes of which Marlins pitchers seldom experienced in 2013.
The result: a 10-1 victory over the Colorado Rockies.
Fernandez did his usual thing, fanning nine to match Josh Beckett’s 2004 record for most strikeouts by a Marlins pitcher in a season opener while hanging around for only six innings.
“I was really not trying to throw 100 miles per hour,” said Fernandez, who tried to contain his adrenalin for the outing.
But it was the offense — and the bottom of the order, in particular — that showed surprising spark.
Marcell Ozuna, he who was outplayed all spring by Jake Marisnick, suddenly came to life on the first day that games counted, going 3 for 4 with a single, double and home run. And eighth hitter Adeiny Hechavarria, who had not played in a week due to a tight groin, also had three hits.
The big inning for the Marlins came in the fifth when they erupted for five runs off Rockies starter Jorge De La Rosa, with newcomer Casey McGehee driving in three with a bases-loaded double.
To put that into some context, five runs was the most scored in any one inning last season by the Marlins. The Marlins also went their first four games last season before anyone on the team drove in a run with a runner in scoring position.
But after Ozuna doubled in the fifth, Hechavarria drove him in with the first of his three base hits.
Ozuna acknowledged that he was “worried” he wouldn’t make the team after hitting just .177 this spring while Marisnick hit over .400.
“But they gave me an opportunity,” he said. “Now I need to grab it and put it in my pocket.”
Those two weren’t the only ones doing damage.
Giancarlo Stanton drove in a pair of runs, one coming on a squib single and the other on a double over the head of Rockies right fielder Michael Cuddyer. The Marlins pounded out 13 hits total.
It was more than enough for Fernandez, who coasted Monday.
Fernandez pounded the strike zone, challenging the Rockies to take their cuts. Of his 94 total pitches, 74 were strikes.
Fernandez’s grandmother, Olga, was on hand to see her grandson pitch for the first time since he was 14 and still living in Cuba.
“You did good, but you’ve got to throw a lot more strikes,” she told him afterward.
And the Rockies took their hacks, swinging early and often.
Of the 27 pitches thrown by Fernandez in the first two innings, 23 were swung at by the Rockies. He retired 10 in a row from the first to the fourth, with seven of those outs coming on strikeouts.
Catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia said the Rockies’ strategy was obvious.
“They didn’t want to get to his slider,” Saltalamacchia said. “They wanted to get to him before he got to them.”
Fernandez was unyielding until the sixth when Carlos Gonzalez crushed a solo home run to center, which the Rockies slugger stood and admired.
Fernandez, looking a bit gassed, was lifted after the sixth. But he earned the win to improve to 10-0 in is career at Marlins Park.
The 10 runs was the third-highest output by the Marlins in a season opener, two shy of 12 they hung up against the Nationals to start the 2009 season. And the victory by the Marlins was their first in a season opener since 2011.
The Marlins scored 10 or more runs only four times last season.
“It’s nice to get off to a good start on Opening Day,” said McGehee, who spent last season playing in Japan. “But the one thing I’ve learned is not to get too excited about one game. It’s a long season, and there’s going to be ups and downs. Now the trick is we’ve got to enjoy this one for a little bit.
“ But we’ve got to flush it and come tomorrow with the same focus and intensity.”