The Atlanta Braves were so convinced that the Marlins were up to no good in their home ballpark that they suspected the place was rigged with spy cameras that enabled them to steal signs.
Now it’s the Los Angeles Dodgers’ turn to produce some sort of X-Files theory on why the Marlins go from Clark Kent to Superman in their home digs, materializing into beings of superhuman ability.
The Marlins on Friday won their seventh in a row at Marlins Park, handing the Dodgers and former Marlins’ World Series hero Josh Beckett a 6-3 loss to open their weekend series.
The victory left the Marlins with a home mark of 13-4, best in the majors.
Fresh off a series sweep over the mystified Braves, the Marlins put away the Dodgers behind a rock-solid start by Tom Koehler and more clutch hitting by a team that couldn’t hit a lick a season ago.
“We’ve been playing really well at home,” Koehler said. “I don’t think that’s a secret. I think everybody is pretty aware of that. I don’t know if we’re loving the ballpark as much as we’re loving wins.”
On Friday, the Dodgers were done in by an 11-hit assault that included a home run by birthday boy Jarrod Saltalamacchia, three doubles by Garrett Jones, and a couple of big, two-out RBI hits by Reed Johnson and Christian Yelich.
It was the fourth consecutive game the Marlins totaled at least 10 hits, and the 14th time this season — or nearly half of their 29 games — they’ve done so. As a team, the Marlins are hitting better than .300 at home.
The Braves suspected that Marlins hitters might have been receiving stolen signs that were being relayed to them by an inconspicuously placed camera in the outfield looking in toward the plate.
It gave the Marlins something to laugh about. When asked to explain the Marlins’ hitting success at home this season, Saltalamacchia was quick to joke: “That guy in center field that keeps relaying everything to us. The secret’s out. I think he moved seats [Friday night].”
And, oh, by the way, the win put them back above .500 with a record of 15-14 and lifted them out of the National League East cellar.
Koehler was superb, once again belying his “fifth starter” tag.
The right-hander held the Dodgers to just three hits over seven scoreless innings before being lifted for a pinch-hitter. He is now 3-2 on the season with a 2.41 ERA, which hardly qualify as fifth-starter numbers.
He encountered a bit of trouble in the first when he gave up an infield single, walked a batter and hit another. But Koehler wiggled out of it, thanks to an overturned call on Dee Gordon’s stolen-base attempt and ground ball outs by Hanley Ramirez and Andre Ethier.
From then on, Koehler was on cruise control.
Not that his counterpart, Beckett, was any slouch. Beckett, who no longer dials up his fastball as often or with as much velocity as he did in his Marlins days, remains a tough cookie, nonetheless.
Other than the homer by Saltalamacchia, his former Red Sox battery mate, and an RBI double by Jones, Beckett yielded little else until the seventh when his pitch count reached 100 and he began to tire.
It proved to be a decisive inning, though not all of it was Beckett’s doing.
After Jones opened the frame with a double, Johnson looped a single over the head of the Dodgers’ Gordon to make it a 3-0 score. It was the major-league leading fifth pinch-hit of the season for Johnson.
Jose Dominguez took over for Beckett and promptly gave up an RBI triple to Yelich, hit Derek Dietrich with a pitch and yielded back-to-back RBI singles by Giancarlo Stanton and Casey McGehee.
The Dodgers did all their scoring late off the Marlins bullpen, producing a pair of runs off Carlos Marmol in the eighth and adding another in the ninth off Steve Cishek.