With top prospect Andrew Heaney waiting in the wings for a big league call-up, there is no telling how much longer Randy Wolf will have a spot in the Marlins rotation.
On Monday night, at least, the 37-year-old left-hander accomplished something only one other Marlins starter had done since 2011 — he beat the Tampa Bay Rays.
Using a slow-moving slider, a changeup and a fastball that never eclipsed 89 mph, Wolf dazzled the Rays for six innings, striking out seven and giving up only one run on three hits to lead the home team to a 3-1 victory in front of 18,155 at Marlins Park.
“Randy was great,” manager Mike Redmond said. “You saw a veteran go out there and control the strike zone, change speeds, mix and match. He was able to throw all his pitches for strikes, keep them off balance. It was a tremendous effort — exactly what we needed.”
Coming off a rough start in which he gave up six runs in five innings, Wolf bounced back and became the oldest Marlins starting pitcher to win a game since 39-year-old Al Leiter won his final game in teal on June 19, 2005.
“It's been a long crazy road, especially recently,” said Wolf, who missed all of the 2013 season after undergoing his second career Tommy John surgery. “Having an unknown future, you are kind of counted out because of your age and it being the second [surgery]. But it was a gratifying feeling to work hard and come back and have the win.”
The Marlins (29-28) scored all three runs off Rays starter Alex Cobb in the first inning, and rode Wolf and the bullpen from there after Cobb settled in. Before Monday, the Marlins had lost 10 of their last 13 games against Tampa (23-35), including five in a row. Cobb was 2-0 with a 0.68 ERA against the Marlins.
But Casey McGehee put the Marlins in front 2-0 with a bases-loaded single to center four batters in. Giancarlo Stanton then scored when Garrett Jones bounced into a double play moments later.
The 35th and 36th RBI of the season for McGehee are the most by a National League third basemen this season. More important, he said, it kept him on pace with his wife Sarah, who drove in a couple runs earlier in the afternoon when she helped lead the Marlins’ wives to a 10-9 win over the Rays’ wives in the teams’ annual softball game.
“It was funny we had about the same night,” McGehee said. “She used the middle of the field, two RBI. It was cool to have a little change in the routine, I guess. We had fun. It was fun to watch them.”
It was also fun for McGehee to watch Wolf, his former teammate with the Brewers “pitch like the Randy I remember.”
Wolf struck out five of the first nine hitters he faced and retired 10 in a row to start the game. Yunel Escobar broke up his perfect start with a single to right field — a grounder just out of the reach of second baseman Ed Lucas.
After surrendering his only walk to open the fifth inning, Wolf paid the price when Desmond Jennings hit a line-drive double down the left-field line, scoring Sean Rodriguez easily from first base. It was the only mistake Wolf really made.
Wolf exited after only 86 pitches. He said his legs were tired, and he was honest with pitching coach Chuck Hernandez about how he felt.
“It's kind of different when you're not really in a routine,” Wolf said. “I think I went five [innings] last time out and I hadn't pitched in what, seven, eight days. So when I get in a routine and hopefully get to pitch every five days hopefully I bounce back better and the stamina gets better.”
The bullpen didn’t let Wolf down. Chris Hatcher used a double play to get out of trouble in the seventh. Then, after Mike Dunn gave up a pair of one-out singles in the eighth, A.J. Ramos came in and retired Escobar on a line drive to left and Evan Longoria on a grounder to second.
Left fielder Christian Yelich made a dandy defensive play to catch Escobar's sinking line drive after he appeared to lose it for a second in the lights.
Closer Steve Cishek, who took Sunday's loss in a three-game sweep to the first-place Braves, pitched the ninth and picked up his 12th save of the season.
But the story was Wolf.
“This is part of the reason we brought him in, to see how much he has left,” Redmond said. “And I think you saw that this guy can still pitch.’’