The Marlins can’t jump into a time-traveling DeLorean and rewrite the mess that was the first two months of this season.
But maybe Tuesday night’s 5-2 win over the Cubs was the start of a better stretch ahead.
Playing on “Back To The Future Night,” the Marlins (21-32) used six strong innings from Brad Hand and Marcell Ozuna's two-out, bases-clearing double in the fifth to put an end to a two-game slide and improve to 5-9 under new manager Dan Jennings.
It all turned on Ozuna’s hit.
With the Marlins about to blow a bases-loaded, no-out situation, the 24-year-old center fielder jumped on the first offering from Cubs starter Kyle Hendricks and drilled it into the right-center field gap, turning a 2-1 deficit into a 4-2 lead.
“If we don’t come out of that one scoring any runs that puts a damper on the whole atmosphere, and we know we didn’t get the job done,” said Giancarlo Stanton, who struck out moments before Justin Bour popped out to shortstop, bringing Ozuna into a pressure-packed situation.
“He really picked up me and [Justin] Bour right there. That’s the turning point in the game.”
For Ozuna, who has hardly been the power hitter and RBI machine he was a year ago, it was only his second extra base-hit since he hit his last home run — and third of the season — on May 11 at the Dodgers. The RBI were numbers 16, 17 and 18. On June 2 of last year, Ozuna already had 10 homers and 35 RBI.
For the Marlins, it was also just the second extra-base hit with the bases loaded this season. Miami came in hitting .222 with the bases loaded, eighth-worst in baseball.
“The old saying is two-out hits get you to heaven — well, Ozo’s earning the spot,” Jennings said of the Marlins, who scored all of their runs with two-out hits.
Stanton came back in the seventh and belted his 16th home run of the season, a 409-foot solo blast to right-center field off reliever Zac Rosscup.
Then, in the ninth, Stanton provided closer A.J. Ramos with a big lift on defense. After a one-out hit by Chris Coghlan looked like at the very least it was going to load the bases, Stanton alertly fired a throw to second base to get rookie Addison Russell, who overran second base and slipped. Shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria applied the tag for a big second out.
“Part of the learning curve is not carrying your at-bats into the field and these guys are showing that ability,” Jennings said. “That’s how you win those games.”
Ramos then earned his fifth save by striking out Miguel Montero to end the game.
But the day started with Hand, who once again provided a quality start after being yanked from his long relief role last week to help an ailing rotation. Outside of a pair of two-out RBI doubles to Anthony Rizzo and Junior Lake in the third inning, he got out of trouble against the Cubs (27-23) when he needed to and picked up his first win since last Sept. 7.
“I just think the kid is making tremendous progress in this starting role,” Jennings said. “Ozo has the big hit and we go out in the sixth, they get a double and Brad retires the next three guys, set the tone right away. I think he retired 10 of the last 11 hitters.”
Hand, who pitched five scoreless innings last week in Pittsburgh, but didn’t get the win because the bullpen blew a 2-0 lead, is now 5-18 in 33 career starts for the Marlins. His leadoff single to left in the fifth inning Tuesday sparked the Marlins’ rally.
“I was pretty nervous when Stanton was hitting and I was on third,” said Hand, now 4 for 54 at the plate in his career. “The whole time I’m thinking ‘What I’m going to do if the ball comes at me ‘cause it can kill you?’
“Just glad we got the win.”
▪ The Marlins marketed Tuesday’s game as an opportunity to #RewriteTheFuture — a cute play on the 1989 film Back To The Future II, which predicted the Cubs had swept a team from Miami in the 2015 World Series.That was of course before the Marlins existed or were put in the National League alongside the North Siders from Chicago.