Giancarlo Stanton connected on two homers. Marcell Ozuna and Justin Bour each slugged one. And yet, despite all that wallop, it was another stalwart performance by the Marlins’ taxed bullpen that preserved a 9-6 victory over the Cardinals on Wednesday night.
On a night when the Marlins jumped out to a 7-0 lead before watching it slowly melt away, it was a weary relief corps that saved the day, working the final five innings after starter Edinson Volquez had to be pulled because of discomfort in his left knee.
“I’ve been dealing with that probably the last four weeks,” Volquez said. “Today was the day I couldn’t hold it anymore. It was really bad for me. I tried to keep pitching. We took the lead early. It’s bad when you can’t win the game like that.”
For now, Volquez said he’ll treat the knee with anti-inflammatories and hope it improves. He’s not scheduled to start again until after the All-Star break.
“It was something I guess he’s had in the past,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. “[It] flared up on him there. He couldn’t pitch the way he needed to.”
It’s possible Volquez could be placed on the 10-day disabled list, which would allow the Marlins (38-45) to call up a reliever for what is a tired bullpen for the last four games before the break.
Over the past five games, Marlins relievers have had to cover 23 2/3 of the team’s 43 innings. Their ERA over that span: a sparkling 2.28. Mattingly called on six relievers Wednesday to bail Volquez out after the Marlins’ big early lead began to vanish at Busch Stadium.
“I was feeling it the entire week,” Volquez said of his bad knee. “I got to the point where I couldn’t hold it anymore. I threw a lot of pitches in some innings. I overused my knee. That was it.”
A pair of home runs by Stanton and another by Ozuna — with the blasts leaving each with 23 on the season — nearly went to waste when Volquez allowed the Cardinals to crawl back into it. When he completed the fourth, the Cardinals (40-44) had made it 8-4 and Volquez’s night was over.
“His knee was barking on him,” Mattingly said. “Otherwise, I wouldn’t have taken him out there.”
Mattingly turned to his bullpen early, once again. During this five-game stretch, only one starter — Dan Straily — managed to make it past the fifth inning. And so the processional began with Dustin McGowan — who earned the victory to improve to 5-0 — who was followed by Jarlin Garcia, Drew Steckenrider, David Phelps, Kyle Barraclough and A.J. Ramos.
The Cardinals managed to score a pair off the pen in the sixth after Garcia walked a pair and the rookie Steckenrider was brought in with the bases loaded. He gave up a two-run double to Tommy Pham.
But the Marlins gained a bit of breathing room in the ninth when Bour belted his 19th homer and first since June 19. It was the first time that each of the Marlins’ three big sluggers — Stanton, Ozuna and Bour — homered in the same game.
Stanton said it’s almost becoming like a little contest among the three.
“One of us will hit one and then the other two [will say], well damn, we’ve got to catch up, so they’ll hit one,” Stanton said.
Asked if he felt the Marlins had the best power trio in the majors, Stanton replied: “Yeah, I think so. I don’t know the other threesomes. [But] I know a couple of duos.”