Mark Buehrle doesn’t exactly resemble your typical, uh …
“Athlete?” Buehrle responded, filling in the blank with the correct answer.
Buehrle might be soft around the middle, but few big-league pitchers move around and handle the leather as well as the Marlins’ 33-year-old left-hander. On Saturday, he put his defensive skills on full display as the Marlins held on for a 5-3 victory over the Giants despite yet another ninth-inning crumble by closer Heath Bell.
He took a line drive to the gut, or “fat roll” as he put it.
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He recorded an out by going down on all fours while covering first.
He deftly snared a one-hopper back to the mound and caught Angel Pagan in a rundown between second and third for another out.
No wonder Buehrle won three Gold Glove awards as the American League’s top fielding pitcher when he was with the Chicago White Sox.
“Buehrle won the Gold Glove for a reason,” said his manager then and now, Ozzie Guillen. “I think this guy is a good athlete, even though he doesn’t look like one.”
And, oh yeah. Buehrle notched his fourth consecutive victory.
At least one of the free agent pitchers the Marlins signed over the winter is fulfilling expectations even if the other one — Bell — hasn’t so far. Buehrle held the Giants in check throughout most of his 7 1/3 innings, giving up two runs on eight scattered hits.
Giancarlo Stanton remained on a hitting tear with a pair of doubles, Logan Morrison drove in two runs, and Buehrle was all over the place in the infield as the Marlins improved to 18-7 in May, making them the hottest team in the majors this month.
They need one more win over the next four games to match the franchise record for victories in one month (19 in August of 1997) and two more to break it. But, as reliever Randy Choate pointed out after he was called upon to bail out Bell in the ninth: “I think we did pretty well in May last year, and then June came.”
What about bell?
The Marlins ended May last season with a 31-22 mark but went 5-23 in June and dropped out of the race. The Marlins are showing no signs of collapsing, but concerns remain about Bell.
One day after Bell received the hook when he ran into trouble in the ninth, he did it again Saturday. Summoned to preserve a 5-2 lead (he was entrusted with a 7-4 lead on Friday), Bell promptly gave up a leadoff single to Pagan. After Brett Pill lined out to right, Bell walked the next two batters, and the increasingly impatient manager took the ball from his hands once again, giving it to Choate this time.
“The last thing you want to do is take your closer out every day,” Guillen said. “We give him every opportunity to get out of this, and once again he can’t get it done. Right now, it’s not working. I’m going to sleep on it and see if we come up with some ideas.”
Still, Guillen sounded supportive of Bell.
“Obviously, fans have their reason to be upset,” Guillen said. “They see the same stuff we see. The difference is here we’re family. Here we’re going to protect each other like brothers. I will take the heat if something goes wrong. But, in the meantime, we’ve got to get it done. I don’t have anymore bullets to protect him.”
Choate entered with the bases loaded and one out, but got pinch-hitter Nate Schierholtz on a sacrifice fly that scored one run and whiffed Gregor Blanco to end the game. It was Choate’s first save since 2010 when he was with Tampa Bay.
The Marlins have now won five out of six from the Giants this season. The teams close out the series Sunday.