Ozzie Guillen was quick to point out Wednesday that his team won’t be getting any rings for what it did this month.
But when it’s all said and done, what the Marlins did in May could be a big reason why they get to play for a ring come October.
After a miserable 8-14 start in April, the Marlins put the finishing touches on their finest regular season month in club history Wednesday night by sweeping the first-place Nationals with a 5-3 victory at Marlins Park.
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“Things are finally coming together as they should,” said Giancarlo Stanton, who was once again at the forefront of the Marlins’ 20th-come-from-behind win this season with a solo home run and an RBI single.
“It’s long overdue. It’s games and series like these that we can finally show how good we are.”
The Marlins 21st win in May ended with a roar on the mound from Heath Bell and even bigger one from the crowd of 24,224.
Although the Nationals (29-21) put the tying runs on base with two outs in the ninth, Bell closed out the ninth by freezing Rick Ankiel with a 95 mph fastball on the outside corner to end the game. It was Bell’s 10th save in 14 chances and third in a row.
But it all started with Josh Johnson. He tossed six quality innings, and drove in the tying run with a two-out single off Chien-Ming Wang in the fourth, as the Marlins (29-22) moved to within a half-game of first place in the National League East.
“I know my [4-year-old] son [Cash] is going to be pumped,” said Johnson, who dirtied his uniform trying to slide back into second base after a Jose Reyes single in the fourth that extend Reyes’ hitting streak to 11 games.
“That’s all he asks about — hitting and sliding and trying to steal a base. He’ll love it.”
With Johnson giving up leadoff hits in each of his first four innings of work, the Nationals (29-21) jumped out to a 3-1 lead.
Roger Bernadina and Danny Espinosa were responsible for all of those runs. Espinosa tripled and scored in the second on Bernadina’s sacrifice fly to center. In the fourth, Espinosa singled home Adam LaRoche before scoring on Bernadina’s RBI double.
But the Marlins responded quickly. Wang, who went just four innings, gave up a pair of leadoff walks and then a sacrifice fly to Chris Coghlan before Johnson smacked a 1-0 pitch to left field with two outs, allowing Bryan Petersen to score from third. The hit was Johnson’s first this season and his second RBI.
The Marlins then took the lead an inning later when Hanley Ramirez, hitting .444 (24 for 54) over his last 14 home games, doubled and later scored the go-ahead run on John Buck’s infield single to third with the bases loaded in the fifth.
Johnson is now 3-3 with 4.84 ERA this season after giving up seven hits and three earned runs with a walk and five strikeouts Wednesday.
Marlins starters went 15-7 with a combined 3.53 ERA in May.
It was also a memorable month for the 22-year-old Stanton.
He drove in the Marlins first run with a line drive single to in the first and the last with his 12th home run this month, a 413-foot solo blast to left in the seventh.
The home run matched Dan Uggla (May 2008) for the club record in long balls in a month and the two RBI gave Stanton 30 this month, tying Miguel Cabrera for the most in team history for May (2006).
According to Elias, only three other players under the age of 23 hit that many homers and drove in that many RBI in a calendar month since the expansion era began in 1961 — Johnny Bench (July 1970, 11 homers, 36 RBI), Bob Horner (July 1980, 14 and 32) and Adam Dunn (August 2001, 12 and 27).