As bad as they’ve been this month, the Marlins can at least turn the calendar to July on Sunday knowing the Phillies are behind them.
Thanks to another strong start from Josh Johnson, and a few big hits from Justin Ruggiano, John Buck, Logan Morrison and Giancarlo Stanton, the Marlins put a little more distance between themselves and the last-place Phillies on Friday night with a 6-2 victory in front of 28,246 at Marlins Park.
With one day left in June, the Marlins (36-40) can now claim they’ve been able to string back-to-back wins twice this month — when they left Philadelphia (36-43) on a two-game run on June 3 tied for first place in the division, and now.
“I don’t think we’ve had back-to-back wins since spring training,” manager Ozzie Guillen said. “It seems like we’re coming around little by little. A couple days ago we started to swing the bat better. Today it seemed like everybody put a little bit together.”
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After backing their Opening Day starter with just six runs of support over his first four starts this month, the Marlins equaled that Friday by jumping all over Phillies left-hander Cliff Lee and chasing him before he could get out of the fifth.
Ruggiano, who had three hits Friday to raise his batting average to .388, and Buck, who has suddenly caught fire at the plate on this homestand, delivered the final daggers for Lee, who fell to 0-5 with a 4.13 ERA.
Ruggiano stroked a two-run double to center and Buck followed with a two-out RBI single to left, prompting Charlie Manuel to pull Lee (10 hits, six earned runs) in his shortest outing of the season.
“He rakes,” Johnson said of Ruggiano. “We were talking about it when we came in here. He just never stops hitting, plays great defense, speed. He’s got it all. He’s huge for us.”
Said Ruggiano: “I think as a team we had a really good approach tonight. We were aggressive on him and got a lot of hits.”
Johnson, meanwhile, was terrific yet again. His only mistake was leaving a fastball up to Hunter Pence to start the fourth. Pence drilled the 3-2 pitch into the seats in right to trim the Marlins lead to 3-1.
Still, it was his only mistake. Johnson (5-5, 3.80 ERA) retired the last nine hitters he faced and worked far less than he had over his first three innings when the Phillies muscled 65 pitches out of him — including 34 in the third. Johnson finished with six strikeouts, two walks and four hits allowed on 108 pitches, 69 for strikes.
Since giving up a season-high six earned runs at San Diego on May 4 to bump his ERA to 6.61, Johnson has gone 5-2 with a 2.47 ERA over his past 10 starts. His ERA in June (1.87) has been even better.
“Took a little time, but I just want to go out there and get in deep in the game for these guys,” Johnson said. “That’s the key. This month wasn’t the best pitching-wise [for the team], but somebody had to step up and try to help the bullpen a little bit.
“It’s a lot of fun [winning] especially when you get to hear [the song] Red Solo Cup after the game.”
The Marlins, who had scored just one run combined in Johnson’s previous two starts, gave him a lead almost right away. Shortstop Jose Reyes led off the first with a double to left before scoring on Morrison’s ground out to second.
String of hits
The Marlins then used four consecutive hits in the third — a one-out double to left from Hanley Ramirez and three singles to left by Stanton, Morrison and Ruggiano to make it 2-0 and load the bases. Omar Infante then drilled a 3-1 pitch deep to center that drove Shane Victorino all the way to the warning track in center to make it 3-0.
“When you jump out 1-0 and J.J. is on the mound, it’s a different ballgame,” Guillen said. “If we leave that guy on third base, it’s ‘There we go again. How are we going to play today?’ You hit first and score first, it’s a different attitude, a different thing in [our] dugout.”