Never mind that the Marlins are playing without their top three home-run hitters because two are injured and one was traded. Or that their starting pitcher on Sunday issued six walks and termed his performance a “mess.’’ Or that of all the high-profile signings and trades made by the Marlins before the season, the under-the-radar acquisition of journeyman Justin Ruggiano during it outranks them all.
It all worked out in the end for the Marlins on Sunday.
Ruggiano’s sharp single to left in the 10th scored Jose Reyes from second to give the Marlins a 5-4 victory over the Padres and the team its first series win since July 1 when they capped off a sweep of the Phillies.
“I don’t know what we would do without him,” manager Ozzie Guillen said of Ruggiano, who had a pair of RBI singles on Sunday and raised his average to .359. “We don’t have the big boys, and he’s carrying the ballclub.”
On a day when the initial focus was on Marlins pitcher Josh Johnson, whose name is being cast about in trade rumors, it was the combination of Reyes and Ruggiano that became the scene-stealer.
Johnson did nothing to enhance his trade value as his six walks in only five innings matched his career high.
“I was just all over the place,” said Johnson, who was removed for a pinch-hitter and after throwing 95 pitches, only 53 of which were strikes. “You can’t do that. I looked up [in the fifth] and saw 90 pitches, and I was like, ‘Are you kidding me?’ ”
It surely didn’t make a good impression with the throng of scouts on hand to get one last look at him before Tuesday’s 3 p.m. trade deadline.
Johnson said he didn’t notice the scouts or concern himself with the trade speculation. Sources said the Marlins are asking for a bundle for Johnson and will not settle for anything less, preferring to hang onto him instead.
“Blocked it out,” Johnson said of the rumors. “I’m pitching for this team, so that’s all I’m worrying about.”
Despite Johnson’s poor command, the Padres managed to score only two runs off him, and one of those was unearned, the result of a Reyes’ fielding error in the fourth.
The Marlins trailed 2-0 in the sixth when they scored four runs to gain the lead. Donnie Murphy drove in two runs with a triple, and Reyes singled and stole a base in the inning. The base hit extended his hitting streak to 16 games.
Former University of Miami star Yonder Alonso tied it in the eighth with a towering, 410-foot home run to right off Marlins reliever Edward Mujica, with the ball striking the front railing on the upper deck.
Reyes was the catalyst in the deciding 10th.
With the Padres outfielders playing at “no-doubles’’ depth, Reyes flared a soft fly ball to shallow left. When Carlos Quentin charged hard but couldn’t make the catch, Reyes kept running for second.
“That’s when I got my extra gear,” said Reyes, who has had a hit in every game since the All-Star break. “[It’s] about time I show up and start to play Jose Reyes baseball. I’m just feeling good right now and feeling aggressive on the field.”
With first base open, Carlos Lee was walked intentionally to bring up Ruggiano, and Guillen said there was some discussion about whether to have him drop down a sacrifice bunt.
“All those geniuses wanted me to bunt,” Guillen said. “I’m not going to bunt with this guy hitting .390.”
Ruggiano took two hard cuts and missed before delivering the game-ending single off Padres reliever Brad Brach.
“I might have been swinging too hard on the first couple of swings,” he said.
But Ruggiano said one of the improvements he has made as a hitter enabled him to come through with Sunday’s big hit.
“I think I’ve really worked on shortening my stroke to put the ball in play a little more,” he said. “Hopefully, it translates to less strikeouts, more hits and more two-strike hits, because in the past I was overswinging on two-strike counts.”