Miami Marlins

Ricky Nolasco sparks Miami Marlins’ series win over St. Louis Cardinals

The team in the Marlins Park visitors’ dugout in the series finale Sunday owns the best record in baseball. The team in the home dugout owned the visitors by playing like the best team in baseball Sunday afternoon.

The Marlins put up seven runs on St. Louis while getting seven innings of three-hit pitching from Ricky Nolasco, who gave a chunk of credit for his 80th career win to everybody else’s defense.

And when the Cardinals threatened a miracle in the ninth, closer Steve Cishek came in to strike out Matt Holliday.

So did Sunday’s 7-2 spanking of St. Louis before an announced crowd of 18,468 provide an alternate definition of “complete game.”

“It was an all-around victory,” Marlins leadoff hitter Juan Pierre said. “You like those kind of wins when everybody gets involved offensively and the pitching does what they do.”

Even before Sunday, the Marlins had been at least swinging the bat well lately. Pierre now has a 12-game hitting streak. Giancarlo Stanton’s double Sunday extended his streak to six games. Justin Ruggiano, 2 for 4 with two RBI on Sunday, has a five-gamer working. The Marlins put up 19 runs in three games on St. Louis, which went into Sunday leading the National League in team ERA.

“It’s good to see guys going up there with confidence,” Marlins manager Mike Redmond said. “You can sense it in the dugout. All of us coaches watch, and you can tell guys are going to put some at-bats together.

“It’s fun seeing guys getting excited, seeing some results, getting some hits. It’s all about confidence. Collectively as a team, we were scuffling. Guys weren’t going up to the plate with confidence; now they are.”

Nolasco said: “We’ve got some guys healthy off the [disabled list] now and having Stanton in the lineup changes everything.

“I feel like we’ve been throwing the ball well all year. We’re not asking 10, 11 runs each game, but if we score three, four, five, six runs, we should be OK.”

Also, despite having only 21 wins, the Marlins are 8-6 in their past 14 games. You point to five of those wins coming against the hapless Mets and they can point to two of three wins against St. Louis.

The Cardinals last lost a series in April, when they dropped the final two of a three-game set against Pittsburgh. Since then, an 11-0-3 series record screams of their consistency. St. Louis had not lost a three-game series to the Marlins since September 2009.

For St. Louis, Sunday meant the end of a 10-day, nine-game road trip. But, as Pierre noted, the Marlins could have come in flat Sunday, too, after Saturday’s 13-7 loss.

“That’s why you’ve got to have amnesia in this game,” Pierre said.

“It was a long, tiring, slugfest kind of game [Saturday]. We could’ve easily been like, ‘All right, we won one against the best team.’ ’’

Instead, the Marlins came out cracking, Ruggiano’s single to center field bringing in Pierre and Stanton in the first. That gave Nolasco a 2-0 lead he never relinquished. Of the first six innings, only in the third, when a Jon Jay single cut the lead to 2-1, did Nolasco allow a baserunner.

Still, Nolasco said, “When I had to throw a fastball when I needed to, I was able to do it. I just kind of made myself fall behind.”

Nolasco contributed to the expansion of the Marlins’ lead with a two-out walk in the fourth that loaded the bases for Pierre. A single to left field pushed the Marlins’ bulge to 4-1. Another two-run single, this time by Placido Polanco, pushed it to 6-1 in the fifth.

In the seventh inning, with David Freese on second, St. Louis’ bulky Matt Adams made the best contact of the day on Nolasco. The drive took Stanton to the warning track, where he went airborne to snag it. A groundout later, Nolasco’s day was done.

“That was huge,” Nolasco said. “If that’s a double, a run scores and a guy’s on second base with one out. That whole lineup is dangerous.”

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