They lost Sunday. They’re in last place. They have the worst record in the National League.
Despite all that, the Marlins are feeling downright good.
Even with Sunday’s 5-2 loss to the Nationals in 10 innings, the Marlins closed out the first half and headed into the All-Star break with a brighter outlook than they had earlier in the season.
“It was looking kind of dismal at first,” said closer Steve Cishek, who took the loss by giving up three runs in the 10th. “And then, all of a sudden, there was kind of a resurgence. We’re feeling a whole lot better.”
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The Marlins couldn’t polish off the Nationals on Sunday for a series sweep.
Denard Span doubled with two outs in the 10th to drive in the go-ahead run, and the Nationals added two more on hits by Wilson Ramos and Chad Tracy.
But the Marlins are in a much better position now than they were in May.
Since May 31, they are 22-17. By playing .500 baseball the rest of the season, they would end up a better record than last season’s high-priced unit that finished 69-93.
“By no means are we satisfied where we’re at,” said manager Mike Redmond, whose Marlins were 13-41 on May 30. “But, from the way we started those first couple of months, I’m very pleased with the effort.”
The Marlins found themselves in extra innings for the third time in six games when neither team could produce the big hit that would have negated the need for bonus baseball on the eve of the All-Star break.
The Nationals, most of all, were probably kicking themselves.
They peppered Henderson Alvarez for nine hits but had only two runs to show for it. The fourth inning, in particular, was frustrating for the Nationals, who came up with four hits in the inning but failed to score. Giancarlo Stanton threw a runner (Jayson Werth) out at second and Ian Desmond at the plate to snuff out what could have been a breakout inning for Washington.
“We made some great defensive plays early in the game to keep us in it,” Redmond said. “They could have put up a crooked number up there early in the game had we not played solid defense.”
The Marlins were not without their chances, too.
With a runner on first in the second, Derek Dietrich ripped a line shot past the bag at first and down the right-field line that first base umpire Mike Estabrook signaled fair.
But home plate umpire Alan Porter overruled the call and said the ball landed just foul. Forced to return to the plate, Dietrich struck out on the next pitch as the Marlins failed to score in the inning.
“He said it wrapped around the base and landed foul,” Redmond said of Porter’s explanation. “I know at the time, when I saw the play live, I thought that’s a break for us.”
The Marlins had nobody to blame but themselves when they came up empty again in the third. With runners at first and second and two outs, Stanton hit a sharp single to left. But third base coach Joe Espada stopped Jeff Mathis at third. Placido Polanco, who was motoring from first, didn’t see the stoppage of traffic in front of him, kept on chugging past second, and got caught in a rundown that led to the third out.
“We had a baserunning mistake in there that cost us,” Redmond said. “I think, with two outs, he [Polanco] just anticipated that Joe would have [Mathis] there. “And I think in any circumstance other than [Bryce] Harper in left field, he probably would have.”
The Marlins took a 2-1 lead in the fourth on Dietrich’s ninth home run, a two-run shot. But the Nationals tied it in the seventh when the last batter Alvarez faced, Anthony Rendon, delivered an RBI double with two outs.
The Nationals, who lost in the 10th inning Saturday, came up with three runs off Cishek in the 10th to put it away. The runs snapped Cishek’s scoreless-innings streak at 16 1/3.
“I really wanted to finish on a strong note for the first half,” Cishek said. “Sweeping the Nationals would have been great.”