The Marlins began the week with a team in free fall, a managerial change under consideration and a season that looked dangerously close to derailing in April.
They ended it Sunday with a bunch of hits and hugs, a festival of triples, a five-game winning streak, a shortstop and right fielder on major rolls and a growing belief that this team could be a real factor, after all.
Sunday’s 6-2 win against the Washington Nationals completed a three-game sweep, drew the Marlins within three games of .500 at 8-11, and left them brimming with confidence as the division-leading Mets come to town for a three-game series beginning Monday.
“To mesh as a team is good to see,” Giancarlo Stanton said. “We knew it was there. It just took longer than expected.”
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In front of 21,433 at Marlins Park, Miami extended its win streak Sunday with a fifth consecutive strong showing by a starting pitcher (Dan Haren, in this case), and with Adeiny Hechavarria, Stanton and Dee Gordon continuing to sizzle at the plate.
Hechavarria smacked a two-out, three-run triple in the fourth inning, putting the Marlins ahead for good, 3-1, and pulling into a momentary tie with two others (including Stanton) for second in the National League in RBI.
“He’s just getting better and better,” manager Mike Redmond said of Hechavarria, who was 2 for 4 on Sunday and 23 for his last 50.
An inning later, Stanton broke that RBI tie with Hechavarria by blasting a triple to the deepest part of the ballpark, 424 feet away from home plate, scoring Martin Prado. According to ESPN, it would have been a home run in every MLB stadium except Marlins Park and Detroit’s Comerica Park.
Gordon, who entered the day tied with Adam Jones for the most hits in baseball with 28, had four more Sunday, all singles and one of those on a bunt. “He’s a sparkplug; he’s been all year,” Stanton said.
And Haren gave the Marlins five competent innings, allowing two runs on three hits.
“It’s tough to sweep a team as good as the Nationals,” Haren said.
Haren has relinquished only 14 hits in four starts this season, but six of them have been home runs, including Bryce Harper’s blast that put the Nationals ahead 1-0 to open the second.
Marlins relievers Sam Dyson, A.J. Ramos and Steve Cishek finished the job with four scoreless innings.
The Marlins banged out 14 hits Sunday, including triples by Hechavarria (10th of his career), Stanton (his ninth) and catcher J.T. Realmuto (second). The three triples were the most by the Marlins in a game since June of 2000 at Philadelphia and one short of a team record.
But the Marlins needed a defensive gaffe by Washington to get jump-started Sunday.
With Stanton on second and Marcell Ozuna on first and two outs in the fourth, Ichiro Suzuki beat out an infield single. But Stanton took too big a turn rounding third, becoming ensnared in a rundown that seemed certain to end the inning.
But as Stanton retreated to third, Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos tried to chase him instead of throwing the ball to third baseman Yunel Escobar. Stanton slid/crawled back safely to third, and Hechavarria followed with a bases-clearing triple to right-center.
“I shouldn’t have been in that situation,” Stanton said of the rundown. “Luckily, I was able to get out of it.”
Hechavarria became the first Marlin to have at least three RBI in consecutive games since Jeff Mathis in late June and early July of 2013.
After the Nationals closed to within 3-2 in the fifth on Denard Span’s RBI single, the Marlins responded with two in the bottom half, the first on Stanton’s RBI triple and the second on Marcell Ozuna’s sacrifice fly.
Stanton had just six hits in 30 at-bats (.200) in the Marlins’ first nine games. Over his past 10, he’s 13 for 39 (.333), with five homers, three doubles, a triple and 10 RBI.
Stanton cracked that spacious Marlins Park is “like the Everglades,” but he now knows where to get a triple if he needs to hit for the cycle.
In the Marlins’ two wins against the Phillies and three against the Nationals over these past five days, they have outscored their opponents 32-6 and are now plus-seven in run differential this season.
And now come the Mets, who recently won four in a row against Miami. “When we play relaxed and loose and confident, we’re as good as anybody,” Redmond said.