The Marlins have said throughout their recent red-hot run that they’re going to need more than the usual suspects to carry them if they’re going to make a serious playoff push.
On Tuesday night, though, it was still pretty nice to have a pair of those big horses around. Like a pair of tag-team partners, All-Stars Giancarlo Stanton and Henderson Alvarez took turns beating up on the division-leading Washington Nationals.
Alvarez tossed seven scoreless innings, and Stanton drove in a pair of runs on a pair of big hits as the Marlins extended their season-long winning streak to six games with a 3-0 shutout in front of 22,672 at Marlins Park.
Miami, .500 for the first time since June 25, has won nine of its past 10 games and heads into Thursday’s trade deadline looking to add more pieces instead of being in seller mode.
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“Those guys are excited,” manager Mike Redmond said. “We’re relaxed. We feel like we’re in the game no matter what happens, even if we go a few innings without scoring or getting a hit. There’s a lot of confidence in there right now.”
Confidence? Excitement? That wasn’t what the Marlins’ locker room was like during last year’s 62-100 season.
But it is now.
And more help could be on the way soon. It was reported Tuesday the Marlins (53-53) are one of seven teams interested in Red Sox three-time All-Star Jon Lester. Whether its Lester or not, it’s likely Miami will still try to make a move before Thursday to add another starting pitcher.
On Tuesday night, it was their pair of young, 24-year-old All-Stars who led the way.
Stanton, hitting only .205 in July and with only 18 RBI since the start of June, ended an 0-for-11 drought at the plate with a screaming line drive down the left field line off Nationals starter Stephen Strasburg in the sixth.
He ended up getting thrown out at third base trying to stretch it into a triple, but not before Jordany Valdespin scored the go-ahead run.
“The easiest way to gain ground is head to head,” Stanton said. “If we sweep them, that’s three games. If we get two out of three, that’s only one game. We know how important [Wednesday’s series finale] will be.”
Valdespin’s run proved to be all the offense Alvarez needed in picking up his first win in seven starts against Washington (57-47).
Although Alvarez (8-5, 2.48 ERA) had a rough time finding the strike zone early, he fought his way through it.
He walked three of the first six hitters he faced — his total for his five previous starts combined — and needed 59 pitches to get through the first three innings.
His National League-leading 18th ground ball double play helped him escape the first inning, but he needed 33 pitches to get through the second. He worked out of a bases-loaded, nobody-out situation by striking out Danny Espinosa and Strasburg
“I didn’t feel very good. I was in the bullpen and I didn’t feel like I always feel before I hit the field. I wasn’t into it. For several innings I had to fight through it,” he said. “After the out with Espinosa I got a little bit of air and I started to find my groove and get control of my pitches. I started throw my strikes low in the zone and work from there.”
Casey McGehee’s glove helped too. He made an acrobatic lunging grab on a Nate McLouth tailing liner down the third base line that might have plated two or three runs had it made it by him.
“It was a big play at the moment -- probably the play of the game,” Alvarez said.
Alvarez eventually settled in and got through seven innings despite a season-high four walks. He threw 102 pitches, 64 for strikes and gave up just three hits.
In 12 starts since May 22, Alvarez has gone 6-2 with a 1.73 ERA, allowing 16 earned runs in 83 innings while holding opponents to two-or-fewer runs 12 times. The Marlins have gone 14-3 over his last 17 starts.
The Marlins had chances to grab an early lead against Strasburg, but left a runner stranded at second base four times in the first five innings.
Stanton finally broke through after Valdespin started the sixth inning with his second hit of the game.
Miami eventually tacked on two big insurance runs in the eighth. Christian Yelich delivered the first one on an RBI double to left field off Jerry Blevins. Stanton then smacked a 0-2 pitch from Aaron Barrett -- the third slider he saw in a row -- to left field for his 71st RBI of the season.
The Nationals (57-47) loaded the bases against closer Steve Cishek in the ninth. But he picked up his seventh save in the last 10 days when he struckout Anthony Rendon swinging to end the game.
“I wouldn’t say we’re peaking at the right time -- towards the end is the best time,” Stanton said. “But we’re peaking at the right time to make this push to be significant.”