The Marlins figured out a simple key to beating the Phillies here last night: Don’t make it a one-run game.
Considering Philadelphia’s dazzling 14-3 record in close ones it seemed a wise strategy. Thanks to solo homers by Marcell Ozuna and Justin Bour, sacrifice flies by Martin Prado and Derek Dietrich and Christian Yelich’s RBI double they built themselves a four-run lead by the seventh inning that by all rights probably could have been more.
Turns out they needed almost all of it, as the pesky Phillies — a team most figured to lose 90 or more games this season — managed to get the tying run to the plate four times, before A.J. Ramos finally caught Carlos Ruiz looking to finish off a 5-3 win. Prior to that Mikael Franco’s drive to center runners on the corner was hauled in by Ozuna just in front of the centerfield fence. A month from now, when the weather is presumably warmer here, that ball likely carries to the seats.
“I hold my breath on every ball,’ said a relieved Don Mattingly, whose 21-17 club made it three straight on this trip after dropping the first two in Washington. “But I thought that one was a little too high.
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“But it was one of those games where we scored enough but had a chance to put more runs up. So I’m holding my breath that inning, especially when the first couple of guys get on.”
However, Ramos — working for the third straight day — was able to gather himself enough to get the next three hitters to record his 12th save on behalf of Adam Conley. That allowed the Marlins to pull within two games of the idle first-place Nationals.
And while it’s only mid-May, at least one of them is already paying attention to the standings, “It’s important because we’re closer today to the Nats,” said Ozuna, who extended his hitting streak to a career-high tying 16 straight with a no-doubt-about-it second-inning blast off loser Jerad Eickhoff to make it 1-0. “We have to keep winning to be in first place — to win in our division.”
Certainly getting this kind of effort from Conley, who bounced back from a loss to the Brewers by holding the 22-17 Phils in check with eight hits through six innings.
“Conley was good tonight,” said Mattingly, whose team got two doubles apiece from Adeiny Hechavarria and Yelich, with Hechavarria chipping in another single. “It looked like he had more finish on the ball and was definitely sharper than the last game..
“This has been the way he’s pitched most of the season so far.”
Not to mention the way Marlins have played, especially since losing Dee Gordon three weeks ago for 80 games for using an illegal substance.
“We’ve been good for awhile,” said Mattingly. “We got hot on the West Coast and from that point on we’ve played solid.
“The Phillies nicked us up at our place (winning two of three). Hopefully we can do same to them in theirs.”
Thanks to making sure it didn’t become a one-run game — and it very nearly did — they’re off to a good start.