Ichiro Suzuki moved two hits closer to 3,000. The Marlins moved one game closer to first place. And the whole happy bunch closed out a winning road trip with a 9-3 victory over the Phillies on Thursday night.
The Marlins went 5-2 in St. Louis and Philadelphia.
Next on the agenda: a 10-game homestand involving two of the teams chasing them in the National League wild-card race, the Mets and Cardinals. Both are close on the Marlins’ heels.
More than likely, Ichiro will reach the 3,000-hit milestone at Marlins Park over the coming days. His third-inning infield hit Thursday put him within five of a milestone achieved by just 29 other players in major-league history. His single in the eighth left him four shy at 2,996.
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Ichiro just missed a third hit when he was thrown out by a half-step on a ground ball in the sixth.
The age-defying Ichiro, 42, is now hitting .343. The highest average ever for a player 42 or older (minimum 200 at-bats): .323 by Sam Rice in 1932.
“The way we’ve been winning is huge,” he said through his translator. “I think that’s going to help us down the road. It’s going to be huge for us down the stretch.”
Ichiro aside, the Marlins are continuing to make noise in the standings. They moved within 4 1/2 games of the first-place Nationals in the NL East while their advantage over the Cardinals for the second spot in the wild-card race stayed at one game. The Marlins have won eight of their past 10 games.
On Thursday, Tom Koehler bounced back from a tough stretch of starts to hold the Phillies in check, allowing three runs — two unearned — over a season-high eight innings. Koehler had failed to make it past the fifth inning in any of his four previous starts.
“I’m happier that we won the series and had such a tremendous road trip,” said Koehler, who allowed only two hits, both of them home runs. “We’re playing great baseball.”
Koehler had five 1-2-3 innings of the eight he was on the mound.
“Just trying to get back to what makes me who I am,” Koehler said of his turnaround. “I’m not the prettiest, perfect pitcher, and I understand that. Some games are gutsy, and sometimes you’ve got to find that competitive edge again.”
On the offensive front, the Marlins finally managed to cause some damage against Philadelphia’s starters. They scored just two runs — both on solo homers — over 21 innings against Phillies starters in the first three games of the series.
But with Giancarlo Stanton and J.T. Realmuto out of the lineup, they broke through against Jerad Eickhoff with four runs in the fourth inning, starting with a home run by Christian Yelich.
It was Yelich’s ninth homer, which matched a single-season high for him.
The scoring didn’t end there. After Marcell Ozuna doubled off the wall, Derek Dietrich was hit by a pitch for the 18th time this season. That established a new Marlins single-season record, breaking a tie with Carlos Delgado.
One batter later, Chris Johnson doubled to drive in a run. The Marlins scored twice more on a Jeff Mathis groundout and Adeiny Hechavarria’s double.
The Marlins scored twice more in the fifth, once on a wild pitch by Eickhoff and another on a throwing error by shortstop Freddy Galvis, and they added three runs in the eighth, with one of the runs coming on an RBI single by Koehler.
Koehler’s only mistakes were the two-run homer he gave up to Ryan Howard and a solo shot he surrendered to Galvis. But only one of the runs was earned because of a Martin Prado fielding error preceding Howard’s homer.