PITTSBURGH The Marlins arrived in Pittsburgh this weekend facing a potential turning point.
Losing another series and against the playoff-contending Pirates meant slipping further in the National League wild-card race.
But the Marlins’ best-case scenario came to fruition on Sunday as they completed a three-game sweep of the Pirates with a 3-2 victory at PNC Park.
After losing three of four games against the lowly Reds, the Marlins swept the Pirates in Pittsburgh for the first time since Sept. 9-11, 2011.
“That first day [on Friday] was an epic, back-and-forth game, so to get that one was huge to kind of break the momentum we had coming from Cincinnati,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. “[David] Phelps was dominant in the second game, and today [Jose] Urena shows up and gives us a chance to win.”
Urena, who was brought back to the majors on Tuesday to once again fill a vacant No. 5 spot in the starting rotation, delivered six solid innings and helped the Marlins (65-59) win three in a row for the first time since July 17-19.
“Overall, we made some mistakes and got away with them,” Mattingly said. “I thought we played with a lot of energy and got the job done.”
With Sunday’s victory, the Marlins stayed 1 1/2 games behind the Cardinals (66-57) for the second NL wild-card berth and moved 1 1/2 games ahead of the Pirates (62-59).
The Marlins won six of their seven games against the Pirates this season, taking the final six meetings.
Trailing 2-1 in the fifth, the Marlins scored two runs after taking advantage of a Pirates fielding error and a wild pitch. Adeiny Hechavarria reached on a throwing error by Sean Rodriguez and came around to score three batters later on a groundout by Martin Prado.
Dee Gordon, who reached earlier in the inning on a bunt single, then scored on a wild pitch by Pirates starter Ryan Vogelsong, who also went six innings and gave up only one earned run.
The Marlins could have added more runs but left eight runners on base.
After loading the bases in the top of the ninth, Gordon grounded into a fielder’s choice in which the Pirates recorded the second out at the plate. Prado then struck out.
“You wished we could have scored in the top of the ninth when we leave a run there,” Mattingly said. “Both [starting pitchers] threw the ball well.”
Urena allowed five runs in the first inning in his previous start Tuesday in Cincinnati but settled down and pitched five scoreless innings from that point on.
He limited the damage Sunday to two runs in the fourth inning, which were aided by one of two errors in the inning by Prado following a single by Andrew McCutchen and a double by Gregory Polanco to lead off the inning.
“I was comfortable and felt in control keeping the ball down in the zone,” Urena said. “I took advantage of that and got ground balls.”
Urena gave up four hits, walked one and struck out three, looking more like the pitcher who delivered two strong starts after being called up in late July when the Marlins also found themselves without a fifth starter.
“I took it pitch by pitch [Sunday] and tried to make quality pitches,” Urena said. “I didn’t think about the other games.”
Christian Yelich opened the scoring in the first inning with his 15th homer of the season. Yelich hit two of the Marlins’ five home runs in the series and has five career homers at PNC Park.
Following Yelich’s homer, Marcell Ozuna reached on a throwing error with two outs and J.T. Realmuto hit a double to right field that gave the Marlins runners on second and third. But Vogelsong retired Ichiro Suzuki on a line drive. Ichiro finished 0 for 3 and was robbed of a hit in the sixth inning on a nice play at second by Josh Harrison.
A.J. Ramos, who was activated from the disabled list on Sunday, pitched a scoreless eighth inning in his first action since Aug. 5. Ramos’ appearance followed a scoreless seventh by Nick Wittgren and set up Fernando Rodney’s seventh save as a Marlin in as many chances and 24th of the season. Rodney recorded a save in all three games of the series.
“We stayed together and came here and took a second, breathed, and then played very good baseball,” Rodney said.