Hey, maybe the Marlins haven’t given up after all. After a harrowing first two losses, the Fish bounced back in dramatic fashion with two big wins over the Atlanta Braves. At the conclusion of this evening, the Marlins once again pulled within four games of Rockies for the Wild Card lead. This will be a short Blogservations, as I am quite tired this evening (made a long drive with my girlfriend to my parent’s place this afternoon, so I am exhausted), but I do have some observations to make.
How about the luck tonight?
After a series worth of untimely non-hits, the Marlins finally strung together a long inning against the Braves tonight, particularly relievers Kris Medlen and Eric O’Flaherty. Medlen and O’Flaherty were the unfortunate victims of seven hits in just that sixth inning alone, which handed the Marlins a 7-3 lead after entering the inning with down two runs. The inning alone brought the Marlins’ odds of winning from 32.3% to 93.9%, culminating in this fine visual in the FanGraphs Win Expectancy graph for the game:
That’s just pretty. Key contributions in that rally came off the bench in the form of a Hanley Ramirez RBI single and a Cody Ross RBI double, both of the pinch hitting variety. The Marlins even benefited from some BABIP luck in the form of some late inning singles by Nick Johnson, Jorge Cantu, and John Baker before finally finishing up for the inning. Hey, hit ‘em where they ain’t, right? Couldn’t ask for anything better after the Marlins simply couldn’t string those rallies together earlier in the series.
Hey, Nick Johnson’s back!
And it seems he’s back in good form. NJ did his typical thing tonight, going 1-for-2 with a single and two walks. He also let a hard hit grounder dash right past him down the line for a double earlier in the game, so he’s probably the same defensively too. Tonight’s line brings Johnson’s walk total with the Marlins to 17, 16 unintentional, versus just eight strikeouts. I don’t know if there’s ever been a Marlin in the history of the team that’s ever been this adept at plate discipline. The hits he’s had haven’t gone very far, as Johnson only has four extra-base hits for the team, but in his short stint with the Fish he’s posted a .500+ OBP and as a result a .400+ wOBA. I’ll take those numbers.
More importantly than that, I’ll take those numbers over those put up by “the gritty ones,” Ross Gload and Wes Helms. No offense to either, they have served a role on the team primarily as pinch hitters (and Helms has been a decent defensive replacement off the bench), but neither player is capable of starting for any stretch of time for a viable team, and this stretch without Johnson has proven it. Combine the two pinch hitters’ inability to produce on an everyday basis with the inexcusable idea by Fredi Gonzalez to bat Gload and Helms SECOND in the lineup when he has much better hitter hitting further back and getting less plate appearances and it all adds up to making me very happy to see big ol’ Nick Johnson back lumbering around at first while Cantu flounders at third.
(Thought about it, and I realized that Cantu has to more or less be a -12 third baseman in 140 games at the position to justify losing the run difference in positional adjustment between third and first base. I think Cantu would be worst than that over the course of a season so maybe just splitting time between him at first, where he’s average, and at third, where he’s terrible, may be a good call. Then again, the difference may be marginal at this point in the year.)
Well, come on how about Uncle Wes?
Not much to say here, other than Helms’ walk-off home run last night was pretty freakin’ awesome. And Rich Waltz’s call even better. Listen in to the highlight. It’s one of the reasons I like Rich. Wes has been a solid defensive replacement through the years that we’ve had him but he’s proven to be a pretty bad hitter. He’s got a nutty .361 BABIP that’s obviously not sticking around, and he’s seemingly lost any power he ever had. He doesn’t even have decent discipline at walking like Gload. We can’t do much with Helms.
But man, that homer was sweet.
VandenHurk shelled, Nolasco gets unlucky again
To say that Rick VandenHurk got shelled isn’t that mind-boggling. One stat stood out as I checked out the FanGraphs box score. Hurk allowed 15 balls in the air, three of which were line drives; he only got one ground ball. That’s astonishing. Hurk was probably a good deal lucky he didn’t get taken deep, as that seemed to be his biggest problem before he was sent down to New Orleans again. Hurk’s peripherals weren’t great either, as he struck out only three while walking an equal total. Not a good night for Rick and we’re going to need more from him if we’re to make a run.
Meanwhile, Ricky Nolasco tonight once again appeared dominant but got unlucky. Ricky struck out seven in six innings while only walking one (half intentionally, may I add), once again performing ridiculously well in his peripherals. Nolasco was around the zone all night throwing a little more than 75% strikes as well, includin 11 strikes of the whiffing variety and eight of those whiffs being outside the zone. He did give up a home run to Brian McCann in his seven hits allowed, but it’s still ridiculous that of the 14 balls that were put into play and fieldable, six of them dropped for hits. Among them were a fair share of bloop base hits, at least as far as I saw. Luckily for the Marlins, the Braves were unable to string them all together like the Fish did in the sixth, but they did put three hits together to break the 1-all tie in the bottom of the fifth. Still, Ricky only let three through and the Marlins handed him a win shortly thereafter so all is right with the world. It is my hope that Ricky will one day be able to spread those singles out a little more so that he doesn’t get burned by bad BABIP luck.
Oh, one more thing about Nolasco. My parents live in Atlanta, so I was able to catch the game live on TV via the Braves local affiliate. The Braves broadcasters correctly pointed out the starting pitching issues the Marlins have faced (must be nice to have six starters, eh Braves fan?), but then the play-by-play guy dared to call Nolasco a “No. 3 starter.” If it’s all the same to you pal, Ricky is basically Javier Vasquez lite, and I think that’s pretty good. I’ll bet you the Braves guy thinks it’s good too.