MJ: Fellow Maniacs, please welcome Dave McGrath to the Marlin Maniac team. He’s a long-time Marlins fan originally from Miami and relocated to Wisconsin, where he’s been doing work in sports journalism. He’ll be freelancing here, putting up articles of interest and doing the occasional Fish-Cap. Here’s his first cap on MM, focusing on last night’s wild game against the Cubs. Do make yourselves known in the comments section!
Hello loyal (and new) readers of Marlin Maniac, my name is Dave McGrath and I’m here to do my part to help add whatever I can to the premier Florida Marlins’ blog on the internet superhighway. I’ll have a more thorough introduction of myself in the coming days, but until then here’s a bonus early-series Fish-Cap for you, and what a game to decide to have one.
As has seemed to define the post-1998 Marlins existence, just when it seems prudent to write off the team following a string of disappointing contests, they turn in a truly memorable, exhilarating and ultimately endearing performance. Monday, on the heels of a particularly disheartening 1-6 stretch, the Fish had such a game. At the scene of maybe their most famous “Hell Yes!” contest, Wrigley Field, pulled out probably their most exciting win of the season, 4-2.
Prior to the game, I commented to MM czar Michael Jong that I feared another 10 K night was in the cards against lefty Ted Lilly. While I couldn’t have been more wrong if I had predicted Dallas Braden get lit up for 10 runs on Sunday, as the Chicago Cubs starter stunningly had only one strikeout, Lilly was predictably masterful over the Fish for the first five-plus innings.
Through five innings, Lilly had a no-hitter going, and the Cubs had 1-0 lead that felt much larger. Though the Marlins would tie the game in the sixth, on Chris Coghlan’s first extra-base hit of the season — Congratulations, Chris! Let’s hope No. 2 comes sooner than PA number 202 — the run was truly unearned, as Brett Carroll was only on base due to one of the seemingly innumerable (3) errors by the Cubs’ newcomer at SS Starlin Castro. A pair of uneventful fly balls ended the inning and Lilly was throwing a gem.
In the bottom of the sixth, the Marlins gave the run right back in worse fashion than they had received it, as an elementary infield flyball was not caught by any member of the infield, and led immediately to a run and a 2-1 deficit that seemed to be following the script that was over-rehearsed against San Francisco and Washington.
However, in the 7th inning, the Fish made two plays that will be remembered long into this season, I predict.
Following a Jorge Cantu fly out and a Dan Uggla single, the Marlins’ left-hander eating half of the catcher’s platoon Ronny Paulino came up. He promptly whacked the first pitch he saw into the left field bleachers to give the Marlins a sudden and shocking 3-2 lead.
The homer registered a whopping .354 WPA and what was most interesting is what led up to it. Lilly had faced Paulino twice up to that point, recording fly outs to second base and right field, only three pitches. All the pitches were, according to PitchFX, fastballs to the inside edge of the plate.
In Paulino’s triumphant AB however, it was a slider to the inside that Lilly decided to throw. Interesting. I’m sure if Lilly had it do over, another fastball would be the call, but seeing as how the HR now has Ronny 8-16 with two homers against Lilly, throwing him the same pitch might not have led to a much better outcome.
Regardless, that at bat turned the game around, though it might not be the most memorable play.
Later in the inning, with Cameron Maybin on first and Cody Ross on third, the Marlins pulled out a play that any high school baseball aficionado has seen too often to count: the double steal.
Maybin purposefully drew a throw to first from Lilly while behind the southpaw’s back Ross sprinted for the plate, sliding in under the tag of Geovany Soto (after an admirable alert throw from Derrek Lee) to push the lead to the final 4-2 final. It was a bold and unexpected move from manager Fredi Gonzalez that worked out pretty well.
In all, the win was a wild, but savory one for Fish fans. The fish got a solid six innings out of starter Nate Robertson, with 2 R, 5 K, 3 BB and 7 hits combining for a .015 WPA.
The bullpen did its job as Brian Sanches (in a very shaky fashion, allowing two baserunners before getting a Xavier Nady double play), Clay Hensley, and Leo Nunez shut out the Cubs the rest of the win to wrap up the victory, with all three earning a WPA above .080.
This is probably the late-inning performance the Fish have been waiting for and not getting in their recent slide, particularly from the bullpen. One hopes that more games like Monday are in the offing.