So, the Marlins lost again last night, 5-2. No news there. Zero. Zip. Nada. It is, after all, still June. While the team does need to figure out how to overcome the adversity of playing sub-.500 ball, I am referring to micro adversities rather than the macro adversity Marlins fans now call “June.”
What then, am I referring to? I’m referring to the magnificent 125-pitch effort from Carlos Zambrano last night. No, he didn’t pitch well. He was definitely having an off night, and off nights happen to big-league pitchers more often that most folks suspect. What was magnificent was that he had the rockiest of starts, giving up five runs in the first inning (none of which were earned runs), including a particularly demoralizing 3-run splash by Yadier Molina (he‘s the big-money guy we should have gone after last winter, not Albert). In the first inning, a Zambrano fastball was gasping across the plate at a somewhat less than stellar 85-86 MPH, rather than the 92-95 that is his normal range. Also way off his usual performance was the life on his pitches. It looked like he was throwing cotton balls, not the twitchy, elusive hornets he usually sends his opponents. Unfortunately, his command wasn’t as far off as his velocity and movement, and the Cards lit him up.
With the bullpen already stretched thin, another three-inning outing from Zambrano would have been a tactical problem for Ozzie Guillen that might have involved asking guys like Giancarlo Stanton and Jose Reyes if they had any little league experience on the hill. Between the third and fourth innings, Ozzie, Randy St. Claire, and Zambrano disappeared down the tunnel for a discussion. I suspect it was a plea for Carlos to dig deep and deliver the rest of his outing. Whatever was said, it worked. From the fourth through all but one pitch of the seventh, Zambrano came alive. In the top of the seventh, his fastballs were coming across at 91, and the ball was starting to dance for him. He was able to shrug of the misery of an “off” start and a horrible first inning, and held the Cardinals to the initial 5 runs for the rest of his outing.
The rest of the bullpen kept the Cardinals at bay, and really, the Marlins played pretty good ball for the final eight innings of the night.
Still, we stranded runners in scoring position a couple of times last night, but we did battle and tally two runs. Both Jose Reyes and Giancarlo Stanton continue to perform well, and last night, the Marlins looked like a team ready to shake off a slump. Besides, it’s nearly July!
Next up, a look at tonight’s game, but that’s for another article.