The Marlins traveled to Chicago to face the Cubs in an evening game. The on-field heat index was north of 100, and a light breeze was blowing out of Wrigley Field. The Marlins took advantage of the warm air, balmy breezes and short fences, putting three into the bleachers as they notched a 9-5 victory over the northsiders. Carlos Lee added another grand slam to his record, moving him past luminaries like Henry Aaron and Babe Ruth. At 17 career slams, he is now tied for second place with Ted Williams and Jimmy Foxx. At 23, the all-time leaders are Alex Rodriguez and Lou Gehrig. Rare air indeed. Well done, Carlos. Omar Infante put a two-run shot out in the fourth, and Hanley Ramirez hit such a hard line drive to the center field bleachers that it looked like it was still going up as it cleared the fence. Lee’s slam came as part of a five-run fifth inning that featured Anibal Sanchez as both leadoff and final batters of the frame.
Lee’s fifth inning slam provided a welcome cushion for Sanchez, who threw seven sweet innings, giving up one earned run and two walks, striking out seven. The 9-run score also served to help Sanchez inch closer to moving off of the bottom of the average run support list. Keys to the success of Anibal’s outing were his ability to keep the ball on the corners of the zone, and his effective use of velocity, rather than bend, to fool hitters into swinging. Lots of Cubs were way out in front last night.
As the trade deadline approaches, and as Edward Mujica gets closer to completing his rehab assignment, I suspect that the atmosphere in the bullpen is a bit like it is late in spring training. Everybody knows that someone is getting tapped to head down. Chad Gaudin didn’t make a convincing argument to keep him around. Facing four batters, he gave up a walk and three earned runs on three hits. Gaudin didn’t tally any outs during his eighth inning appearance. Thankfully, manager Ozzie Guillen pulled the plug on Gaudin before any more blood was spilled. In his defense, it has been almost two weeks since Gaudin has thrown in a game. Randy Choate stepped in and finished the inning, setting the stage for a Heath Bell ninth inning non-save appearance. The ball was really jumping out of Bell’s hand last night, and he dominated the end of the game. It will be a bonus for this team when he figures out how to bottle up those aggressive pitches and uncork them at will.
It’s the Cubs again tonight. Josh Johnson faces Jeff Samardzija. Both are right handers, and both are probably due to regress a little bit tomorrow. Johnson has struggled to get through six innings lately, and Samardzija has allowed only four runs in his last 14 innings. Baseball has a way of evening out streaks and slumps, and Johnson is a fundamentally better pitcher. Combined with the energy injection coming from Emilio Bonifacio and Carlos Lee, the Marlins will be tough to beat tonight.
Prediction: Marlins by two.