The Miami Marlins and Houston Astros continued their three game series Saturday night. The Marlins, after winning game one of the series, had a chance to claim the series and set themselves up for a series sweep. Their chances of doing that looked bright through the first 8 innings of the ball game. Unfortunately, everything blew up for the Marlins in the 9th inning and one of their main free agent prizes was to blame, Heath Bell.
For the second consecutive game, the Astros were able to take a first inning lead against the Marlins. Carlos Zambrano walked two of the first three batters he faced. Carlos Lee then got a run scoring hit. Zambrano walked Brian Bogusevic to load the bases before settling in and striking out Chris Johnson and Chris Snyder back-to-back to get out of the inning.
The third inning had to be the highlight of the game for the Marlins. After Jed Lowrie flied out to lead off the inning, Zambrano walked J.D. Martinez. Carlos Lee followed that up with a double to set the Astros up with second and third with just one out. The Astros looked primed to take the lead back from the Marlins.
That is when the Marlins defense decided to step up. And they stepped up big time. Bogusevic hit a ground ball back to the pitcher. Zambrano was able to fire to third base, where Martinez had been caught up deciding to go home or back to third. Zambrano was able to fire the ball to Hanley Ramirez to erase Martinez. With Lee still on second, Chris Johnson knocked a base hit to Logan Morrison. Morrison was able to gather the throw and get Lee out at the plate.
The Marlins then jumped on Bud Norris in the bottom half of the inning. Jose Reyes led off with a double. On a sacrafice bunt attempt by Bonifacio, Norris decided to try and throw out Reyes at third. Reyes was able to beat the throw and Bonifacio reached first safely. Hanley Ramirez then lined a single that drove in Reyes. After Hanley successfuly stole second base, Logan Morrison hit a sacrafice fly to drive in Bonifacio. Ramirez advanced to third on the sac fly. This made the Astros move in their infield with a runner on third and less then two outs. Gaby Sanchez took advantage of this and drove a ball up the middle through the drawn in infield to drive in Hanley.
The Marlins led the game 4-1 through three innings. Both starting pitchers settled in after their respective rocky starts. Zambrano went 6 innings for the Marlins striking out 4, but walking 6. Norris went 6 for the Astros and allowed just the three runs.
Steve Cishek worked a 1-2-3 seventh inning, striking out two hitters. Edward Mujica worked an easy eight inning, allowing one walk, but no damage. The Marlins had created the perfect opportunity for Heath Bell to redeem himself.
Unfortunately for Carlos Zambrano, this ninth inning was very similar to the ninth inning of his first start vs the Cincinnati Reds.
After a Snyder flyout, Jose Altuve doubled, which turned into three bases because of a Bonifacio error. Travis Buck followed that up with a pinch hit RBI single to cut the lead down to 4-2. Jordan Schafer reached base on catcher interference by Brett Hayes. Bell was then able to get Lowrie to fly out. The Marlins were just an out away from getting out of the jam.
They actually came to within a strike of getting out of the game with a win. JD Martinez, the guy who tied the game the previous night, had other plans. Martinez picked up a single to drive in another run. The Astros were down just 4-3. Lee, up next, picked up another run scoring hit. The game was tied at 4 now.
Joey Cora, filling in for the suspended Ozzie Guillen, decided it was time to take Bell out of the game. Bell left with the stadium booing him. Cora decided to bring in lefty Randy Choate. Choate was able to induce a fly ball, sadly, that ball was dropped in left field by Logan Morrison. This only further proved to Marlins fans that Morrison does not belong in the outfield.
The dropped ball allowed the Astros to score their 5th run of the game to give them the lead. The Astros sent in their closer for the bottom of the ninth.
Brett Myers was able to do short work of the Marlins hitters and picked up his second save of the season. The Astros stole a game that the Marlins should have easily won.
Marlins fans today will have 27 million reasons to hate the Heath Bell signing. Tough break, tough loss for the Marlins.
The good news for the Marlins, Hanley Ramirez went 3-for-4. The Marlins will need his bat to get hot in order having a chance of competing in 2012.
Prediction: Anibal Sanchez hurls a complete game shut out, Marlins win 3-0.
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