Hero Of The Game: Carlos Zambrano (.339 WPA)
Goat Of The Game: Logan Morrison (-0.56 WPA)
Play Of The Game: With one out in the third inning, pitcher Carlos Zambrano hit a home run to left field, giving the Marlins a 1-0 advantage.
Mark Buehrle, Heath Bell, and Jose Reyes all made the headlines, as each of them signed significant contracts in the offseason as free agents. In between all of the moves was the trade with the Cubs that sent Chris Volstad to Chicago for Carlos Zambrano. Zambrano, previously known for his bad temper, is having an unbelievable year as a Marlin, which continued on Sunday with a 5-1 victory over the Phillies.
Zambrano and Phillies starter Joe Blanton both started off well, pitching scoreless first and second innings. The Marlins got started offensively in the top of the third inning, when Zambrano took a hanging Blanton fastball and deposited it into the left field bleachers.
"Just a first-pitch fastball," Blanton said. "I mean, it wasn't even a strike. It was a ball up. And he hit it."
The Marlins were back at it in the fourth, as Hanley Ramirez hit his third home run in two days to give the Marlins a 2-0 advantage with Zambrano utilizing his sinking fastball and fooling Phillies' hitters.
"We need to keep it going," Reyes said after learning that the Marlins would end the day tied with the Washington Nationals for first place in the National League East. "We're focused on winning the division, but it's too early. We don't want to get too crazy and too high. We just need to continue to play the way we've been playing. We're playing very good baseball. We don't want to be too high. We want to stay at the same level and keep playing."
A Juan Pierre single in the first inning was the only hit Zambrano gave up through five innings, until Pierre doubled with one out in the sixth. Zambrano responded by striking out Hector Luna and Hunter Pence to end the inning.
Offensively, the Marlins had a big 7th inning. John Buck, who had been in a slump but has begun putting better at bats together, lead the inning off with a walk. Blanton subsequently gave up an opposite field single to Chris Coghlan, which gave the Fish an opportunity with runners on first and second and nobody out with Zambrano due up. Zambrano placed a bunt down the third base line and beat the throw to first. With the bases loaded and nobody out, Jose Reyes doubled to give the Marlins a 4-0 lead. They eventually added another run on a wild pitch from Chad Qualls, giving them a 5-0 lead that they kept until the bottom of the 8th inning.
Brian Schneider began the eighth with a single and advanced to second on a wild pitch. After recording two outs, Zambrano gave up another hit to Juan Pierre, which ended his chance at a shutout and forced manager Ozzie Guillen to bring Steve Cishek into the game. The Marlins still had a 5-1 leading heading into the bottom of the ninth.
Hector Luna flied out to begin the inning, but then Shane Victorino and Placido Polanco both singled to the opposite field, giving the Phillies late life. Ozzie Guillen brought Heath Bell into the game, and Bell saved it, retiring Freddy Galvis and Brian Schneider to end the game and give the Marlins another series-clinching victory.
Zambrano ended up going 7 2/3 while giving up one earned run, walking two, and striking out seven. He lowered his ERA to 2.81.
"I felt good," Zambrano said. "As a pitcher in the National League, you have to be able to run, bunt, hit. I take that seriously. I take pride in what I do. Every time I'm on the mound, I feel like a pitcher. But when I'm in the box, I feel like a hitter. I take everything seriously."
Added Ozzie Guillen: "He continues to throw the ball very well. Today was very effective, throwing a lot of strikes. His breaking ball was outstanding. At the plate, this kid won the Silver Slugger a couple of times for a reason. This guy is a good hitter. In the meanwhile, he threw the ball very good."