MIAMI, FL - JULY 16: Emilio Bonifacio #1 of the Miami Marlins is congratulated after a sacrifice bunt and an RBI during a game against the Washington Nationals at Marlins Park on July 16, 2012 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Hero of the Game: Hanley Ramirez (+.227 WPA)
Goat of the Game: Omar Infante (-.063 WPA)
Play of the Game: Jesus Flores grounded into a double play to end the top half of the sixth. (+.246 WPA)
The Marlins got a much-needed win Monday night in order to pull within nine games of the Nationals in the N.L. East. Hanley Ramirez led the offense, and six Marlins' pitchers helped limit the Nationals to just three runs. It was an encouraging and meaningful win, that you could tell this Miami ballclub needed.
The story of the game from the Nationals point of view was the runners left on-base. Miami turned four double plays, which helped bail Carlos Zambrano out of a couple of jams. The Nationals left twenty runners on-base this game. Jesus Flores and Adam LaRoche combined for twelve out of those twenty LOB's. So thank you, Flores and LaRoche, for your contributions to the Marlins' victory.
Carlos Zambrano had another so-so start. On one hand, he pitched six innings and never gave up more than one run in an inning. On the other hand, he walked twice as many hitters as he struck out, and he gave up three earned runs. In April and May, Zambrano's BB/9 was a solid 3.60 and 3.73. In June and July, Zambrano's BB/9 has soared to 7.61 and 4.91. If Zambrano wants to remain effective, he really needs to keep the walks down.
The Nationals got on the board in the top half of the second, when a Jesus Flores sacrifice fly drove in Danny Espinosa, who had tripled earlier on a Zambrano slider. In the top half of the third, Washington added another run with a Ryan Zimmerman solo home run. Zimmerman got a 2-1 fastball on the inside half of the plate, and hit about 400 feet into left-center field. Zimmerman finished a triple short of the cycle.
The Marlins did most of their damage in the third inning, scoring eighty percent of their runs. Carlos Zambrano and Jose reyes led off the inning with back-to-back singles, and Emilio Bonifacio advanced them with a bunt. Then Carlos Lee made contact with a slider down in the zone, which he had no problem lining up the middle to score both runners. I know Lee already has almost thirty AB's with the Marlins, but this was the first time I felt he was truly a part of the team. I don't even know what I mean when I say that, but in conclusion, it was a very nice hit by Lee.
With Lee on first, Hanley Ramirez got a 1-0 94 MPH fastball, and crushed it into the sculpture in center field. I watched this highlight over and over again, and what continues to impress me is Ramirez's bat speed. It was a beautiful swing by Ramirez, even if it was an awful pitch from Edwin Jackson, and it left me wondering why that was only his thirteenth homer of the year. Seriously, Hanley, if you want to hit more homers like that, go right ahead.
The Nationals added a run in the sixth, when Michael Morse drove in Zimmerman from second. It kind of surprised me that Guillen didn't pull Zambrano right after this, but Zambrano got out of the sixth, and he definitely witnessed Guillen's confidence in him.
The Marlins added another run in the bottom half of the seventh on a beautifully executed squeeze play by Emilio Bonifacio. The runner that scored was Justin Ruggiano, who was on-base after a pinch-hit double, which is pretty cool. Even if this is the peak of Ruggiano's career with the Marlins, it's still going to look like a pretty nice trade for Miami.
On the brink of the whole Bryce Harper fiasco, both teams seemed to have moved on. The whole game I was nervous that Ozzie Guillen would have one of the Miami pitchers throw at Harper or one of the other Nationals, but luckily, that never happened. If Ozzie Guillen wants to make comments like he did towards Harper, he needs to act like this every time. Guillen was classy, and Harper wasn't the villain we all secretly want him to be.
After Heath Bell recorded a scoreless eighth inning of work, Michael Dunn came in for the ninth, and got the save. He did give up a walk and a single, but Dunn struck out Adam LaRoche for the final out. Five Marlins' relievers combined for three shutout innings of work.
This was a quality win for the Marlins as they finish the Nationals' series in a split. The next game for Miami is tommorow at 8:05 PM ET in Chicago. On the mound for the Cubbies will be the lefty Travis Wood. In Wood's one previous start against the Marlins, he got rocked only lasting 3.1 innings. For the Marlins, Anibal Sanchez will hope to boost his trade value when he takes the mound.