It's maybe not such a funny thing, but I guess it took me a while to realize it. We were driving home from the park following Dontrelle's eighth win, when I remarked to my girlfriend that while I'm always very happy to see the Astros when they're in town, I invariably have a better time at the park when we see the Marlins play some other opponent. No matter how well the Astros might do, it's still hard to get crazy in the "other guy's" park, and when the Marlins are playing some easily sneered-at NL East opponent (like the Phillies!), it's very easy to start yelling stupid things at Pat Burrell, say, or to egg Dontrelle on when he gets behind in the count, or to scream silly encouragement at Mike Lowell.
Tonight this kid ten or fifteen rows behind us was louder than me, and more clever, too. But he was also a little mush-mouthed. At different points when Dontrelle or Jones got ahead in the count, he'd yell "Seal The Deal." But because of the unclarity in his speech, I heard, "Send Him to the Hotel" (!), and man I had a blast with that one. It's multi-purpose, and can be used when the Marlins are hitting or pitching.
Delgado's shot off Lieber: "Send him to the Hotel!"
Dontrelle's strikeout of Thome? "Send him to the Hotel!"
Aaah, I had a blast . . .
All that silliness having been said, another thing I realized as we were driving home (although this admittedly was before we heard the bad news about AJ Burnett) is what a lock the Marlins are this year. The firestarter Pierre is hitting .265 and Mike Lowell is under .200, unbelievably enough, and the team is a game and a half up. What are they? Second-to-last in the NL in homers, ahead of only my sad-sack Astros? The closer's out, and the Fish are using a set up guy with an 88 mile an hour fastball to finish ballgames. Al Leiter's pitched crappy and really, Delgado has been good, but not gamebreaking.
Yet the Marlins are still a game and a half up. It's a good time to be a Marlins fan: if you believe at all in the ability of JP and Lowell to hit, and of Al Leiter to pitch, these are merely the worst of times, and the best of times, including an NL pennant, are coming up.
Of course I got to see Thome fail in a big RBI opportunity last night, and I've pretty much been seeing Lance Berkman do the same since he got off the DL. And not that I'd blame the Phillies' and Astros' seasons on the two sluggers, but look what Thome and Berkman are doing, and look where their teams lie in the standings. Then look at Lowell and look at the Marlins. Usually, when the big power guy isn't producing, the team suffers.
First place is pretty sweet when things aren't going well.