I attended my third game of the year on Thursday, and boy was it a great game. I got my money's worth -- more than that, really, since I didn't pay anything for the ticket and was sitting in the sixth row behind home plate. (More on that at a later date.)
In the first, Juan Pierre hit a ball that barely cleared the right-field wall -- his first homer of the year. In 8100 plate appearances, he has 18 HRs -- one per every 450 at bat. Since he's 35, last night's "blast" may have been his last.
Fernandez did another spectacular pitching job, especially considering he was going against the hard-hitting Reds, but there were two defining moments.
In the ninth inning, the Marlins down 2-1 with a runner on third, the Cuban Missile, Aroldis Chapman, enters the game and immediately strikes out Placido Polanco, the vet, with pitches at 100, 101, 100 mph. Up comes Marcell Ozuna, 22, who is only a few days removed from AA ball. Pressure situation, All-Star pitcher on the mound, and the kid stepped up to the challenge, blasting a triple and giving Chapman his first blown save of the year. Ozuna showed right there that he's up to Big League pressure and can get around on 100 mph heat. A bright ray of hope for us struggling Marlins fans.
More telling of the grim reality of the present was a situation in the seventh inning -- one that shows how awful is the team this year. Adeiny Hechavarria singled, Derek Dietrich (just promoted from AA and hitting third) was hit by pitch. Runners on first and second, nobody out. And up comes the cleanup hitter, Ozuna, 22.
And... he squares to bunt. I was groaning right away. Marlins were down to 2-1 and their cleanup hitter gives them a chance for a big inning. What's more, the on-deck hitter is Coghlan, batting .220.
"Maybe he'll hit a deep fly ball," says the guy sitting behind me of Coghlan. Not a chance, I say. No power.
Even worse, the guy hitting behind Coghlan is Mathis, just off the injury list and hasn't had a hit this year.
Ozuna "does his job" -- bunts, sends runners to second and third with one out. The Reds intentionally walk (?!?) the weak-hitting Coghlan to get to the green Mathis, who grounds into a double play, ending the inning.
With such a weak-hitting lineup, you're not going to score many runs, a point proved again Thursday night as the Marlins lost 5-3 in 10 innings.
For the year, the Marlins are 11-20. The '62 Mets were 12-19 at this point.