Miami tried to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory Monday night, but the Brewers were having none of it. In a game where things went stereotypically wrong for the Fish, Jose Fernandez saved the team by pitching seven scoreless innings to defeat the Milwaukee Brewers at Marlins Park.
The ridiculousness started in the second inning when J.T. Realmuto blasted a home run onto the sculpture with Marcell Ozuna at first. 2-0 Marlins, right? Wrong. As center fielder Kirk Nieuwenheuis drew back on the fly ball, Ozuna thought it was in his best interest to tag at first base and reach second in case of it being caught. But Realmuto, watching his drive, touched first and rounded, stopping in his tracks when he saw Ozuna. The brief overlap of the runners was immediately recognized by Milwaukee’s bench. Upon review, Realmuto was called out for surpassing Ozuna on the bases. Ozuna’s run counted and Realmuto was rewarded with an RBI single…a 410-foot one at that.
I can see where Ozuna was coming from on that play, and I guess technically Realmuto should have paid more attention to the runner. But on a fly ball that deep, unless Nieuwenheuis has a play in front of the wall, Ozuna should be rounding second. For him, it’s more important that he score in the likely event that the ball hits off the wall and stays in the park than advance to second in the unlikely event Nieuwenheuis makes a leaping catch.
Ozuna’s trouble for the night wasn’t over. With the Fish leading 1-0 in the sixth, Milwaukee’s Ryan Braun hit a lined shot out to him in center field. Ozuna got spun around and completely whiffed as the ball momentarily nestled in his glove, but then popped down to the grass. Braun ended up with a two-out double. Fernandez induced the next batter to fly out, ending the threat and keeping the Marlins on top.
As clumsy as the Marlins are, the Brewers are the Brewers and trump the Marlins in that category. They surrendered a Little League home run to Derek Dietrich in the seventh inning. Dietrich lined a ball down the right field line and scampered towards third for a triple. The relay from the outfield hit him as he approached the base and bounded away, allowing Miami’s second baseman to score.
In one final attempt to allow the Brewers to win the game, closer A.J. Ramos entered to pitch with a 4-0 lead in the ninth. He walked the first two batters. After a coaching visit to the mound, Ramos struck out the next two. All is well. Except he walked the next one. After five batters, no one had put a ball in play and the Brewers had the tying run at the plate.
Manager Don Mattingly summoned Bryan Morris from the bullpen and presumably told him to throw any sort of strike that didn’t surrender a home run. He failed on the first batter and walked in a run. Suddenly, Milwaukee had the go-ahead run at the plate in an inning they began down 4-0 and had not hit a fair ball. Luckily for Miami fans, the final Brewer batter, Jonathan Villar, solidified Milwaukee’s supremacy as the team least willing to win. He struck out and the Marlins escaped an inning that they themselves made thrilling by failing to throw strikes.
After a game like that, it’s a wonder that this team won 11 of 12 over the last two weeks. Thankfully, strong pitching performances, like Fernandez’s Monday night, have kept the Marlins successfully piling up wins.
Also, if Derek Dietrich continues performing at a high level–the infielder is hitting .333 with 13 RBI in 26 games–Dee Gordon’s suspension can be overcome.
This is a good team with talented players around Fernandez and Giancarlo Stanton. Last year–and certainly two years ago–the Marlins would not have won this game. The bullpen would have failed sooner, or the errors would have haunted more, or the team wouldn’t have scored a run after having one taken off the board.
But now in 2016, this team plays nine full innings, and they’ve won some competitive games. Holding their own in the NL East, this isn’t the same Miami Marlins team in perpetual rebuild mode. It’s their time to play ball.