The Week Ahead: Keep an eye on those Marlins

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robertson_nate_marlins.jpgThe Florida Marlins are full of potential. The question has always been whether or not they can realize that potential before their young stars get too expensive and are sold off to their richer competitors.

But this weekend, the promising young Fish showed that they just might realize their potential this season after taking two of three from the two-time defending NL champion Phillies at Citizens Bank Park.

The Marlins have now won five straight series at Philadelphia, which is remarkable enough.

Perhaps even more remarkable is how they did it this weekend, losing the series opener on Friday to Roy Halladay before taking the next two with dominating pitching performances by Ricky Nolasco and Nate Robertson (pictured).

Nolasco pitched a five-hitter on Saturday, striking out four and allowing just one run. Then Robertson combined with two relievers for a shutout on Sunday. That’s one run in 18 innings from the Phillies, a team that entered Saturday’s action leading baseball in batting average, runs, RBIs and slugging percentage.

The Marlins certainly caught the attention of the Phillies:

“I think the team that you saw out here today is young, and the last two years they started to get a lot of confidence and experience,” Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. “If they’re pitching holds up, they definitely can be a threat.”

The Marlins enter the week with an 8-5 record, 1/2-game behind the Phillies. They continue their nine-game road trip this week with three games at Houston and three more at Colorado. Are they for real? Can the young pitchers hold up? Will the defense carry it’s weight? Can they stay healthy? Should be fun to find out.

FIVE SERIES TO WATCH
Yankees at A’s, April 20-22:
For those of you waiting for the 9-5 A’s to go away and slip down into the standings where you think they belong, this could be your big chance.

Rangers at Red Sox, April 20-22: The Red Sox will be looking to end their skid against the Rangers, a team that has yet to live up to its preseason hype.

Phillies at Braves, April 20-22: Make sure you tune in on Wednesday to see what Jason Heyward can do – if anything – against Roy Halladay.

Cubs at Brewers, April 23-25: Brewers fans get annoyed when their ballpark is filled up with Cubs fans. They will be even more annoyed if Alfonso Soriano manages to hold onto any fly balls hit his direction.

Cardinals at Giants, April 23-25: Both teams are off to good starts at 8-4. Both feature a potent 1-2 punch atop their rotations. Only one of them has Albert Pujols, however.

ON THE TUBE
Monday, 7:10 p.m. ET: Cubs at Mets (ESPN)
Wednesday, 7:10 p.m.: Phillies at Braves (ESPN)
*Saturday, 4:10 p.m.: Yankees at Angels (FOX)
*Saturday, 4:10 p.m.: Mariners at White Sox (FOX)
Sunday, 2:10 p.m.: Cubs at Brewers (TBS)
Sunday, 8:05 p.m.: Braves at Mets (ESPN)
*Check local listings

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Cardinals snap Familia’s saves streak, rally past Mets 5-4

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NEW YORK — Yadier Molina and pinch-hitter Kolten Wong each stroked an RBI double in the ninth inning, and the St. Louis Cardinals ended Jeurys Familia‘s streak of 52 straight saves in rallying past the New York Mets 5-4 on Wednesday night.

Yoenis Cespedes hit a go-ahead homer off Adam Wainwright to cap a three-run comeback in the seventh that gave the Mets a 4-3 lead. But then Familia, who hadn’t blown a regular-season save opportunity since July 30 last year, finally faltered.

Jedd Gyorko drew a one-out walk in the ninth and was replaced by pinch-runner Randal Grichuk. Molina hit the next pitch to deep center field, and Grichuk scored standing up to tie it.

Molina was thrown out at third by Familia (2-2) on pinch-hitter Jeremy Hazelbaker’s comebacker, but Hazelbaker stole second and scored when Wong lined a double just inside the left-field line.

Familia’s franchise-record saves streak was the third-longest in major league history behind Tom Gordon (54) and Eric Gagne (84).

Jonathan Broxton (3-2) tossed a scoreless eighth and Seung Hwan Oh got three quick outs for his sixth save.

Including a split of Tuesday’s doubleheader, St. Louis took two of three from the Mets in a matchup of NL wild-card contenders. It was only the second time in the past decade that the Cardinals have won a road series against the Mets.

Logan Verrett pitched seven efficient innings and slumping Neil Walker went 3 for 3 with a base on balls for the third-place Mets, who have alternated wins and losses in their last 13 games. They dropped 5 1/2 games behind NL East-leading Washington.

New York did manage to keep Gyorko and the rest of St. Louis’ hitters in the ballpark after the Cardinals had homered in 17 consecutive games – their longest streak since a club-record run of 19 games in 2006.

Gyorko went deep in both ends of Tuesday’s doubleheader, giving him seven homers in nine games.

Matt Holliday hit a two-run double off Verrett with two outs in the third, and Matt Adams followed with an RBI double that made it 3-1.

Wainwright, who entered 3-0 with a 0.93 ERA in July, nursed that lead until the seventh – repeatedly pitching out of trouble. He nearly did so again after striking out Curtis Granderson and Asdrubal Cabrera with runners at the corners.

But then Travis d'Arnaud scored on a wild pitch and Cespedes socked a two-run homer off the facing of the second deck in left-center on the 117th and final pitch from the 34-year-old Wainwright.

 

 

Report: Mariners have interest in Reds’ Jay Bruce

ATLANTA, GA - JUNE 14:  Jay Bruce #32 of the Cincinnati Reds waits to bat prior to hitting a three-run homer in the first inning against the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field on June 14, 2016 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reports that the Mariners are among the teams that have contacted the Reds about outfielder Jay Bruce. The Mariners enter play Wednesday 51-48, six games out of first place in the AL West and 4.5 games out of the second AL Wild Card slot. Adding an impact bat like Bruce could help in their effort to reach the postseason.

Norichika Aoki and Seth Smith have handled the bulk of the playing time in left field. While Smith has hit well, Aoki has not. Bruce came into Wednesday’s game against the Giants batting .271/.324/.567 with 24 home runs and a league-best 78 RBI.

Bruce can become a free agent after the season if his controlling team declines his $13 million club option for the 2017 season by paying him a $1 million buyout. If he’s traded mid-season, his new team won’t be able to make him a qualifying offer, so the club option may be more enticing than it looks at first glance.