BY CLARK SPENCER
October baseball might not occur in the immediate future for the streaking Marlins, who are running out of time in their belated playoff push. But if their victory on Thursday proved anything, it is that their long-term prognosis looks bright.
Cameron Maybin and John Baker, a pair of rookies who should figure prominently in the Marlins’ 2009 plans, put on a two-man show that propelled the Marlins to their eighth straight win, a 8-1 victory over the Houston Astros that kept their dim playoff hopes alive.
Maybin reached base five times and Baker drove in four runs as the Marlins remained on the outer periphery of the division and wild card races. With the Philadelphia Phillies and New York Mets each winning on Thursday, the Marlins failed to make any significant strides in their late chase, outside of catching the fading Astros in the wild-card fray.
But Maybin and Baker delighted the tiny, rain-soaked crowd at Dolphin Stadium.
Maybin, batting leadoff in place of injured shortstop Hanley Ramirez, singled four times in five plate appearances, walked once, and scored from first base – not once, but twice – on Baker doubles.
Baker, meanwhile, continues to show off his bat. By going 3 for 5, he raised his average to .290 -- .333 with runners in scoring position – and has pretty much locked up the No. 1 catching job next season.
It all added up to the Marlins’ second straight series sweep, and leaves them one victory shy of the franchise’s longest-ever winning streak. They outscored the slumping Astros by 27-4 over the three-game series. Their next opponent, the Phillies, bring a 7-game winning streak into South Florida for the final homestand of the season in a crucial series for both teams.
The Marlins weren’t at full strength on Thursday, not with Ramirez sitting out with a left shoulder injury that could keep him on the shelf another day or two. But his absence was not felt.
Alfredo Amezaga, filling in at shortstop, not only made a backhanded stop on Lance Berkman’s ground ball in the fourth, but also threw him out from his knees. Then there was Maybin, fresh up from Double A.
The 21-year-old outfielder, one of the prize catches in the Miguel Cabrera/Dontrelle Willis trade with the Detroit Tigers last December, provided a glimpse of his talent with Thursday’s performance.
He used his speed to score from first on the two doubles by Baker, and also to beat out an infield hit.
Maybin and Baker weren’t the only stars.
Pitcher Scott Olsen turned in one of his finest performances, earning the win while allowing just one run on three hits over seven innings. The Astros scored their only run in the first.
Olsen, who had gone winless from July 24 through Sept. 6, has now won each of his past two starts while improving his record to 8-10.