9th INNING: And the Marlins sweep. Matt Lindstrom had to survive a hairy, 32-pitch ninth inning, but prevailed to record his first save. The Nationals loaded the bases on a walk, single and Dan Uggla error, and Lindstrom lost Adam Dunn to a walk to force in a run, cutting the Marlins lead to 6-4. But he struck out Josh Willingham and received nice catch from Brett Carroll in left for the final out. Don't forget: Off day Thursday before the Mets arrive Friday to open a 3-game series.
Final walk tally: 10..
INJURY UPDATE: Jorge Cantu, who was struck in the left hand by a pitch in the fifth inning and later left the game, had X-rays taken of the hand that turned out negative. He is listed as day-to-day.
8th INNING:So much for limiting walks. After issuing one walk TOTAL the first two games, Marlins pitchers have gone walk-wild this afternoon, issuing eight. Yes, EIGHT. Four belonged to Volstad. Miller and Logan Kensing were responsible for two each. One of Kensing's ended up scoring here in the 8th, and it is now 6-3 Marlins.
7th INNING: Some job by Calero. Not only did he escape the bases-loaded jam in the sixth, but retired the side in the seventh. In his two appearances, Calero has faced eight batters and retired every one.
Marlins go up 6-2. Bonifacio (who else) singles, takes second on a wild pitch, and scores on Hanley Ramirez's single.
ATTENDANCE: 13,308 -- That's an improvement over the Tuesday night figure of 11,000.
6th INNING: The bullpen receives its first stiff test of the season and passes. Kiko Calero inherits a one-out, bases-loaded mess created by Andrew Miller and gets out of the jam, striking out pinch-hitter Ronnie Belliard and retiring another pinch-hitter, Josh Bard, on a routine fly ball to left. Miller gave up a double, walked a pair, and was yanked after facing only four batters. He is scheduled to move into the starting rotation on April 15 in Atlanta.
5th INNING: Good things tend to happen for Dan Uggla when he steps up with the bases loaded. Uggla cleared the bases with a double to right-center and the Marlins go up 5-2 (they scored their first run of the inning on another RBI single by John Baker.
Uggla, for his career, has now gone 15 for 38 (.395) with the bags juiced. All four runs for the Marlins in the inning came with two outs.
Ross Gload collects his first hit as a Marlin, a single to start the inning, and goes to second on Volstad's sac bunt. Baker singles up the middle for his second RBI hit of the game, and we're tied, 2-2. Marlins catchers are off to a good start at the plate. Between the two of them, Baker and Ronny Paulino are 5-for-10 with four RBI, and Baker threw out Elijah Dukes trying to steal in the top of the inning.
4th INNING: Mr. Volstad has really settled into a rhythm since the first inning. He's retired 10 of the last 11 batters, including five on strikeouts. I'm curioius to see how Volstad will stand up over the course of a full season, after teams have had a chance to look at him. This is the first time he's faced the Nationals, a team he somehow missed after being called up in the middle of '08. He took on the Marlins' other three division rivals -- Mets, Phillies and Braves -- a total of seven times last season.
Nothing happening for the Marlins in the fourth. They're in a dogfight today after going to town on Washington the first two games.
3rd Inning: No. 1 did it again. Emilio Bonifacio singled, stole second, advanced to third on a wild throw by the catcher, and scored on John Baker's single. Bonifacio, who walked his first time up, has now reached base in eight of his 12 plate appearances so far. He has four stolen bases, has scored five runs, and has driven in four. No word yet on whether the Marlins intend to build a statue of him outside Gate G. Nationals 2, Marlins 1.
2nd Inning: Okay, I'm revising my earlier crowd estimate. Looks now like we might actually have five digits with late-arrivals continuing to fill seats.
Nice inning by Volstad after sluggish first. He struck out two and finished off the side on 11 pitches.
Our own Manny Navarro spoke this morning with Jorge Cantu for a freature he's preparing for Thursday's paper on the Marlins first baseman. Cantu talked to Navarro about growing up on a cattle farm in Mexico and how he got hooked on baseball during Fernando-mania. Cantu hit homers in each of the first two games but whiffed in his first at bat today.
On another note, the bat Jeremy Hermida is using today is one he had me pick out for him during morning clubhouse hours. He offered me a choice of two bats from which to choose, and my toe pointed to a Marucci. He reached on an infield single first time up. Hermida got off Louisville Sluggers last season after a batch started blowing up on him. They don't keep an official count on broken bats, but I would venture to guess that Hermida was among the league-leaders in '08. He left splinters all over major league infields.
1st Inning: The turnout is light as expected for a 12;10 start. Plenty of good sections are still available. Too bad Joe Nelson isn't still around. He could give us a crowd estimate and quote could appear in Newsweek like last season I'm saying 7,000 tops, but they'll announce it as 10,000. Exclude the scouts and Chris Volstad's family, and you're probably looking at maybe 5,000.
Well, we saw something with Volstad that we didn't see with either Ricky Nolasco or Josh Johnson. Control issues. After giving up a leadoff single to Cristian Guzman, Volstad issued the first free pass of the season by a Marlins starter, walking Elijah Dukes. That was followed by a defensive gaffe by Cody Ross, who is grazing in center this afternoon. Ross caught Ryan Zimmerman's lazy fly ball and fired to first in a bid to double up Dukes. Problem was, nobody was covering, the ball continued on its way, and the two Nationals runners advanced. Ross puts his hands on his head in his own disbelief and kept them there for a good bit. With first base open, Volstad walked ex-mate Josh Willingham. Austin Kearns then laced a single to center that appeared to freeze Ross. He didn't make a move on the ball, which dropped in front of him for a 2-run hit. Volstad finally got the third out, but it took him 26 pitches to get there.
Welcome back for Game No. 3. Good news for the Marlins. They're 2-0 -- best record in baseball. Bad news: the Nationals are leaving town right after this game. If Marlins sweep, they'll open the season with a 3-0 mark for only the second time in franchise history (1997 club).
There's a day off tomorrow before the Mets arrive for a 3-game weekend set. Sunday's pitching matchup shapes up as a dandy: Josh Johnson takes on Johan Santana.
Thanks for participating in my "Grand Openings" poll on best Marlins debuts in an Opening Day game. Emilio Bonifacio won in a landslide, receiving three out of every four votes (77.8 percent). Jeff Conine (1993) was a clear second, getting 17.2 percent of the nods. Hee Seop Choi, Carlos Delgado and Juan Pierre picked up a handful of votes, but were non-factors as Emilio-mania continues to grip South Florida, just like this cold snap we're having.
Ross Gload is in the starting lineup today for the Marlins. Gload is 5 for 15 lifetime against Nats starter Daniel Cabrera. Gload will play right and bat eighth. Cody Ross moves to center. Cameron Maybin sits.
Memo to myself: Abstain from coffee during a night game preceding a day game.