PHILADELPHIA -- The Philadelphia Phillies might be everybody's pick to repeat as National League Champions. But after losing two of three to the Marlins and five straight series to the Fish at Citizens Bank Park, the Marlins can move onto Houston knowing they've gotten the Phillies attention.
"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 showed the Phillies they could pitch this weekend. If not for Jayson Werth's two-out, solo home run in the ninth Saturday, Ricky Nolasco and his Sunday cohorts (Nate Robertson, Burke Badenhop and Leo Nunez) would have combined to shutout the best hitting team in baseball twice in a span of 24 hours. Instead, they left having allowed just one run in 18 innings to a club that came into Saturday leading baseball in batting average (.315), runs (77), RBI (76) and slugging percentage.
The Marlins used to be an organization rich with pitching and defense. But the last couple years have been rough to say the least. Even after these last two games, the Marlins team ERA (4.16) ranks 16th in baseball, the 52 walks allowed rank 9th and the 15 errors (Hanley Ramirez had one Sunday) rank No. 1 in the game. If the Marlins can get Nolasco and Josh Johnson to pitch to their abilities consistently and have Chris Volstad, Robertson and Anibal Sanchez provide adequate starts, the Fish definitely have the offense to be a legitimate contender.
As it stands after two weeks, they're hitting .275 (8th in baseball) as a team. They've produced 68 runs (6th best) and produced 67 RBI (2nd to the Phillies) despite striking out 102 times (4th most). With a little bit of improvement on defense and pitching, who knows how good this team could really be.
HIS NAME IS DAN UGGLA!: I'm pretty sure nobody in Las Vegas put money on Dan Uggla being the team's leader in batting average among starters after two weeks. But that's exactly where the second baseman is after today.
His third three-plus hit game of the season raised his average to .346. He's also tied with Jorge Cantu for the team lead in homers (3) and ranks second to Cantu on the team with 9 RBI. Uggla is a career .259 hitter, who hit a career-low .243 last season. His career average in April was is .236. But if he can keep it up and finish above .300 for the month, it will be the first time that's happened for him since May 2008 when he hit .347.
"I'm definitely not going to complain," Uggla said after he homered and drove in both runs in Sunday's win ""I'm not going to get too high or think about it and or get too happy about it because I know this game is a crazy game. I'm just gonna try to keep it simple and battle."
IS THE HOPPER THE NEW GO-TO GUY IN THE PEN?: Leo Nunez is the closer. But Burke Badenhop is the Marlins new Mr. Reliable.
Sunday, when manager Fredi Gonzalez took Robertson out of the game with runners on first and second and only one out in the seventh, he handed the ball to a guy who used to be just the long relief pitcher last year. Badenhop didn't disappoint. He retired Placido Polanco and then got Chase Utley, a player with a .333 average against him, to fly out to the warning track in right to end the seventh inning.
With Renyel Pinto warming up in the pen, even Badenhop thought Gonzalez was going to replace him with the lefty after he got Polanco out. But to Gonzalez's credit, he stayed with Badenhop, who later retired Ryan Howard (who was 3 for 5 against him), Jayson Werth and Ben Francisco without a hiccup in the eighth.
Badenhop was Gonzalez's man on Wednesday too if you remember. He picked up his first save with two scoreless innings against the Reds. Although he was the losing pitcher in Monday's game, Badenhop's numbers have been wicked good this season. His ERA is 0.93 (1 ER in 9 2/3 innings) and opponents are only 3 for 29 against him (.103).
"You expect good things and you go out there and you want to pitch," Badenhop said. "This is the first time I've really experienced that in terms of coming out of the pen. In the minor leagues [when I was] starting, I built confidence from start to start. This is the first time in the bullpen, I've felt like that."
COGHLAN PLAYING GREAT DEFENSE: Chris Coghlan's slump is not over and neither is his desire to keep making amazing catches. Sunday, he made two. First, he made a running catch against the railing in left field to end the second with the bases loaded. Then, he tumbled to the ground making another catch in foul ground later in the game.
"I know he ain't swinging the bat," Gonzalez said. But he has the mentality right now that if he's not going to get a hit, nobody is going to get one either. Good for him. He's plugging away."