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Can Marlins Bullpen Keep It Going?

   PHILADELPHIA -- Good morning from the City of Brotherly Love, where the weather forecast for tonight is grim: a 90 percent chance of showers, coupled with strong winds. We'll see, but I have a gut feeling that this one gets banged. Just remember that if they do play, you'll hear it on 1080-AM, not 790, due to Heat playoffs.

    Speaking of playoffs, the Marlins would be in them if the season ended this instant. Yep, they're the NL wild card leaders at the moment, which is crazy considering that, despite an 8-5 record, they have a minus five run differential. What that shows is they're winning the close contests, the latest example coming last night when they came from behind to beat the Phillies, 4-3. They are now 4-0 in one-run games.

     Credit the bullpen for much of their success. Other than Josh Johnson, the starting staff has either been inconsistent (Ricky Nolasco) or largely ineffective (Javier Vazquez, Anibal Sanchez and Chris Volstad). Their No. 3 and 4 hitters -- Hanley Ramirez and Mike Stanton -- haven't hit. Neither one has a home run. John Buck is slumping. Omar Infante is struggling at the plate. The Marlins have yet to score more than seven runs in a game. So it isn't the offense that's doing the job.

      But the bullpen has been sensational. Collectively, Marlins relievers now boast the lowest ERA in the majors at 1.97. Last night, the pen was charged with covering the final four innings after Vazquez came out after the fifth, and it shut down the Phillies lineup. The story was pretty much the same the previous night in Atlanta when the Marlins pulled out another one-run victory.

      If there's a dark cloud looming, it's the fact that so much has been asked of the bullpen so early. Marlins relievers have racked up the third-highest innings total in the NL due to the repeated failure of the starters to pitch deep into games. Still, so far so good for the Marlins pen.

      What do you think? Can they keep it up?

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