ST. LOUIS -- With a bullpen that led the National League in blown saves a year ago (25), the Marlins were a team that was painful to watch in one-run games. No lead ever really felt safe.
But so far this season, the Marlins have played a lot better when games have been tight. In fact, their seven wins in one run games entering Tuesday (7-3 record) is tied with Kansas City for the most in the majors. A year ago, the Marlins were 23-27 in one-run games, a stat manager Edwin Rodriguez said in spring training had to change if the Marlins were going to be the last team standing.
"They feel very comfortable playing in these close games," Rodriguez said after Monday's 6-5 come-from-behind win over the Cardinals. "When we're in the dugout we know if we have a close game going, they feel very relaxed. That's a very good sign. That's a sign of a very good team."
The Marlins (18-9) enter Tuesday's game against the Cardinals (16-13) tied with the Phillies for the best record in the National League. Greg Dobbs, only one of two current Marlins with a World Series ring (he won it in 2008 with the Phillies), said the Marlins remind him of the championship teams he played with in Philadelphia.
"There's a lot of resiliency," Dobbs said. "There's some quiet confidence. This team doesn't give up. There's a lot of comfort behind wins, a lot of one-run wins. That's what championship clubs do, that's what they have to do. They have to come back from a deficit and have to be able to win those close ballclubs, not feel pressure and execute when they have to execute. And that's what this team has done for the most part. That's why we're off to such a good start.
"Obviously our starting pitching has been phenomenal. But we played solid defense, executed when we needed to. We could be better. I think this group is going in a good direction. We have a very good focus. There is good energy in this clubhouse. We're like brothers. we're going to pick each other up, police each other. We're going to jump on one of our brothers if we need to. That's what championship teams do. That's what this team has done."
BASES LOADED SUCCESS: Another reason the Marlins are playing well through their first 27 games this season -- they're getting clutch hits when the bases are loaded.
So far this season, the Marlins lead baseball with a .545 batting average with the bases full. Their three grand slams and 45 RBI also lead baseball with the bases loaded. A year ago, the Marlins finished 17th in runs produced with the bases loaded and 24th in homers (3).
The Marlins are also hitting better with runners in scoring position, batting .271 as a team (9th best in baseball). Last year, they hit .258 with runners in scoring position (14th overall).