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Uggla lifts Marlins to sweep of Nats

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1Uggla lifts Marlins to sweep of Nats Empty Uggla lifts Marlins to sweep of Nats on Wed 08 Apr 2009, 10:29 pm

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Uggla lifts Marlins to sweep of Nats


Three-run double the difference; Volstad fans seven in win


 


MIAMI -- You'd have to go back to the Marlins' first World Series championship to find an equally impressive start to a season.


Sure, it's only the first three games, and yes it came against a team that finished in last place a year ago, but it's a sweep, an early positive sign, and, frankly, the Marlins will take it.

Backed by some timely hitting, solid pitching by the bullpen, a bounce-back performance by Chris Volstad and some late-game drama that went their way, the Marlins continued to roll at the start of 2009, beating the Nationals, 6-4, in front of 13,308 on Wednesday afternoon at Dolphin Stadium.

Florida is now 3-0 to start a season for the first time since 1997. Whether it yields the same result remains to be seen.

"Coincidence" is what outfielder Cody Ross called it.

"But you have to win as much as you can as soon as you can," he added, "because when you drop games in August and September, you don't want to look back and go, 'Dang, we should've won those games in April.'"

The Marlins went into the top of the ninth with a three-run lead when new closer Matt Lindstrom made his first appearance of the season.

That's when things started to get interesting.

Nick Johnson led off the inning with a walk, and Elijah Dukes singled two batters later to put runners on first and second with one out. After that, Ryan Zimmerman hit a potential game-ending double play to second base, but Dan Uggla missed swiping Dukes, then bobbled the ball out of his glove to load the bases.

Then, after Adam Dunn walked on nine pitches to make it a two-run game, former Marlin Josh Willingham struck out, and Austin Kearns hit a shallow line drive to left field that seemed to be in flight for an eternity.

Brett Carroll, who checked into the game in the sixth inning, admitted he lost it a bit at first, but after originally ranging to his left, he made a sliding catch to his right just before the ball hit the ground.

Thanks to that, Lindstrom had his first save of the year -- after 32 pitches.

"I knew it was hit somewhere near him, and I know Brett is going to make a dang good effort," said Lindstrom, who was throwing to big league hitters for the first time since suffering a strained right rotator cuff while pitching for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic in mid-March. "I'm just glad he caught it."

The Marlins were only able to scrape one run in the first four innings off Nationals starter Daniel Cabrera, but they came up big with a four-run fifth to take a three-run lead.

Ross Gload started off the inning with a single to left field, Volstad laid down a sacrifice bunt to move him over and, two batters later, John Baker -- who brought in the first run of the game -- lined a two-out base hit to left field to tie the game.

After Hanley Ramirez singled and Jorge Cantu got hit with a 91-mph fastball on his left hand -- though X-rays were negative after the game -- Uggla ripped a bases-clearing, three-run double to right-center field to give the Marlins a 5-2 lead.

"In a tied ballgame, you take anything you can get with two outs like that," Uggla said. "Any time you can get some hits, some runs, anything like that, it's going to be big later in the game."

It certainly seemed that way for the next half-inning.

The Nationals were threatening in the top of the sixth when No. 5 starter Andrew Miller made a relief appearance and loaded the bases with one out. But Kiko Calero came in and struck out Ronnie Belliard, then got pinch-hitter Josh Bard to fly out to left field to end the inning.

Calero, signed as a Minor League free agent in late January, also tossed a scoreless seventh inning and has now pitched 2 2/3 shutout frames to start the season.

"For me, that was the game -- for him to come in, in that situation, and do what he did," Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "He got us out of that inning and then the next inning. That's what caught our eye in Spring Training, and that's why he made our club."

Volstad's only struggles came right about noon ET.

That's when the Nationals put up two runs in an inning that saw the 22-year-old right-hander throw 27 pitches and get behind on five of the seven hitters he faced.

With runners on first and second and nobody out, Zimmerman laced a line drive right at Ross, who made the catch and fired over to first base to try to double up Dukes. The only problem was there was nobody there. Ross put his hands on his head, unable to believe what happened, as the ball rolled into the Marlins' dugout and Christian Guzman scored on the two-base error.

Volstad gave up another run after that -- on an RBI single by Kearns three batters later -- but he settled down the rest of the way. During his next four innings, the Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., native didn't yield a hit and walked two while striking out seven.

"I was just rushing through my delivery in the first inning -- just a little overanxious, I guess," said Volstad, whose seven strikeouts was a career high. "Once I slowed my delivery down and I got my tempo, I felt like I pitched very well."


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