Jorge Cantu, Cody Ross, and Gaby Sanchez propelled the Florida Marlins back into the playoff race last night in a big way, launching doubles and homers into the field and stands of Land Shark Stadium in front of an announced crowd of 38,000 who had withstood a two-and-a-half hour rain delay at the start of the game.
Cantu doubled, homered, and drove in five runs, and was accompanied by Cody Ross who also doubled and homered in helping the Marlins take an 11-3 win over the hapless Washington Nationals.
Gaby Sanchez, a recent call-up, hit the first home run of his career in the sixth inning to add to Ross’s homer and give the Fish an 8-2 lead.
When asked about his first long ball, Sanchez was nearly speechless, but was able to get out, "It was one of those amazing moments. I didn’t realize what had happened until I stepped on the plate and got into the dugout."
It was Cantu’s production, though, that was most impressive throughout the night as he thrilled the many fans with his heroics. Batting behind the Marlins’ superstar shortstop, Hanley Ramirez, Jorge Cantu’s consistency has been a wellspring from which the Florida franchise has drunk hard and deep this season.
Ramirez is one of the premier batters in the majors this year, leading the National League with a .358 average (second only to the American League’s Joe Mauer who has a .363 average) to go along with his 23 home runs, 99 RBIs, 91 runs scored, and 24 stolen bases.
As Florida manager Fredi Gonzalez put it "Cantu gives you clutch at-bats, and he has 85 RBIs now hitting behind a guy (Ramirez) who’s going to have 100. That’s not easy."
No, it’s certainly not easy, Fredi, and neither is the job you’ve had to do in order to keep these young and oft-times undisciplined Marlins in the playoff hunt as long as you have. With the win, the Fish are within five games of the National League East-leading, and World Champion, Philadelphia Phillies, who lost to the New York Mets last night in a thriller 10-9.
Considering the Marlins and Phillies take each other on six more times before the end of the year, the Marlins have renewed hope they might actually be able to pull off the impossible and dethrone the champs before the postseason can even start.
Certainly the focus has been on a Wild Card berth for the Fish for most of the last couple of months, and with the Colorado Rockies also losing to the San Diego Padres last night the Marlins are again only five-and-a-half games behind them for that coveted extra ticket to the playoffs with 20 games to go.
However, to win the division you play in is a far more honored achievement, and for the first time in their history, the Marlins have a legitimate shot at doing that with less than three weeks to go in the season.
Will the vaunted Phillies falter and allow this unheralded group of youngsters to steal their thunder, or will the pressure be too much for these relatively inexperienced bunch? They have some veteran experience, but it’s limited, and for the most part this team of Marlins has yet to make their mark.
Will they make that mark against the best of the best in the Phillies? Six more games against them remain in which they will let us know. This season is promising to be a wild ride to the finish; something we Marlins fans haven’t had much of. I’m hoping that ride ends with a World Series victory. I’m an eternal optimist and dreamer…lol
Quotes courtesy of Yahoo Sports article on the game