What a wretched weekend in South Florida sports. You've heard about the Heat, but what's happened to the Marlins? One month into the baseball season, this team can't decide whether it belongs at the top of the league or at the bottom. A seven-game win streak in mid-April was followed by a seven-game losing streak, then a three-game win streak was followed by a three-game losing streak.
On Friday, Graham Taylor was throwing much better than when he got torched by the Phillies, but Manager Fredi Gonzalez didn't trust him to hold the 5-2 lead. Bad move. Reliever Hayden Penn walked one and gave up a hit. Then Gonzalez yanked Penn and went to Burke Badenhop, the youngster who'd looked great in his previous two appearances. Badenhop walked another and then served up a grand slam to the Cubs' Ryan Theriot, a tiny shortstop who hadn't gone yard in his last 600 or so at-bats. Ball game.
Then on Saturday Gonzalez made what looked like the right call -- with two outs and two on, he had Anibal Sanchez walk the Cubs' number-eight hitter, Aaron Miles, to face the Cubs' pitcher, Ted Lilly. Yet Lilly, a career .143 hitter, launched a belt-high fastball off the right-field fence, and both runs scored. Sanchez was atrocious, giving up six runs and leaving after four innings. Third loss for him, but even more depressing? Sanchez was the last Marlins starter to win a game -- and that was April 16!
Well, Ricky Nolasco looked like he might break that awful streak yesterday, cruising along until a patch of rotten luck in the fifth. First the Cubs pitcher bunted for a hit. Then after a flyout, another bunt single. Then right-fielder Ross Gload made an error, loading the bases. But don't worry: The hitter was Cubs first baseman Derrek Lee, the former Marlin who is aging at light speed and was hitting under .200 as he stepped to the plate. And just like Theriot and Lilly and David with his slingshot, Lee crushed one. The second grand slam in three games given up by the Marlins, who've somehow served up five of 'em in this first month.
Bottom line: This team is going to hit, and when it does, the Marlins have a chance to contend. But if the starting pitchers continue to scuffle along, it's going to make an already bad bullpen worse, and this is going to be a long, long season.