Hanley’s multi-sensory 8th-inning home run (you could see it, hear it and even FEEL it if you were in the ballpark) may have decided last night’s game against the Cubs, but there was universal agreement in the post-game clubhouse that the biggest developments of the night for the Marlins came on the mound.
After a pair of rocky outings to begin the year, Josh Johnson worked 7 strong innings, limiting the Cubs to 2 runs on 7 hits. And after Steve Cishek turned in yet another in a long-line of seemingly daily stellar outings to set down the side in the 8th, Heath Bell needed only 7 pitches (all strikes) to dispose of the Cubs 1-2-3 in the 9th to earn his first Marlins save.
For Ozzie Guillen, the performances turned in by his ace and his closer were the highlights of the night.
“To see JJ throwing the ball the way he did, I think personally, he needed that. And so did we, to get rid of those doubts and questions about him and how he performed the last 2 outings, especially the last one, it cleared a lot of people’s minds about how he is.
And second of all, to give the opportunity to Heath Bell to go out there and do what he does best. Those are the 2 things, besides the home run and the win, those are the greatest things that happened for us (last night).”
After allowing 21 hits in 9 2/3 innings his first 2 times out, JJ said last night felt different.
“I felt like I could let it go. When my timing’s off, this past month, it hasn’t really felt quite there. It was close, but it wasn’t quite there, and I wasn’t really sure what it was until we went back and looked at the video and saw that my hands weren’t breaking at the correct time and doing what I’ve always done through my career. Just to get deep into the game, and again, I gave up a couple of hard-hit balls, but there were some balls that just found holes and found ways to get through. But I went out there and battled and got through 7.”
For Bell, who led all of baseball in saves over the last 3 seasons, earning his first save in a Marlins uniform took a little longer than he would have liked with a pair of blown saves to begin the year, but following a Sunday morning throwing session with pitching coach Randy St. Claire, the righthander was confident he was back on track, and he didn’t try to hide the relief he felt following last night’s performance.
“This is like a huge weight off my back, plain and simple. I went out there and blew the first 2, and I’m big on trying to get my teammates to trust me in any situation at any given time. This is a good start.
Between talking to Buck and St. Claire, and me and St. Claire working out and playing catch, we fixed it on Sunday, It’s not something that’s going to come back. It’s fixed. It’s done with. We’re going to go on and get a lot of people out.”
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