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Cards leapfrog Fish despite Ichiro throw

July 29, 2016

MIAMI -- On a day in which they finalized a seven-player trade designed to boost their chances at ending a 12-year playoff drought, the Marlins watched the Cardinals elbow past them in the National League Wild Card race by battering starter José Ureña. Buoyed by a six-run fifth that chased

MIAMI -- On a day in which they finalized a seven-player trade designed to boost their chances at ending a 12-year playoff drought, the Marlins watched the Cardinals elbow past them in the National League Wild Card race by battering starter José Ureña. Buoyed by a six-run fifth that chased Urena from the game, the Cardinals captured their ninth win in 12 games on Friday with an 11-6 victory at Marlins Park.
The win positions the Cardinals one game ahead of the Marlins for the second NL Wild Card spot. The Dodgers entered the day with a two-game lead over both clubs for the first Wild Card berth.
"I was unaware," said Cardinals manager Mike Matheny, who, with 59 games remaining on the schedule, hasn't started studying the standings. "That's how big of a deal [it is]."
• Cardinals' fill-ins making most of time
The Cardinals, who lead the NL in home runs, hit another two to back starter Mike Leake. Two-run blasts by Jeremy Hazelbaker and Tommy Pham highlighted what was a huge night by the bottom half of the Cardinals' order. Just ahead of Hazelbaker, five-hole hitter Yadier Molina tallied three hits. Behind Pham, Wong had a three-hit night and finished a homer shy of the cycle.

"It's two games. I think that's how we have to look at it," Marlins manager Don Mattingly said of dropping the first two of this four-game series. "There's going to be more made of it this time of year, playing the Cardinals, but every series is big. We have to go from here. We've got two more games left in this series, and then we've got to go to Chicago. And that will be a big series."
Urena, making his third start of the season, gave up a career-high eight runs while struggling with his command. He walked four, hit another two batters and was charged with five of the six runs the Cardinals scored during a fifth inning in which 11 batters came to the plate. The six runs matched a season high for the Cardinals in an inning.
That 9-1 lead was hardly secure, however, as the Marlins answered with five runs off Leake in the bottom half of the fifth. A three-run homer by Martín Prado capped the inning. That frame ended with a strikeout of Ichiro Suzuki, who remains on 2,998 hits for his MLB career after an 0-for-4 night.
• Ichi-throw: No hits, but outfielder gets assist
Fans awaiting an Ichiro milestone were treated to a highlight on defense, though, as the 42-year-old outfielder nailed Wong at the plate on a fourth-inning throw that Statcast™ tracked at 91.6 mph, Ichiro's second-hardest throw of the season from the outfield.

Sweet revenge: Facing Urena for the first time since the two tangled in a Minor League brawl a month ago, Hazelbaker crushed a homer off Urena's 2-1 changeup to give the Cardinals a 2-0 lead in the second. Urena threw a pitch near Hazelbaker's head during a June 27 Triple-A game, and Hazelbaker reacted by charging the mound and initiating a benches-clearing brawl. Both players were ejected. After Hazelbaker's homer on Friday, Urena hit two of the next four batters he faced.

"That's the thing about baseball: usually you have a chance to get back at somebody you have history with," Hazelbaker said. "It was a satisfying time, and I'm glad that it happened. But two runs weren't going to win the game. The team kept pushing and we played well."
Prado finds seats again: Prado is one of the Marlins' top situational hitters, and this series, the veteran third baseman also is showcasing some power. For the second straight game, Prado delivered a home run that helped get his team back in the game. With two outs in the fifth inning, Prado blasted a three-run shot to left off Leake that pulled Miami to within 9-6 after St. Louis built an eight-run advantage in the top of the inning. Prado now has five home runs and 41 RBIs. On Friday night, after Miami fell behind, 5-1, Prado connected on a two-run shot to left.

"After I hit it, we felt good energy in the stadium," Prado said. "A lot of people got into the game then." More >
Bounceback blast: Pham, who was hit on the right wrist by a Urena pitch in the second inning, showed no ill effects of the plunking as the night went on. He singled home a run in the fifth and then drilled a sixth-inning fastball from reliever Nick Wittgren 420 feet for his seventh homer of the season. According to Statcast™, the homer came off Pham's bat at 108 mph.

"I got lucky," Pham said. "I didn't even expect to do that, because it was so sore that next at-bat that I didn't think I would be able to stay in the game. I found a way."
Urena's rough start: On a day the Marlins acquired starters Andrew Cashner and Colin Rea from San Diego, Urena had a chance to make his case to remain in the rotation. But the 24-year-old labored through the roughest start of his career. The game got away from him in the six-run fifth. It was a slow-rolling single to third by Matt Holliday that put everything in motion. From that point, Urena never recovered. Previously, the right-hander had given up as many as five runs twice in his career, with the most recent on Aug. 6, 2015, at Atlanta.
"My two-seamer and changeup, it was [moving] more to the side and not going down," Urena said. "They are pretty good hitting the fastball. That was the key to the game."
"You need to win every day. That's the way you need to look at it. You know that's not necessarily going to be possible, but you still look forward. You can't afford to sit here and go, 'What this? What that?' It's a game today, and we lost it. You've to put it behind us and look forward." -- Mattingly, on the importance of moving forward after a couple of tough losses
"I saw it kind of as a cool opportunity to face Ichiro. It's one of the last few times that I probably will. I wanted to make it a challenge for him and a challenge for myself not to let him get one off of me." -- Leake, on holding Ichiro hitless during the outfielder's pursuit of 3,000 hits
Friday marked the 10th time this season that the Cardinals have scored 11 or more runs in a game. From 2014-15, the club reached that level of offensive output only five times. The burst of scoring snapped a streak of six consecutive one-run wins by the club.
Getting the start in left field, Ichiro was given four chances to move closer to 3,000 hits. Still, on a night he was hitless, Ichiro dazzled the crowd with his throwing arm. In the fourth inning, on Greg Garcia's fly ball to left field, Wong tagged from third and attempted to score. But Ichiro flung a perfect strike to the plate, and catcher J.T. Realmuto tagged out the Cardinals' second baseman on a play that wasn't that close. According to Statcast™, the throw traveled a distance of 239 feet.

"We all know Ichiro is definitely someone who can throw," Wong said. "I knew when he hit it to him, I thought, 'Man, this is going to be tough.' I put my head down and knew I had to run as hard as I could. He still got me."
Mattingly noted that Ichiro would not start on Saturday.
Cardinals: Left-hander Jaime García will return on short rest to start for the Cardinals in their 6:10 p.m. CT game against the Marlins on Saturday. It will be Garcia's first career start on three days' rest, though he's coming off an outing in which he threw just 77 pitches. Garcia allowed four runs on eight hits in a 6 1/3-inning loss to Miami earlier this month.
Marlins: The newly acquired Rea will step right in, getting the start for Miami on Saturday at 7:10 p.m. ET at Marlins Park. Rea is 0-2 with a 6.00 ERA in three career starts against the Cardinals.
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Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Read her blog, follow her on Twitter, like her Facebook page and listen to her podcast.

Joe Frisaro has covered the Marlins for since 2002. He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro and listen to his podcast.