MIAMI -- A week ago in Cincinnati, the Marlins’ dugout showed little signs of enthusiasm as the club's second-half record dropped to 5-17 and it tumbled out of playoff position. What a difference seven days make.
It marked just the second time in club history the Marlins went back-to-back-to-back, with the first instance coming courtesy of Derrek Lee, Cliff Floyd and Kevin Orie in the ninth inning on Aug. 26, 1998, in St. Louis.
Miami (63-57) moved a full game up on the Cubs (61-57) and Reds (62-58) for the third National League Wild Card spot. The Marlins have won three games in a row for the first time since July 3-5. Since opening the second half 5-17, the club has gone 5-1.
“A lot of smiles, a lot of jumping up and down,” said Bell, who has a 1.100 OPS since joining the Marlins. “It makes you feel like a kid sometimes. Sometimes the game's the hardest thing in the world, but when you can do stuff like that and celebrate with the team, it makes I guess the downside of the game that much easier.”
Despite having the fourth-highest average (.262) in the Majors, the Marlins are tied for the fifth-fewest runs scored (490), in large part because of their inability to slug. Miami has hit just just 114 homers, the fourth-lowest mark in MLB. General manager Kim Ng hoped to change that with the additions of Bell and Jake Burger, who has an .847 OPS in 12 games since being acquired from the White Sox, and so far it seems to have worked.
The pair has altered the dynamic of the lineup, as evidenced by the past two games: Burger came up with the walk-off hit in Sunday’s thrilling comeback victory over the Yankees. Bell leads all Trade Deadline acquisitions with five homers with his new club.
“When you can change the score with one at-bat, per at-bat, we really have lacked that this year up and down the lineup -- except for maybe Soler, honestly,” manager Skip Schumaker said. “So for him, Bell and Arraez -- now a couple homers the last couple games -- and obviously Burger in the meat of the order, when you can change the score, that's a big deal. You don't have to get five hits in a row. Although we don't preach it, it's nice to have that in your lineup.”
With Miami clinging to a 2-1 lead in the eighth, Soler started the fireworks display with a two-out solo homer off southpaw Framber Valdez. Soler, who had missed the previous two games with a stomach bug, turned on a cutter inside and lined it over the left-field wall for his team-leading 29th home run.
Then came Arraez, who had told hitting coach Brant Brown and bench coach Luis Urueta that he was going to take Valdez deep if he kept pitching him inside. On the second pitch of the at-bat -- a 95 mph sinker inside -- Arraez kept the ball just fair to right to chase Valdez out of the game.
“It's not me, but I'm excited, because I never hit homers, and that's why I'm enjoying it,” said Arraez, who has gone deep in two of his past three games. “When I hit homers, I enjoy it, and then I just run the bases happy. I want to say, ‘Thanks, God, for that.’ It's not my game. I just try to hit the ball, and then if I hit a homer, I'm excited.”
Familiar with righty Hector Neris during his time with the Phillies, Bell pulled an elevated 91.4 mph fastball to right to cap the trifecta. Bell, who turned 31 Monday, became the 11th Marlin to homer on his birthday. He has reached in all 12 games with Miami -- the second-longest streak for a midseason acquisition in club history, behind Gary Sheffield’s 13 games in 1993.
“We talked about it yesterday,” Bell said. “It starts with a spark. Soler, like he's done time and time again since I've been here, started it for us. Arraez called it in the dugout at the bat rack. He said, ‘I'm hitting a homer right here.’ And we're like, ‘Oh, you don't have to.’ He's like, ‘No, I'm hitting a homer.’ He hits it and I'm just looking around like, ‘Oh my gosh,’ like multiple people heard it. And then after that, I got a pitch up in the zone that I could handle, and I was fortunate to put a good swing on it.”
The power surge overshadowed the job of left-hander Braxton Garrett (five scoreless innings) and four relievers. Until the eighth, Miami had managed to scratch just two runs across against American League Cy Young candidate Valdez.
“This victory and last night as well, these are victories that can get us into a winning streak,” Soler said via interpreter Luis Dorante Jr.