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Bullpen maturing as Wild Card race heats up

MLB.com @JoeFrisaro

MIAMI -- A young and inexperienced Marlins bullpen is being asked to grow up in a hurry. It took another big step forward on Saturday night, logging five shutout innings in a 2-1 11-inning, walk-off win over the Padres at Marlins Park.

Odrisamer Despaigne (aka "Mili-Pino") set the tempo by allowing just one run over six innings in a spot start, and relievers Brian Ellington (aka "Elli"), Jarlin Garcia (aka "Jarlin The Marlin"), Drew Steckenrider (aka "Steckasaurus") and Junichi Tazawa (aka "Taz") did the rest.

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MIAMI -- A young and inexperienced Marlins bullpen is being asked to grow up in a hurry. It took another big step forward on Saturday night, logging five shutout innings in a 2-1 11-inning, walk-off win over the Padres at Marlins Park.

Odrisamer Despaigne (aka "Mili-Pino") set the tempo by allowing just one run over six innings in a spot start, and relievers Brian Ellington (aka "Elli"), Jarlin Garcia (aka "Jarlin The Marlin"), Drew Steckenrider (aka "Steckasaurus") and Junichi Tazawa (aka "Taz") did the rest.

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With the Rockies winning on Saturday, the Marlins remain 4 1/2 games out in the chase for the second National League Wild Card spot. This comes after Miami dealt setup man David Phelps and closer AJ Ramos before the non-waiver Trade Deadline.

After issuing a leadoff double to Hector Sanchez to start the seventh, Ellington fanned two. His fastball maxed out at 101 mph.

"A guy that was big tonight was Ellington," Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. "That was a big inning for us, to get through that seventh. He gives up that leadoff double, but then punches the next two guys out and gets us out of that thing."

Ellington has had a rocky season. In 26 appearances, he has a 7.00 ERA in 27 innings. After his strong performance on Saturday, he now has 29 strikeouts and 22 walks.

"He's a guy who has had some success, some failures," Mattingly said. "He's kind of been two steps forward, one step back. At some point, this guy has a chance to be a back-end guy. You're throwing 100 [mph]. With everybody trying to do the launch-angle thing, you're throwing the fastball right by guys. If you can get the ball to the right spots of the zone, the guys with launch angles don't hit that."

According to BaseballSavant.com, Ellington threw 14 pitches, 11 of which were four-seam fastballs. The right-hander wasn't messing around, as he averaged 99.8 mph on that pitch.

"He's a valuable piece moving forward, also," Mattingly said.

Garcia and Steckenrider teamed up for three innings. The former worked a clean eighth and got two outs in the ninth before exiting with a man on second. Steckenrider struck out Jabari Blash (aka, "Big Daddy") to end the threat and pitched a clean 10th, striking out two.

"Jarlin has been really good all year," Mattingly said. "He's had a hiccup here or there, but he's been really good. Steck's been, generally, really good."

Joe Frisaro has covered the Marlins for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro and listen to his podcast.

Miami Marlins, Brian Ellington, Jarlin Garcia, Drew Steckenrider, Junichi Tazawa