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Marlins bounce back again to beat Red Sox, gain ground in NL East race

Miami Herald — By David Wilson Miami Herald

Sept. 16-- MIAMI-There was never any worry Tuesday, even as the Miami Marlins scuffled through a shutout loss to the last-place Boston Red Sox, that whatever the Marlins were doing in the opener of a three-game series in Miami was the sign of any lingering issue. The dugout didn't feel any different, pitching kept the Marlins in the game and they even brought the tying run to the plate in the ninth inning. Don Mattingly had watched his team bounce back often enough this season that he didn't sound concerned before first pitch Tuesday.

He was right to not worry. A day after one of its worst offensive performances of the season, Miami scored twice in the first inning Wednesday and cruised to an 8-4 win against the Red Sox at Marlins Park.

"That was the good thing about last night. We didn't score any runs, but it really wasn't any different feel at all in the dugout," Mattingly said. "It wasn't flat. It wasn't anything other than just not scoring."

Miami played Wednesday without any of its three usual starting outfielders, including Starling Marte, and still managed to nearly double its usual scoring output by leaning on the lineup staples who were here before the Marlins became an unlikely contender this season. Slugger Garrett Cooper hit a two-run home run off Mike Kickham in the first to put Miami ahead 2-0, outfielders Brian Anderson and Lewis Brinson both drove in runs in the third to stretch the lead to 4-1, and catcher Jorge Alfaro busted the game open up with a two-run homer in the third and another two-run shot in the fifth before leaving the game in the top of the seventh when a foul ball hit his face mask.

The Marlins (25-22) haven't had a two-game losing streak since Sept. 4, when they lost back-to-back games to the Toronto Blue Jays and Tampa Bay Rays. They've won 8 of 12 since the two-game skid, charging into second place in the National League East and fifth place in the NL.

The win keeps Miami at least a half game ahead of the Philadelphia Phillies for second place in the division and moves the Marlins to 2 { games back of the first-place Atlanta Braves. Miami, currently the No. 5 seed, also stays a game ahead of the No. 6-seed St. Louis Cardinals and moves five games back of the No. 4-seed San Diego Padres.

The offensive output was needed Wednesday, as Miami spent the vast majority of the game in its bullpen. Pitcher Trevor Rogers lasted just three innings, throwing 76 pitches in the frames after needing 34 to navigate through the Red Sox (18-32) the first inning. Relief pitcher Josh A. Smith replaced the rookie in the fourth inning and bridged the Marlins into the heart of their bullpen for the final four innings.

Rogers gave up one run on three hits, walked two and struck out three, and Smith gave up another run on two hits with a strikeout before Alfaro put Miami ahead 8-2 with his second home run in the fifth inning.

Alfaro's first homer came off Kickham (1-1) as the hammer to the Marlins' game-breaking four-run third inning.

With Brinson planted on second base, Kickham attacked Alfaro in the middle of the zone with his slider and the 27-year-old Colombian crushed a 423-foot home run at nearly 110 mph off the bat.

Two innings later, Boston relief pitcher Robinson Leyer left another slider over the plate and Alfaro turned on it again, launching it 412 feet to left-center.

Alfaro, whose batting average cratered at .152 on Sept. 7, is 10 for his last 27 with three home runs.

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