Rick VandenHurk pitched five effective innings, five Florida players had at least one RBI and the Marlins beat the Houston Astros 8-6 on Monday night for their fourth straight win.
“It was nice to come out and not be flat,” Marlins catcher John Baker said, referring to the Marlins’ first game since a three-game sweep at Philadelphia.
Baker had two RBIs, and NL batting leader Hanley Ramirez had two singles and an RBI to help chase starter Brian Moehler (7-8) after five innings.
Florida moved within 3 1/2 games of idle Philadelphia for the NL East lead.
VandenHurk struck out four and allowed two runs and five hits.
“It wasn’t feeling like a good outing early on, but we scored some runs and it allowed me to keep attacking,” VandenHurk said.
Darin Erstad had a home run and three RBIs for Houston.
Florida lost three straight last week to the last-place Washington Nationals and appeared on the verge of a complete collapse. The Marlins then went into Philadelphia for the sweep that recharged their postseason hopes.
Flopping after many big wins this season, Florida avoided any kind of a letdown.
Baker hit a two-run double in the first to give the Marlins a 3-0 lead. Jorge Cantu had an RBI single and Cody Ross added a sacrifice fly in the inning to put Florida ahead 4-0.
“It was really big,” Baker said of the fast start. It prevented us from having any kind of a letdown coming off a big sweep of Philadelphia.”
After Hunter Pence singled in the second, Erstad hit a towering home run to right to cut the deficit in half.
Chris Coghlan hit an RBI single in the sixth after Baker scored on a balk by Chris Sampson. Later in the inning, Astros manager Cecil Cooper decided to intentionally walk Nick Johnson with two outs and a runner on second to have Sampson face Ramirez, who ripped a single to left that put Florida ahead 7-2.
“We’re not built to fight back like that,” Cooper said. “We did give it a pretty good go. We got to two runs down, but we’ve got to shut it down once we do get back in the game there. We got back in the game 4-2, but we just couldn’t close the door and shut them off.”
An RBI double by Erstad in the seventh made it 7-3 and Jeremy Hermida doubled and scored from third on a wild pitch by Alberto Arias in the eighth to restore the five-run lead.
Carlos Lee had a two-run double in the ninth off Matt Lindstrom, and he scored on a balk by Leo Nunez, who got the last two outs for his 12th save.
“We got close then turned around and went in a different way,” Lee said. “We need to score some runs and give the pitcher something to work with. The pitchers feel like they can’t make a mistake because we’re not scoring runs.”