Willis yielded two runs in seven innings, Miguel Cabrera drove in two runs and Hanley Ramirez and Dan Uggla each scored twice to help the Marlins beat the Red Sox 5-2 Friday night—snapping Boston’s 12-game winning streak, which matched the third-longest in franchise history.
“It’s good for our young guys. It’s nice to see,” said Marlins manager Joe Girardi, whose team won for the 14th time in 18 games. “I think it’s a big confidence booster for our club because we’re playing against the best, one of the best, and they’ve been playing as well as anyone.”
Boston played error-free defense for the 17th consecutive game, setting a new major league record, one better than the St. Louis Cardinals’ 16-game run in 1992. But the Marlins scored three times in the first and twice more in the second to spoil Jason Johnson’s Red Sox debut, and that proved to be plenty.
“The streak is nice,” said Red Sox third baseman Mike Lowell, the former Marlin who was referencing the error-free run. “But I’d like to have won 13.”
Armed with a five-run lead, Willis (5-7) made sure that didn’t happen.
Willis allowed seven hits and struck out seven, helping the Marlins become just the second National League team to beat the Red Sox in 16 interleague games this year; Philadelphia beat the Red Sox on May 21. All 12 of the victories in Boston’s streak came against Florida’s four other NL East foes.
Manny Ramirez went 3-for-4 with a two-run single for Boston, which fell to 23-3 in interleague play since June 12, 2005.
“I think it was just great for us to go out here and just play good baseball,” Willis said. “We’re on the same playing field as a potential world championship team. We played hard in all aspects of the game.”
With the win, Florida passed Philadelphia—an 8-1 loser at Toronto—and took sole possession of second place in the NL East, a half-game ahead of the Phillies.
Joe Borowski pitched the ninth for his 15th save, and has converted 10 straight chances. Gabe Kapler reached on an error in the ninth, but Borowski struck out Alex Gonzalez—as the crowd roared because David Ortiz was in the on-deck circle as a pinch hitter.
Ortiz flied out to the right-field wall to end the game, just missing a homer that would have cut Florida’s lead to 5-4.
“I was just happy Big Papi came up when he wasn’t the tying run,” Girardi said.
Johnson (3-9), who was obtained from Cleveland in a trade on June 21, allowed eight of the first 11 batters he faced to reach base—and five of them scored. Mike Jacobs’ double over Manny Ramirez’s head in the first brought home Hanley Ramirez with the first run in the first inning, Cabrera followed with an RBI groundout and Jeremy Hermida’s run-scoring single to right two batters later made it 3-0.
In the second inning, Ramirez singled and eventually scored on a wild pitch, and Cabrera’s sacrifice fly brought Uggla home for a 5-0 lead. By the time Johnson strode to the plate for his first at-bat, many in the decidedly pro-Boston crowd of 32,194—the largest home attendance this season for the Marlins, 886 more than the opening day gate—were actually booing their newest pitcher.
Johnson—who lost his fifth straight start—left after four innings, allowing six hits and the five runs.
“I had a lot of adrenaline in the first couple innings,” Johnson said. “I was throwing too hard and trying to impress. The last couple of innings I settled down and threw the ball where I wanted to.”
Lowell and Gonzalez each had one hit for the Red Sox in their first games back at Florida since leaving after last season in the Marlins’ salary purge. Both got standing ovations in their first plate appearances, and even Willis joined in on the applause from the mound.
“I was very happy here for seven years,” Gonzalez said. “It felt great. I appreciate it. I will always have South Florida in my heart.”
Boston got its two runs in the sixth inning on Manny Ramirez’s sharp single to right-center that brought home Coco Crisp and Kevin Youkilis. But Willis got out of that inning with no more damage, then struck out Crisp on an 87 mph fastball on his final pitch in the seventh—pumping his fist as he left the mound.
“They’re one of the most high-powered offenses in all of baseball,” Willis said. “It’s a beautiful thing to try and contain them.”
Gonzalez extended his hitting streak to 10 games. … Hanley Ramirez worked a 12-pitch walk off Johnson in the fourth inning. … Johnson won two of his first three starts this season; he’s won one of his 12 subsequent appearances.