Marlins 3, Phillies 2, 11 innings
MIAMI (AP)—The Florida Marlins kept manager Joe Girardi around for a couple of extra innings Sunday. Whether he’ll still be with them next season remains doubtful.
Overachieving Florida concluded its surprising season by beating Philadelphia 3-2 in 11 innings. It was likely the last game with the Marlins for Girardi, who is expected to be fired because of a rocky relationship with owner Jeffrey Loria and general manager Larry Beinfest.
The Marlins poured out of their dugout with glee when Jason Wood hit a bases-loaded, one-out infield single to score the winning run. Girardi joined the celebration, exchanging hugs with his players.
“It’s emotional,” he said. “I’m an emotional guy.”
Girardi said he hasn’t been advised of his status. He’s scheduled to meet Tuesday with Beinfest, who declined to comment on Girardi’s future.
The Marlins lost 13 of their final 18 games to finish 78-84—their first losing season since 2002, but better than anticipated for a team that has baseball’s lowest payroll, played 22 rookies and started 11-31.
“It’s a special group of kids,” Girardi said. “They accomplished a lot, and it was fun to watch, and fun to be a part of it.”
Philadelphia manager Charlie Manuel’s status is also uncertain. His team, eliminated Saturday from the NL wild-card race, finished 85-77.
“I think I deserve to keep this job forever,” Manuel said. “I think this is a good job for me.”
Said general manager Pat Gillick: “Right now, he’s our manager in 2007.”
With balmy weather, a festive crowd and plentiful lineup changes, the season’s final game was reminiscent of spring training. The Phils used 18 players, the Marlins 22.
Florida starter Dontrelle Willis threw only 19 pitches before leaving as a precaution with a sore left triceps. Dan Uggla hit his 27th homer, but teammate Miguel Cabrera went 0-for-2 and fell short in his bid for the NL batting title.
The Phillies’ Chase Utley doubled in the seventh for his 203rd hit of the season when left fielder Chris Aguila lost the ball in the sun. Ryan Howard followed with a single for his 149th RBI to make the score 2-all.
Howard also walked, struck out, was hit by a pitch and lifted a 430-foot flyout to the warning track in center. He failed to hit a home run in his final 32 at-bats and finished at 58 homers, a team record and the most in the major leagues.
“The individual accomplishments will definitely hit me sometime, when I get a chance to sit back and think about it,” Howard said.
Uggla homered in the sixth to set a Marlins rookie record and extend his major league record for the most home runs by a rookie second baseman. He received a curtain call at the end of the inning from an announced crowd of 36,768, second-largest of the season for the Marlins, although the actual turnout was less than 25,000.
Wood’s game-winner was a sharp grounder that shortstop Danny Sandoval failed to glove. The Marlins mobbed Wood, a 36-year-old journeyman who has spent most of his career in the minor leagues.
“I looked up and there was a swarm of Marlins coming at me,” he said. “It was the greatest feeling I’ve had in baseball.”
Cabrera trailed NL batting leader Freddy Sanchez of Pittsburgh by three points at the start of the day, struck out in both of his at-bats and finished at .339. Sanchez hit .344.
Girardi batted Cabrera leadoff for the first time in his career, planning to give him as many at-bats as possible, but the Marlins slugger took himself out of the game after Sanchez singled in his first two trips against Cincinnati to pad his lead.
“It’s frustrating. I wanted to win the batting title,” Cabrera said. “When I went 0-for-2, I was down. Sanchez went 2-for-2 and I said, ‘I’m done. I’m going to watch my guys play and enjoy the game.”’
Savoring the victory in the finale, Cabrera said he hopes Girardi returns next season. That was the clubhouse consensus.
“He brings confidence, he brings everything for us,” Cabrera said. “We’d love to have him back.”