MIAMI (AP)—The crowd of 13,233 scattered about the vast stadium rose with a roar as Justin Miller prepared to throw the night’s final pitch, completing an improbable series sweep for the Florida Marlins.
Baseball fever, Miami style.
Miller’s strikeout sealed the first shutout of the Arizona Diamondbacks this season, and surprising Florida won 4-0 Thursday to sweep the three-game showdown of first-place teams.
The series was the most impressive yet by the Marlins. The team with baseball’s lowest payroll built its NL East lead with the help of a weak early schedule, but there was nothing fluky about the way they beat NL West leaders.
“This is a big series for us confidence-wise,” said Wes Helms, who drove in two runs with a pinch-hit double in the finale. “This is something to build on. It shows this team we can do big things. We not only can beat the small teams; we can beat the big teams.”
The Diamondbacks arrived in Miami with the best record in the majors. They ranked fourth in runs but they totaled only 17 hits in the three games and were outscored 10-3.
“We’re just struggling,” manager Bob Melvin said. “We’re going to have to fight through it. No one is going to feel sorry for you.”
Andrew Miller (4-3) helped complete the sweep by limiting Arizona to five hits in seven innings. Throwing a fastball that peaked at 98 mph, he had a career-high nine strikeouts, walked one and allowed only one runner to reach second base.
Miller smiled when asked how long the Marlins can keep surprising the so-called experts.
“I don’t mind if they count us out until they can’t anymore,” he said. “That doesn’t affect the way we play. If we’re the underdog all along, that’s fine.”
“The way I was pitching the beginning of the year, it’s nice to be able to go out and give these guys some good outings,” Miller said.
Logan Kensing and Justin Miller pitched one inning each to complete the seven-hitter.
The Marlins, last in the majors in fielding, committed no errors in the series and repeatedly came through with clutch hits. And long-apathetic South Florida is beginning to notice its upstart team: The crowd for the final game was the largest this week.
“The only way you get people in the stands is to win,” Helms said. “You win, they’ll come. It might take another month, but they’ll come. All we have to do is keep winning.”
The three Arizona pitchers Florida beat came into the series with a combined record of 19-3. On Wednesday, the Marlins became the first team this season to defeat Brandon Webb.
The sweep was the Marlins’ fourth this year. Their most recent sweep against Arizona was a three-game set July 28-30, 2003.
The Diamondbacks lost their sixth road game in a row, and their three-game losing streak matches their longest this season.
“A lot of people in here are frustrated with the way we’re playing,” Haren said in the clubhouse. “We know we’re better than that.”
Florida’s Hanley Ramirez, who slumped after dropping to third in the order three weeks ago, moved back to leadoff and started the first inning with a triple. He scored on a groundout by Cantu.
Helms hustled to third on a groundout, then scored on Cantu’s two-out single.
The Marlins rank only eighth in the NL in ERA, but much of Arizona’s lineup left town in a slump. Justin Upton went 0-for-11 in the series with eight strikeouts, and cleanup hitter Conor Jackson went 0-for-9.
“We were coming through in clutch situations, and the last few games we haven’t been doing that,” second baseman Orlando Hudson said. “It ain’t no fun.”
On Friday the Marlins will add OF Jacque Jones to the roster. He signed with the team Monday and has been at extended spring training. He’ll join the team for its weekend series against San Francisco. INF Robert Andino was optioned to Triple-A Albuquerque. … Florida’s Dan Uggla went 0-for-4, ending his 11-game hitting streak. … Haren walked none and has allowed only 10 walks in 63 2-3 innings this season.