HOUSTON -- The Marlins entered Saturday's game at Minute Maid Park with a 16-2 record when scoring seven or more runs. They also were 4-9 when their starter completes exactly five innings.
Both situations occurred. Not exactly an immovable object and unstoppable force scenario, but in this case offense trumped the shaky start. The Marlins blitzed Jarred Cosart for five runs through two innings and the bullpen preserved the 7-3 win for Tom Koehler.
Winners of six of seven, the Marlins (50-53) improved to a National League-best 10-4 in interleague play. Their 11th win in 13 games against the Astros dating back to 2011 clinched a second consecutive road series for the Marlins and brought them within seven games of the first-place Nationals.
Jordany Valdespin's first homer as a Marlin -- a ninth-inning, two-run opposite-field shot off Chad Qualls -- was huge. It meant the Marlins didn't have to use closer Steve Cishek in a save situation for the sixth time in seven days.
Four relievers, including Chris Hatcher in the ninth, combined on the final four scoreless innings.
For the sixth time this season a Marlins starter pitched exactly five innings and departed in line for the win. Saturday was the third time the bullpen preserved it. On June 4 and July 22 the relievers recorded the final 12 outs to clinch victories for Koehler and Jacob Turner, respectively.
The Marlins through the first 10 innings of the series hadn't lacked baserunners, but they weren't capitalizing. Finally in the second, they loaded the bases with one out and put up a crooked number.
Christian Yelich fell behind 0-2, but worked his way back into the at-bat and on the eighth pitched slapped an RBI-single to left. Two batters later Stanton ambushed Cosart, ripping a first-pitch past shortstop that nearly rolled all the way to the wall for a bases-clearing double.
Including 3-for-7 this season, Stanton for his career with the bases loaded is 17-for-48 (.354) with three doubles, five homers and 52 RBI. As a team, the Marlins in those situations improved to 22-for-92 (.239), including 8-for-44 (.182) with two out.
Saturday marked Stanton's first multi-RBI game since June 16 and his first with at least three driven in since May 4. He's at 69 and on pace to finish with 108.
In spite of totaling 70 pitches through three innings, Cosart made it through 5 2/3 on 112 pitches. Cosart after the four-run, three-hit second held the Marlins to three more singles and retired the six of the last batters he faced.
The Marlins got five unspectacular, but gusty innings out of Koehler, who gave up nine hits. Just one of those came in nine at-bats with runners in scoring position, leaving Koehler positioned for the win. Four of the hits Koehler allowed came after he fell behind 2-0. One of those was a first-inning, Jason Castro two-run homer that eclipsed a 1-0 Marlins' lead.
Koehler went to his curve in a couple of tight spots and it came through for him. With runners at the corners and one out in the third, Koehler struck out Castro and Matt Dominguez. Both took breaking balls for called third strikes.
The first out of that innings was a painful one for Koehler. Carter lined a 1-2 pitch off his back that went straight up and into the glove of shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria.
In the fifth, the Astros opened with three consecutive hits, including a Carter RBI-single. After retiring Castro on a flyout, Koehler threw Matt Dominguez a first-pitch curve that the Marlins turned into an inning-ending 4-6-3 double play.
Saturday marked the third time in 45 career starts Koehler gave up as many as nine hits while failing to complete more than five innings.
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