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Long balls help Marlins edge Jays

Long balls help Marlins edge Jays

TORONTO -- Shades of 2008 have crept into Marlins games thus far in Toronto.

The home run, such a big part of the Florida offense in recent years, has returned at a time when the Marlins are making a push to get back to the .500 mark.

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Cody Ross and Jeremy Hermida each belted two-run homers to help lift the Marlins to a 6-5 win over the Blue Jays on Saturday afternoon in front of 20,634 at Rogers Centre.

For the second straight day, the long ball rescued the Marlins. On Friday, Ross belted a grand slam in the eighth inning.

"It's just a great place to hit," said Ross, who is 4-for-8 with six RBIs in the series. "That's no secret. Besides that, we did a great job as a team. It was a good team win for us."

The Marlins, 16-4 all-time against the Blue Jays, are now in position for a sweep on Sunday with their ace, Josh Johnson, pitching.

Now 31-33, the Marlins have won four of their last six.

"Everybody in here knows we need to get to that .500 mark, if we want to be contenders," Ross said. "It's getting to the middle part of the season, and we've got to start playing the way we know how, which has been the last couple of days."

The home run has been the team's biggest weapon in the series. Eight of their 13 runs have been produced by the long shots. In 2008, the Marlins set a franchise record with 208 homers, which was the third most in the Major Leagues. This year, they are off that pace. Their 63 is eighth most in the National League.

The Marlins built a five-run lead early, and prevailed, thanks largely to the bullpen allowing one unearned run in 3 1/3 innings. Matt Lindstrom collected his 12th save in 14 chances, working a scoreless ninth. Lindstrom struck out Vernon Wells to end it with Rod Barajas representing the potential tying run at second base.

"We held on," manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "That was the theme of the game today. We scored some runs early. Cody Ross is still swinging it pretty good. We were able to score some runs, and hold on.

"This was a good taste in our mouth. Hopefully, we can build on this, and keep going."

Rookie Sean West (2-1), who turns 23 on Monday, made his fifth MLB start. The 6-foot-8 left-hander worked 5 2/3 innings for the win.

"It wasn't as good as we've seen him," Gonzalez said. "I'm sure he learned something about competing and staying in the game. I thought he did a good job for a young kid staying in the Major Leagues."

West, who walked four, didn't strike out a batter for the first time in any big league outing. Before joining the rotation after being promoted from Double-A Jacksonville, West made eight Minor League starts. The fewest he struck out in those outings was five. He can't remember ever not having at least one strikeout in an appearance.

"Obviously, I didn't have my stuff, and I had to battle with what I had, and try to keep the team in the game," West said. "My defense picked me up huge today."

The Marlins struck early off Toronto starter Casey Janssen.

For the second straight game, Chris Coghlan led off the first inning with a double. And, like on Friday, he was brought home by Hanley Ramirez. This time, Ramirez doubled Coghlan home, giving him four RBIs in the series.

Alex Rios' four hits, including a two-run homer off West in the fourth inning, helped Toronto get back into the game.

Florida gained a four-run advantage in the sixth inning off reliever Shawn Camp. Ross led off with a double that bounced high off the right-center wall. The ball was very close to clearing the fence. But it hit the top of the wall and came back into play.

"I was hoping they'd review it," Ross said. "They're not usually going to look at it to look at it. The other manager isn't going to come out and say, 'Hey, can you guys check and see if that was a homer?' "

Ross scored on Coghlan's 6-4-3 double play.

Lyle Overbay's two-run homer in the sixth inning made it 6-4.

The Blue Jays closed to within one run in the seventh, capitalizing on two walks issued by reliever Brian Sanches and third baseman Wes Helms' error. Marco Scutaro walked with one out, and went to second when Aaron Hill walked. Wells tapped a grounder to Helms, who made a wild throw to second baseman Dan Uggla, who had a hard time picking up the ball from the glare in the stands. Scutaro raced home.

More tension built in the eighth inning.

A pivotal play came when catcher John Baker threw out Rios trying to steal third base with one out. Representing the potential tying run, Rios singled and stole second. But with Jose Bautista at bat, and Leo Nunez pitching, Rios was caught at third. Nunez struck out Bautista to end the inning.

"We were a little surprised that they ran in that situation," Baker said. "But we've been notorious for not keeping guys close to the base. He stole second and third yesterday. He felt like he could do it again. It was a bang-bang play. The play was very close."

Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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