Marlins bash their way to sweep of O's

Marlins bash their way to sweep of O's

MIAMI -- Consider it one of the more efficient methods for the Marlins to take the focus off their discombobulated bullpen.

Simply bash your way into rendering it inconsequential.

Cody Ross, Dan Uggla and Hanley Ramirez blasted homers on Thursday night -- capped by Ramirez's grand slam to finish off a five-run eighth -- and the Marlins' 11-3 clubbing of the Orioles completed a three-game sweep.

"Everybody's doing good, and we just need to stick together now," said Ramirez, whose five RBIs on the night gave him 11 for the series.

Thursday's grand slam, off reliever Chris Ray, was Ramirez's third of the season and of his career. Another came against Baltimore on Tuesday in helping the Marlins take a 7-6 triumph in 12 innings.

Ramirez is now the fourth to share in Florida's single-season slam record -- joining Bobby Bonilla (1997), Jeff Conine (2004) and Ross (this season).

"We're just up there trying to drive runs in when we get the chances," said Ross, who opened Thursday's scoring drive with a two-run homer. "[The slams are] just one of those coincidental things, I think. I'm happy for him, and I'm sure he's happy for me. As many as we can get as a team, the better."

Not, though, without Ramirez taking some good-natured ribbing from Jorge Cantu, who hits behind him.

"Cantu said I've got to leave some RBIs out there," Ramirez deadpanned. "But I've just got to do my job."

The Marlins banged out 17 hits on the night, with Ramirez and Cantu tallying three apiece.

Sean West (3-2) scattered four hits over six scoreless innings for the Marlins, who notched their fifth consecutive win and second sweep in their past four series. Florida also took three in Toronto from June 12-14.

The Marlins began that series eight games out of first place in the National League East. With Philadelphia's loss at Tampa Bay on Thursday, the margin has been trimmed to one.

"It's still early to start looking at races," Ross said, "but I'd be lying if I told you I don't -- I do. I care what other teams are doing, but the main thing is to take care of business. We have to go out there and do our jobs. Otherwise it doesn't matter what these teams do."

Each of Florida's position players had at least two hits on Thursday except for Chris Coghlan, who had one. Cantu and Ronny Paulino were the only position players who didn't cross the plate at least once.

"It's very easy to pitch with a lead like that," said West, who went at least six innings for the third time in seven starts.

It was a good bounceback outing for the left-hander, who was touched for 10 hits and five runs by the Yankees in his previous outing.

"I just kind of tweaked the mechanics a little bit," he said. "I tried to focus on staying back and not just rushing forward with everything."

A comfortable lead allowed manager Fredi Gonzalez to send out recent callups Tim Wood and Christopher Leroux to finish things off.

Wood pitched two scoreless innings in his Major League debut. The right-hander almost had his head taken off when his first pitch was lined back hard by Robert Andino and flagged down for an out by Uggla.

"It was even crazier, because it [came off] Andino," said Wood of his former teammate in the Marlins system. "He just put a good swing on the ball and hit it where it was pitched."

By comparison, the rest of Wood's outing was relatively blase. He pitched out of a two-on, two-out jam to end the seventh, then set down the Orioles in order in the eighth.

Things didn't go as smoothly for Leroux, who gave up all three of Baltimore's runs during his ninth-inning stint. Pinch-hitter Gregg Zaun drove home two with a double, then scored on Nick Markakis' ground-rule double.

Nonetheless, the easy night allowed Gonzalez to save Leo Nunez (ankle), Dan Meyer and Reynel Pinto.

The Marlins' five-game winning streak is their longest since they opened the season by winning seven in a row. They moved two games above .500 (38-36) for the first time since May 10.

"It's just been great for us all around -- pitching, defense, hitting," said Ross, who opened the scoring with a two-run blast in the second off Baltimore's Rich Hill (3-2). "We really haven't had that since the first couple of weeks of the season. When we were 11-1, we were really jelling together -- swinging the bat well and pitching well. Then we went into a little skid, and we just weren't doing it."

Now Florida hopes to keep the momentum against the same Tampa Bay squad that helped close the NL East gap by taking two of three from Philadelphia.

"This homestand is over, and we've got to get serious about these guys," Uggla said. "Our confidence is still going to be the same. We just need to concentrate and really bear down over there."

Jeff Shain is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.