Riding a season-best four-game winning streak, the Marlins improved to 15-14. This from a team that went 14-41 in the first two months of 2013. One reason for the turnaround is the additions of veterans like Saltalamacchia, who came through again.
"Birthday bomb," Koehler coined his catcher's home run. "I love it. The key right there is, you get the early lead, you've got to get them back in the dugout and you've got to step on the gas and keep the momentum on our side."
Coming off back-to-back home sweeps of the Mariners and Braves, the Marlins have now won seven straight in Miami, and they did so by beating one of the most celebrated players in Marlins history.
Josh Beckett, the Marlins' World Series MVP in 2003, worked 6 2/3 innings for the Dodgers. The right-hander struck out eight, but he was tagged with four runs on eight hits.
The Marlins made Beckett, a native of Spring, Texas, the second overall pick in the 1999 First-Year Player Draft. At age 23, he led the franchise to its second championship.
"This was my first home away from Texas," Beckett said. "The people here are really nice to me. They still have fond memories of the '03 run, us being so young and maybe having more personality. There's only three of us still playing -- me, A.J. Burnett and [Miguel] Cabrera."
Saltalamacchia, a teammate of Beckett in Boston, opened the scoring with his home run in the second inning. The catcher became the seventh player in Marlins history to homer on his birthday. Saltalamacchia now has six home runs, which already is more than any Miami catcher had in 2013. Last year, Jeff Mathis had five, Miguel Olivo added four and Rob Brantly chipped in with one.
"Obviously I've seen Josh a little bit with catching him," Saltalamacchia said. "He wasn't the same. He looked good. He was mixing pitches. I remember him throwing a lot more fastballs when I caught him.
"Tonight he was mixing in his curveball a lot. He made the hitters look off-balance. We were able to get some runs. I was able to hit a cutter that stayed a little on the plate."
Miami manager Mike Redmond was a backup catcher who frequently caught Beckett in the early part of his career. On Friday night, Redmond was pulling all the necessary strings to beat Beckett and the Dodgers. After getting off to a six-run lead, the Marlins' bullpen had its struggles in the eighth inning. Even ahead by four runs entering the ninth, closer Steve Cishek entered in a non-save situation a night after he logged a four-out save.
Cishek gave up a run in the ninth, but he was able to seal the win.
"Those guys are good and they've got a lot of weapons," Redmond said of the Dodgers. "They've got speed. You saw how quick they put those three runs up. I'm not messing around with wins. If we have a chance to finish a game off, we're going to do it."
Koehler settled after a little trouble in the first inning, and he scattered three hits over his seven innings, while striking out four. The right-hander walked two and hit a batter, but he came up with the necessary pitches to get out of trouble.
In the fourth inning, the Dodgers threatened when Andre Ethier doubled with one out. But the potential rally fizzled when Koehler got Carl Crawford to line out to third, preserving Miami's one-run lead.
The Marlins used back-to-back two-out hits in the fourth to take a 2-0 lead. Saltalamacchia singled and Jones lined a double that sent right fielder Yasiel Puig back toward the warning track. The ball deflected off Puig's glove, allowing Saltalamacchia to score from first. Jones was credited with an RBI double.
Koehler got himself into a bind in the fifth inning by issuing a leadoff walk to Chone Figgins. With one out, Dee Gordon reached on a bunt single, but Koehler escaped damage by getting Puig to bounce into a 6-4-3 double play.
As the game progressed, Koehler got stronger, and he retired the side in order in the sixth and seventh innings.
"A lot of times to get deeper in the game, you get thinking you've got to do something different," Koehler said. "If you just key on trying to execute pitches like you did early, you have a better chance of getting through the lineup."
The Marlins broke the game open with four runs in the seventh. Jones led off the frame with his third double of the game, and two outs later, Reed Johnson pinch-hit for Koehler, which turned out to be a big move. Johnson slapped an RBI single to right, giving Miami a three-run cushion.
The Marlins continued to hit at home, a day after the Braves made accusations Miami might be stealing signs. Saltalamacchia joked about the insinuation after his team posted 11 hits vs. the Dodgers.
"That guy in center field keeps relaying everything to us," Saltalamacchia quipped. "The secret is out. I think he moved seats tonight."
At the plate, the Marlins are taking things seriously. Johnson leads the Majors with five pinch-hits. After that RBI single, Christian Yelich delivered an RBI triple, and after Derek Dietrich was hit by a pitch by Jose Dominguez, Giancarlo Stanton and Casey McGehee tacked on run-scoring singles.
The Dodgers got on the board with two runs off Carlos Marmol in the eighth inning. Gordon and Puig each had RBI singles.
"Any time you play a team of their caliber, to take the first game is huge," Koehler said. "We've been playing really well at home. I don't think that's a secret. I think everybody is aware of that. To go out there against an opponent like that, to take the first one, puts us in position to win the series [Saturday]. That's what we're trying to do."