WASHINGTON -- His Florida Marlins were officially eliminated from playoff contention a day earlier, and the opposing Washington Nationals would end this night with their 99th loss.
A game of no significance? Try telling first baseman Gaby Sanchez.He made his first major league start Wednesday night and picked up his first major league hit -- his first three, actually -- in Florida's 9-4 victory over Washington. Another top Marlins prospect, Cameron Maybin, also contributed three hits, and Hanley Ramirez homered on the game's first pitch."Playing in the major leagues, you're always going to have some type of butterflies. I mean, the nerves are there, you just have to try and get over it," said Sanchez, who was 3-for-5 with two doubles. "Once you get that first swing out of the way, basically it goes away and you just play the game."His first plate appearance Wednesday didn't go all that well: He struck out."After that first at-bat," Sanchez said, "I was just telling myself to calm down, relax."Next time up, Sanchez hit an RBI double off the wall in left-center during Florida's 10-batter, five-run third inning. When Sanchez got back to the dugout, teammates greeted him with hugs -- and with descriptions of how he nearly had a homer."They told me it was pretty close to being out. To me, it didn't really matter," he said. "I was just glad to get that first hit."Maybin, Sanchez's teammate at Double-A Carolina this season, went 3-for-3 plus a sacrifice bunt to raise his average to .500 (14-for-28) with Florida."That's good to see -- those guys come up and put some good at-bats on some big-league pitchers," Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez said.Maybin came up awkwardly after stealing second base in the sixth and was replaced in center field for the bottom half because of a stiff left hip."You want to be more safe than sorry, but it feels fine," Maybin said.Josh Johnson (7-1) wrapped up a strong finish to 2008, with wins in his final three starts. The right-hander, whose season began in July after he was sidelined about a year because of reconstructive elbow surgery, went six innings and allowed two runs and six hits."He's got a lot of heart," Gonzalez said.Washington's Tim Redding (10-11) turned in his shortest start of the season, giving up seven runs in 2 2/3 innings."He couldn't make good pitches," Nationals manager Manny Acta said.Redding's first pitch became Ramirez's 33rd homer, the ninth leading off a game this season.His third pitch became a double by Maybin.His fourth hit Jorge Cantu.His 10th was a wild pitch, allowing Maybin to score.In the third, Sanchez's first hit in the majors came off Redding's final pitch of the season.Sanchez was a fourth-round draft pick in 2005 and the Marlins' minor league player of the year in 2006. This season, he was the MVP of the Southern League after hitting .314 with 17 homers, 42 doubles and 92 RBIs at Carolina."You hate to put any kind of pressure on anybody, but he's close" to being ready for the majors, Gonzalez said. "With the year he had in Double-A, and what we saw in spring training, I think the man is close."Maybin was part of the package Florida acquired when it sent Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis to the Tigers."It's fun to see new faces doing well," Johnson said.Redding, meanwhile, was hoping to reach 11 wins in a season for the first time in a major league career that began in 2001.He began the season 6-3 with a 3.16 ERA, prompting talk of an All-Star appearance. He didn't get a decision in any of his next nine starts, though, and went 0-3 with a 9.17 ERA over his last four."First half, real good," Redding said. "Second half ... not good."
LF Roger Bernadina made a spectacular catch, diving face-first toward the wall to rob Cantu of a hit. "I'm not scared to go out there and do those things," said Bernadina, who scraped his right elbow on the warning track. ... Nationals 3B Ryan Zimmerman and SS Cristian Guzman were out with the flu.