MIAMI -- Only two games into the season, the Florida Marlins have already found their winning formula: strong starting pitching, a powerful offense and the Washington Nationals.
Josh Johnson pitched scoreless ball into the seventh inning and the Marlins got home runs from Jorge Cantu and Dan Uggla in an 8-3 victory over the Nationals on Tuesday night, the second straight rout of their NL East foe."You can't really get any better than that," Johnson said of the first two games.Two-run shots by Cantu and Uggla spoiled the return of Scott Olsen, chased early in his first regular-season game against the Marlins, who traded him in the offseason after drafting him in 2002."Nothing good, nothing good," Olsen said. "From the start of the game it was an uphill climb for us. Then, it just got worse."Johnson (1-0) struck out eight and walked none, displaying the crisp pop on his fastball that could make him the ace of a promising young pitching staff. The right-hander came back from elbow surgery last July.The only bright spots for the Nationals came on a two-run homer by Austin Kearns in the eighth and an RBI double by Cristian Guzman in the ninth that did little to take the sting out of a second straight blowout loss to start the season."It's the second game of the year," Washington left fielder Adam Dunn said. "I'm not conceding the season just yet. We put ourselves in an early hole on the scoreboard. That makes it tough to come back."Olsen's return to Dolphin Stadium was short. He allowed eight runs and eight hits in three innings and never could find his command.The Marlins traded the lefty along with outfielder Josh Willingham to the Nationals in the offseason for Emilio Bonifacio and two minor league prospects. The move was made by Florida in part to avoid the salary increase Olsen (0-1) was due; He is earning $2.8 million this year after making $405,000 last season.Through two games, the Marlins look like winners in that deal.Uggla homered, and Ronny Paulino and Bonifacio each had an RBI triple to highlight a five-run third that made it 8-0. During the inning, Bonifacio nearly had his second inside-the-park homer in two days.With center fielder Lastings Milledge playing shallow again, Bonifacio hit a drive toward right-center and over Milledge's head. The ball bounced off the glove of a diving Milledge and trickled toward the wall. The speedy Bonifacio made a big turn around third but was held up by third base coach Bo Porter."After I hit it, I thought I could keep going," Bonifacio said. "But it was probably better I didn't."Bonifacio, who had four hits (including an inside-the-park homer over Milledge's head), three stolen bases and four runs scored on Opening Day, added an RBI single in the second inning that put Florida ahead 3-0.It was that combination of speed and power that again got Florida's offense going.Cameron Maybin singled, stole second and advanced to third on a wild pitch before Cantu homered to give the Marlins a 2-0 lead in the first.Olsen, who still owns a home in South Florida and keeps in touch with Marlins players, had an up-and-down stint with Florida. He drew suspensions for confrontations with teammates, had run-ins with then-manager Joe Girardi and at times struggled with his command. Last year, however, he rebounded to become a team leader, earned praise from manager Fredi Gonzalez and pitched more than 200 innings with a respectable 4.20 ERA.Still, it's the Marlins' current pitching staff that has Gonzalez smiling."The most important thing is that our pitching, and so far it's been pretty decent, our starting pitching," Gonzalez said. "The offense is going to go here and there, but I think we got some speed in the lineup where you got to run into a tough pitcher but you should be able to manufacture runs with our speed."
The temperature dipped into the low 60s, much cooler than Opening Day, when it reached as high as 90 degrees. ... Willingham has not played in the first two games. ... The Nationals and Marlins wrap up their three-game series in a rare 12:10 p.m. start Wednesday for a game in Miami. ... The attendance-challenged Marlins had an announced crowd of 11,124 in the second game of the season.