Cantu's single in the 11th beats Phils 3-2

July 20, 2008 7:50:41 PM PDT
Savoring his game-winning single, Jorge Cantu rounded first base and kept going, trying to escape his jubilant Florida Marlins teammates. Scott Olsen caught him from behind with a headlock, Alfredo Amezaga leaped into Cantu's arms, and others soon joined the fun.

The Marlins are good at celebrating walk-off wins because they've had a lot of practice. The latest came when Cantu hit a bases-loaded single off the scoreboard with none out in the 11th inning Sunday, and Florida tightened the NL East race by beating the Philadelphia Phillies 3-2.

It was the Marlins' ninth walk-off victory, and their 27th comeback win.

"A lot of walk-offs - unbelievable," Cantu said. "It tells me we never give up. I've never seen something like that, the walk-offs by one team."

Amezaga led off the 11th with a single against Clay Condrey (2-2), and Hanley Ramirez walked on a 3-2 pitch. Jeremy Hermida bunted to Condrey, who looked to third base before throwing late to first, and the infield single loaded the bases.

Cantu singled, then found himself in the middle of a mob scene.

"I was starting to run away," he said with a laugh. "They were grabbing me and hitting me. I don't know who it was, but I got a little side punch."

By winning two of three games in the series, the surprising Marlins closed to within one-half game of the Phillies and New York Mets, who are tied for the division lead. Florida remains in the race despite the lowest payroll in the majors.

"We needed to win this series and show we're going to stick around," Marlins starter Josh Johnson said. "We did that. Most people probably don't think we're going to stick around, but we do."

The Mets, who forged a tie for the division lead by beating Cincinnati on Sunday, begin a three-game series at home against Philadelphia on Tuesday.

"We know they're going to be geared up," Phils slugger Ryan Howard said. "We've got to be the same way."

Howard drove in both runs Sunday for the Phillies, who went 1-for-6 with runners in scoring position and stranded 10.

"We're not hitting," manager Charlie Manuel said. "Our situational hitting is absolutely terrible, absolutely off the charts. Our guys might be trying too hard."

Florida's Doug Waechter (2-2) struck out pinch hitter Chris Coste with runners at second and third to end the top of the 11th. Waechter was one of five relievers who combined to retire 12 consecutive Phillies.

Cole Hamels took a two-hitter and a 2-1 lead into the eighth for Philadelphia, but Cody Ross led off with his 16th home run. Ross had been 1-for-15 previously against Hamels.

"We're never going to give up," Ross said. "We've showed that all year. That's the beauty of this team. We're hungry."

The Marlins improved to 2-0 when Johnson starts. In his second game since returning from reconstructive elbow surgery, he pitched 6 2-3 innings and limited the Phillies to seven hits and two runs.

"All in all pretty good," Johnson said. "I'm keeping them in the game. That's what my job is."

Hermida hit his 12th homer of the season and his second in as many games for Florida.

Howard singled home a run in the first and hit a two-out, run-scoring double in the third to increase his RBI total to 87, most in the National League. But he grounded out with the bases loaded against Renyel Pinto to end the seventh.

Hamels pitched eight innings and limited Florida to four hits and two runs - both on homers - before departing for a pinch hitter. On a sunny, 91-degree afternoon, he went at least seven innings for the ninth start in a row.

"It's pretty much a waste of an outing if you don't win," Hamels said.

Notes: After the game, the Phillies optioned INF Mike Cervenak to Triple-A Lehigh Valley. RHP Brett Myers was recalled from Single-A Clearwater, and he's scheduled to start Wednesday against the Mets. Newly acquired Joe Blanton is scheduled to start Tuesday, with Jamie Moyers pitching Thursday. ... Marlins LF Josh Willingham was given the day off. ... Dan Uggla went 0-for-2 against Hamels and fell to 3-for-20 lifetime against the left-hander.