Uggla helps send Marlins out winners
Slugger caps career year with 33rd homer, three RBIs
MIAMI -- A rewarding day capped a disappointing season.
Dan Uggla topped off a career year with three hits, including a homer, and three RBIs, while Anibal Sanchez gave up one earned run in six innings as the Marlins defeated the Pirates, 5-2, at Sun Life Stadium.
Uggla finished the year batting .287 with 33 homers and 105 RBIs. Mike Stanton added a single in the eighth inning to extend his hitting streak to 11 games.
As a fitting gesture to playing all-out all year, the Marlins sent Uggla out for the top of the eighth inning, but then replaced him, setting the stage for the crowd to give him a standing ovation.
"Any time you end the season like that, it's definitely better than losing the last day," Uggla said. "Everybody is happy. Most importantly, we had a lot of fun today."
Because Uggla has played so hard all season, the Marlins felt he was deserving of the moment to be taken off the field to the applause of the fans.
Manager Edwin Rodriguez, bench coach Brandon Hyde and Wes Helms talked about it in the innings leading up to the decision to put the spotlight on the power-hitting second baseman.
"It's one of those special moments that Edwin, Hyder and Wes thought I should have," Uggla said. "It was cool. I enjoyed it."
Uggla added two runs scored, giving him 100 on the season.
Based on how he's performed, Uggla should be a lock to win his first National League Silver Slugger Award at second base.
"Dan is a great guy. He's a great player," said Sanchez, who improved to 13-12 after his strong final outing. "This guy is the type of player every team wants. He keeps working. He's giving 100 percent effort on the field every day. This guy is amazing."
Sanchez struck out seven and gave up two runs, with one earned, as the Marlins finished their year at 80-82.
The Marlins fell short of their goal of reaching the playoffs, but the team did take three of four from Pittsburgh.
Players embraced on the field and in the clubhouse, because change is expected for 2011.
Rodriguez's status is in limbo as the team plans on interviewing other candidates. Rodriguez is in the mix, but he is aware that the team may go in another direction.
Clearly, he would like to remain. The Marlins were 46-46 under Rodriguez after he replaced Fredi Gonzalez on June 23.
"Whoever comes in, it's a great situation," said Rodriguez, the first Puerto Rican-born manager in MLB history. "Whoever comes in is going to come into a great situation. This organization is very close to becoming a team that you should count on to be in the pennant race for the next 10 years. I hope to be part of it."
Afterward, Uggla gave his manager a parting gift -- a personally signed bat.
If Sunday indeed was Rodriguez's last as Marlins manager, he went out making some noise.
The game featured some controversy and an ejection in the sixth inning, after the umpiring crew headed by Joe West overturned Helms' would-be three-run homer.
Unhappy with the ruling, which took two runs off the board, Rodriguez was ejected for arguing with West.
Helms connected on a long drive to left off Pirates lefty Brian Burres. The ball clipped the side of the high wall and deflected into the field of play.
The umpires immediately reviewed.
"I told him it hit the sign," Pirates manager John Russell said. "I think they were arguing that one more run should have come in. The right call was to leave the runner at third base."
Rodriguez didn't argue if the ball was a homer or not. He just felt a second run should have been awarded. But West sent Gaby Sanchez, who was initially on first base, back to third, while Helms took second.
"I understand that they went in and made the call on the double," Rodriguez said. "I understand that you shouldn't be arguing that. But regarding if the runner should score, that is a judgment call. My judgment is Gaby Sanchez would have scored from first.
"I'm very aware that I'm not supposed to argue [the ruling if the ball was a homer]. The other part, my judgment is Gaby should have scored from first."
The double, however, proved to be the game-winning hit.
The Marlins did tack on two more runs in the seventh. Uggla delivered an RBI double.
With 31,803 on hand for the season finale, the Marlins' home attendance finished at 1,535,226, which included 10,332 extra tickets that were sold for the May 29 Roy Halladay perfect game.
Uggla gave the Marlins the early lead, and he established a career high in the process. With two outs in the first inning, Uggla belted a two-run homer to left. It was his 33rd of the season, which is a personal best.
The 33 also matches the third most in franchise history. Hanley Ramirez last reached it in 2008. Miguel Cabrera (2004, 2005) and Carlos Delgado ('05) also finished with 33.
The only Marlins to collect more than 33 in a year were Gary Sheffield (42) in 1996 and Cabrera had 34 in 2007.
"We all work so hard in the offseason," Uggla said. "When I look back, I can say I did all that I could to try to help this team win. I think everyone in this room can say that I did everything that I could."
Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.