Marlins beat Astros in 11 innings, 5-4
By STEVEN WINE
MIAMI (AP) Fish finally flew.
The blue marlins on the Miami Marlins' animated home run sculpture went spinning Sunday when Omar Infante and Hanley Ramirez hit the team's first homers in its new ballpark, helping to beat the Houston Astros 5-4 in 11 innings.
"It's good for the fans," Ramirez said. "I'm happy they got the chance to see that."
Ramirez also delivered a bases-loaded, one-out single in the 11th - his fourth consecutive hit - for the victory.
With batters starting to grumble that the ballpark favors pitchers, Ramirez tied the game in the eighth against Wilton Lopez by hitting a two-run homer that cleared the 418-foot sign in center field.
"I was just trying to hit it hard somewhere," Ramirez said.
The Marlins, who also had a walkoff, 11-inning win Friday, failed to sweep the three-game series only because they blew a three-run ninth-inning lead to lose Saturday.
"We're testing ourselves early and seeing what we've got," said Chad Gaudin (1-0), who held Houston scoreless over the final three innings.
Miami went 2-3 without manager Ozzie Guillen. He returns Tuesday from a five-game suspension imposed after he angered Cuban Americans in South Florida by praising Fidel Castro.
Jose Altuve had two hits and two RBIs for the Astros, but they went 0 for 9 with runners in scoring position, stranded 13 and struck out 11 times.
"The guys battled this whole series," manager Brad Mills said. "That one hit was eluding us."
The Astros had a runner at second with one out in the 10th, and loaded the bases with two out in the 11th, but failed to score both times against Gaudin.
"There's no room for error there," Gaudin said. "Every pitch is a battle. You can't give up a run."
Announced attendance was 34,232, largest of the weekend in the Marlins' new home, although the actual turnout was several thousand less.
"We expect people to come if we win," interim manager Joey Cora said. "In Miami, like anywhere else, if you win they're going to come."
A bird fell from the closed retractable roof in the eighth inning and landed dead near Marlins center fielder Bonifacio.
"It scared me," he said. "I was getting ready for the hitter and I saw that - boom."
Thus jolted, the Marlins began their comeback in the bottom half of the inning.
The rally cost Houston's J.A. Happ a victory. He allowed two runs in six innings and struck out eight.
"We saw today that balls will go out of here," Happ said. "I don't think it's a case of the conditions as much as it is making your pitches."
Leading off the 31st inning in the ballpark, Infante hit a milestone homer for the Marlins when he pulled a 1-0 pitch from Happ into the second row of the nightclub area beyond the left-field fence. The 73-foot-tall sculpture lit up and squirted water as the artwork's blue marlins rotated.
Gaudin watched from the bullpen.
"It's nice," he said. "It's a good piece of the park. It has got a lot of moving parts to it. It's very entertaining.
"As long as those fish are swimming, that means we're winning," he said.
Infante celebrated the homer, his fourth this year, by popping his bubblegum as he rounded third base.
The ball carried well for Sanchez, too. He was shaken up when he fouled a pitch that bounced and hit him in the right temple. After being checked by the trainer, he lined a triple over the head of center fielder Jordan Schafer - his first extra-base hit in 207 career at-bats.
NOTES: Schafer came out of the game when he hit his head on an infielder's knee trying to steal second base in the 11th inning. His status is day to day. ... With debate ongoing about how well the ball carries in the ballpark, the teams combined for three homers and eight warning track flyouts in the series. ... Marlins SS Jose Reyes was charged with his fourth error of the season when he and 3B Ramirez both tried to catch a routine popup that fell in the 11th inning. ... Infante had been 2 for 16 previously against Happ. ... With their first four hits, the Marlins hit for the cycle.
Updated April 15, 2012