Too early to judge either way?

PHILADELPHIA — Just like you shouldn’t read too much into the Marlins’ 5-2 homestand, you shouldn’t rush to judgment now that the team has dropped all five on their road trip and six overall.

It’s natural, though, to react in the moment. What we’re seeing from the two-city swing through Washington and Philadelphia is the Marlins have some issues that need to be addressed.

Perhaps it was just really good advanced scouting, but after the Marlins pretty much had their way at home against the Rockies and Padres, they are struggling to make the adjustments on the road.

The way the Marlins are built, they need their starting pitchers to perform. They certainly are capable, especially their top two. But the Phillies, using an aggressive approach, got to Jose Fernandez and Nathan Eovaldi early on Friday and Saturday nights, respectively.

Fernandez and Eovaldi are two of the hardest throwers in the game. They must establish fastball command from the start. They didn’t, and the Phillies were sitting dead red, cheating and jumping on fastballs.

For example, Domonic Brown turned on a 99 mph fastball from Fernandez for an RBI single in the first inning on Friday.

Eovaldi, like Fernandez, also gave up two runs in the first inning. Eovaldi was again throwing hard. His final pitch of the night on Saturday was 98 mph, and it came with two outs in the seventh inning. Still, it wasn’t located, and Carlos Ruiz delivered a single.

Miami’s hitters, obviously, need to do a better job of situational hitting. And the base running needs to polish up. Adeiny Hechavarria, thinking there were two outs, sprinted on contact from second on Christian Yelich’s liner to center. Trouble was, it was one out, and the ball was caught, making Hechavarria an easy out at second to complete the double play.

But it all comes down to starting pitching.

Eovaldi did make a nice recovery after issuing four early runs. He did go deeper into the game, but the early deficit was tough to overcome.

Observations:

* Giancarlo Stanton literally lifted the team by himself, delivering two clutch and important home runs that erased being down 4-1.

The middle of the order has to produce, and it seems the Marlins win consistently when Stanton gets going.

* Key right now is Garrett Jones. He’s playing solid defense, but at the plate is struggling. His 20 strikeouts are the most in the Majors. Stanton is getting on base in front of him, so he is getting chances and pitches to hit.
Jones and Casey McGehee usually hit either fourth or fifth, depending on who is starting. Jarrod Saltalamacchia could become a cleanup option.

* Marcell Ozuna batting second is an interesting and probably a good move. While not always the most disciplined hitter, Ozuna has power, and if Ozuna can work counts a little better, he could see more fastballs having Stanton behind him.

* Play of the night on Friday wasn’t Jimmy Rollins’ walk-off. Well, technically, it was. But the instant replay overturn was crucial because it took two runs off the board for Miami. It was a bang/bang, yet strange play because Ozuna would have clearly been safe if he had touched the front of second base. But, his cleat got more of the back of the bag. Ozuna still feels he beat the throw and should have been safe. However, there was not clear video evidence of that, and the out was called.

* According to ESPN’s Stats & Info, Stanton’s first home run on Saturday night was estimated at 469 feet. Stanton has two of the three longest homers of the season. His 484 foot shot at Marlins Park is the longest, and Atlanta’s Justin Upton’s 477 foot drive is second, followed by Stanton’s blast on Saturday.

* Derek Dietrich is dealing with a back spasm, which kept him out of the lineup on Saturday and Sunday. The second baseman is feeling better on Sunday, and he hopes to be ready for Monday. The team is still playing it safe, but it appears he should be ready soon.

* Hitting with runners in scoring position has been an issue during the road trip. On the season, the Marlins top hitters with runners in scoring position are McGehee, who is hitting .455 (5-for-11), Stanton .412 (7-for-17) and Yelich .375 (6-for-16).

* Not to be overlooked, but Yelich made a terrific running, sliding, backhanded catch in foul territory on Ryan Howard’s towering fly.

Joe Frisaro

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