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.
* 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
PHILADELPHIA — The fact Jose Fernandez on Friday night captured the headlines and focuses on the Marlins’ 6-3 loss to the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park.
Because Fernandez has become such a sensation, his performance typically garners much of the attention.
There is no denying that it wasn’t vintage Jose Fernandez. The 21-year-old gave up six runs, was hit hard, allowing eight hits and he walked four in four-plus innings. No escaping those numbers.
Still, the reason the Marlins’ losing streak stretched to five games is more than simply an off night from one of the youngest starters in the game.
Missed chances also loomed large.
The final may have been 6-3, but the game had the makings of a shoot out. It could have easily ended up 7-6 or something closer to the 10-7 loss the Marlins suffered at Washington on Wednesday night.
The Marlins had numerous chances to get to Phillies right-hander A.J. Burnett, who exited the game after 4 1/3 innings due to tightness in his groin.
When Burnett walked off the mound, he left the bases loaded with one out. Miami was unable to score, which at the time would have tied the game at 3.
Burnett came up big when he had to, but he was in plenty of trouble. He allowed a two-run homer to Derek Dietrich in the second inning. He also scattered five hits and walked six.
With that many men on base, Miami wasn’t at a loss for scoring chances. But they left 10 on base, and went hitless in seven at-bats with runners in scoring position.
Worth noting: During the four game road trip, not only are the Marlins winless, their pitchers have combined for a 7.03 ERA. Opposing hitters have a .298 batting average against Miami pitching. In all, the Marlins pitchers have thrown 32 innings on the road trip, and they have allowed 28 runs, with 25 earned. They’ve logged 32 strikeouts and walked 18.
– Joe Frisaro
PHILADELPHIA — Swept away at Washington, the Marlins are focused now getting back to their brand of baseball at Philadelphia.
Miami has the right guy on the mound in its quest to turn things around.
Jose Fernandez gets the start on Friday night against the Phillies, who are going with A.J. Burnett.
Fernandez’s first MLB win came last year at Citizens Bank Park.
Miami maintains its a different team this year. It is, despite the poor showing at Nationals Park.
But this is the first wave of adversity the club has experienced. The Marlins, after all, enjoyed a strong Spring Training, where the players bonded and bought into the system.
Then, in their first homestand, the Marlins went 5-2 and showed signs of promise. But they’ve now dropped four straight, and are 5-5.
If they can take two of three at Philly, they’d come home on Monday above .500 and not in bad shape.
Reliever Mike Dunn says there is no reason for the club to get too down after a brief slump.
“We’ve got to get back to our baseball, errorless baseball,” Dunn said. “Do what we can do, and not anything more. We really just have to stay focused. We had a good spring together as a team, and a good start. We know the guy behind us has our back.
“It’s just grinding it out. There is a lot of baseball to be played. You can’t let it loom on you. You can’t let a cloud hang over you. You’ve got to let it go.”
The Marlins struggled on the road a year ago, and again they are tested. The Nationals also were red hot in the series, coming up with clutch hits, and playing with immense confidence.
“Really, we have to put this series behind us and move on,” Dunn said. “We’re going to play these guys 16 more times. Yeah, you want to get some wins on them, but it’s still early. It’s not September. There is no reason to be like, ‘Oh my gosh, we lost three in a row!’ Put it behind us, we’ve got a new series starting [Friday].”
* Manager Mike Redmond had to make a tough call on Thursday afternoon — pitch closer Steve Cishek in the eighth inning with his team down a run, or hold him for a possible save situation in the ninth?
Cishek, who hasn’t pitched in a week, could have entered with Miami down 2-1, and hoped to keep the score there. If the Marlins did rally to tie it or take the lead in the ninth, then they could have figured out another closer option.
Redmond said he didn’t want to use Cishek for two innings. So rather than pitch his closer, Arquimedes Caminero worked the eighth. Caminero was effective the night before in one-plus innings. But the Nationals posted five runs off him, including Ian Desmond’s grand slam.
The game turned from 2-1 to a blowout.
* Jose Fernandez threw 108 pitches in his last start, one shy of his career high. The Marlins pushed him a little more in his win over the Padres, knowing (because of an off-day on Monday) he would get an extra day of rest for his start on Friday.
Don’t expect Fernandez to top 110 pitches this year. If he does, it won’t be by much.
Last year, when Fernandez pitched on five-days rest (or an extra day), he was 5-3 with a 2.75 ERA.
* Top prospect Andrew Heaney enjoyed a strong performance on Thursday in Double-A Jacksonville’s win over Birmingham. The lefty struck out eight in six scoreless innings. He walked one and allowed four hits.
– Joe Frisaro
WASHINGTON — On nights like Wednesday, you need a short memory if you’re the Miami Marlins.
Quickly forget all that went wrong — there was plenty — in your 10-7 loss to the Nationals, move forward and get ready for Stephen Strasburg in Thursday’s series finale.
The good teams can put adversity behind them. We’re about to find out where the Marlins’ stand. Will they rebound and salvage one of the three at Nationals Park? Or will they fall victim to what’s plagued them for much of the first 10-days of the season?
That’s making crucial defenses lapses and not executing when opportunities present themselves at crucial times.
What happened last night is the Marlins hit. They hammered out 14 hits, belted two home runs, built a big lead early. Showed resiliency by rebounding after surrendering the lead. They regained the lead in the eighth inning. And even in the ninth, off closer Rafael Soriano, they had two on and Christian Yelich at the plate.
Yelich was on base five times before grounding out to end it.
Of course there will be nights where the bats come alive. Like Wednesday. There will be nights where the pitchers struggle. Like Wednesday. There just can’t be nights where you commit three errors and hope to get away with it.
You can falter in one of the three areas — pitching, hitting, defense. You can’t get away with having breakdowns in two of them.
Reliever Dan Jennings made a costly error in the middle innings, when he was unable to handle a slow chopper to the mound. Had he fielded the ball cleanly, he had an out at the plate in front of him. Instead, a run scored.
And in the eighth inning, Derek Dietrich’s throwing error on Denard Span’s bunt put runners on second and third with one out. Had Dietrich held onto the ball, acknowledging Span had a bunt single, that could have changed the entire inning.
The Nationals would have had first and second and one out. At that point, Carlos Marmol would have pitched to Anthony Rendon, instead of intentionally walking him in hopes of loading the bases for a double play.
Jayson Werth ultimately had the bases full, and he promptly connected on a game-winning grand slam.
The error was big. The end result, though, is it gets overlooked, and what is noticed are four earned runs charged to Marmol.
* Why Marmol over A.J. Ramos? Ramos had pitched the night before, and obviously, he’s throwing the ball very well right now. But until Wednesday, Marmol had thrown four scoreless innings. Marmol was signed for such nights like Wednesday, to lock down the seventh or eighth innings.
Marmol got into trouble initially when his slider struck pinch-hitter Nate McLouth on the foot.
As Marmol noted, McLouth made no attempt to get out of the way. But no umpire is going to penalize the hitter in that situation. But had he tried to duck out of the way, the result would have been a ball, and not the tying run on base with one out. Big moment.
* Adeiny Hechavarria is becoming the talk of a number of league scouts. Many are very high on the Miami shortstop. The fact Hechavarria’s defense is solid isn’t surprising. But the 24-year-old is hitting. He’s batting .378 (14-for-37) with seven runs scored. It’s not just the batting average, it’s the approach and the improved swing, and his ability to hit the ball the other way.
* Yelich has raised his average to .290, and he paces the team with eight runs scored. Five times the 22-year-old got on base on Wednesday.
– Joe Frisaro
WASHINGTON — Jacob Turner, who was scratched from making his scheduled start on Wednesday, has been placed on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to April 4.
To fill Turner’s roster spot, the Marlins announced reliever Arquimedes Caminero was being recalled from Triple-A New Orleans.
Turner was lined up to start at Washington on Wednesday, but on Tuesday, he strained his right shoulder while taking batting practice in the cage near the dugout.
Brad Hand is making the start in place of Turner on Wednesday.
Caminero, who had a strong Spring Training, provides bullpen depth, and the hard-throwing right-hander is an option to pitch multiple innings.
– Joe Frisaro
WASHINGTON — It happened yet again. On Tuesday night the Marlins got another dose of “Natitude.”
The Nationals have certainly had their way with the Marlins since last year. Remember the opener of 2013? I know, it’s understandable if you completely erased all of the season from your memory. But it did exist.
The Marlins opened 2013 at Nationals Park, and promptly were shut out in their first two games. In game three, Justin Ruggiano hit a solo home run, and it was the lone run in the series Miami scored.
That was then. Now, the Marlins are substantially better. They entered Tuesday leading the Majors in runs scored. Then, with Gio Gonzalez on the mound, it happened again. Final score: Nationals 5, Marlins 0.
Make it five times in their last 11 games at Nationals Park the Marlins have failed to score a run. Five times!
It’s a sore spot for the club.
Manager Mike Redmond was more disappointed about not scoring than a few of the mistakes Miami made turning a 1-0 deficit into a three-run hole the team couldn’t dig out from under.
Miami went 1-9 at Washington a year ago, and now are off to an 0-1 start this year.
* Washington third baseman continued to do serious damage to Miami. Anthony Rendon filled in for Ryan Zimmerman on Tuesday. Rendon went 2-for-4 with three RBIs. He also made a tremendous defensive play to rob Reed Johnson of a bunt hit. The play was huge because Miami had a runner on and could have gotten something going.
Zimmerman, of course, has feasted on Marlins’ pitchers. In his career, he is batting .315 with 23 homers and 77 RBIs vs. Miami. His 23 HRs are a high vs. any opponent.
* Failure to execute matters. A key play, of course, was Jeff Baker not holding onto Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s throw, which would have ended the sixth inning without Washington scoring. Adam LaRoche’s slide helped knock the ball out of Baker’s glove.
The play could have unfolded another way. While Salty made a strong, accurate throw to second, he could have avoided a throw entirely. On the play, Bryce Harper was half-way down the third base line. Had Salty simply charged at Harper, he would have been helplessly in a run down. Either way, there was an out to be had in two spots.
* Adeiny Hechavarria had a good at-bat in the third inning, and slapped a single to right field. The Marlins could have had something going. A leadoff hit with the middle of the order looming. Down a run, Hechavarria was aggressive on the bases. Gio Gonzalez threw over as Hechavarria sprinted towards second. It was ruled a caught steal. Again, costly. Two batters later, Giancarlo Stanton singled. So two of the first three batters singled in the inning, and Miami had no real threat.
Gio went on to retire eight straight after Stanton’s hit.
* It is encouraging that the Marlins are running up pitch counts. Gio allowed three runs in six innings, but he was done after 101 pitches. He was at 59 through three.
The Marlins are making pitchers work. Next, they have to make them pay.
– Joe Frisaro
WASHINGTON, D.C. — As division rivals, the Marlins will see plenty of the Nationals over the course of the season. But on this particular road trip, Washington will not get a look at Miami ace Jose Fernandez.
The Marlins are opting to keep their rotation as is, and not shift things around because of Monday’s off day. Fernandez could have stayed on a five-day schedule, and been lined up for Thursday’s series finale at Nationals Park.
Rather than change things up, the rotation will stay the same. So, Fernandez will start on Friday night in the series opener at Philadelphia. Nathan Eovaldi also will get the benefit of an extra day, and he will go on Saturday, followed by Henderson Alvarez, who is starting Tuesday night at Washington.
The Nationals have their top three starters set for this series, while Miami will have its three, four and five guys.
“I’m not worried, I love our three, four and five pitchers,” manager Mike Redmond said. “Right now, it worked out where we are facing their one, two and three, but when they come [to Miami], it might work out differently. That’s the way it goes. You’ve got to win on the road.”
Washington will be at Marlins Park from April 14-16.
It’s also early enough in the season where an extra day should benefit all the starters.
Miami is relaxing its innings limit with Fernandez, who was shut down after 172 2/3 innings as a rookie.
“I think it makes sense with our pitchers,” Redmond said. “We don’t want to start having that conversation about how many innings this guy is going to have at the All-Star Break. That got kind of old to me. Let’s keep these guys spaced out. It’s early in the season. Get them an extra day of rest. That’s going to benefit them for the long haul.
“It’s not about one game in April. It’s about winning a lot of games over the course of the season. That’s what is important for me and for everybody.”
– Joe Frisaro
MIAMI — When Jose Fernandez is on the mound, the Marlins have no problem with the 21-year-old pitching at full speed. On the bases, it’s another story.
Sometimes Fernandez’s enthusiasm makes Marlins manager Mike Redmond laugh inside. Like on Saturday night, in Miami’s 5-0 win over the Padres.
Fernandez was on second base, and Giancarlo Stanton was at the plate. Redmond notices Fernandez bouncing around, taking a long lead and acting like he wants to steal third base.
“That’s not your job,” Redmond told the young ace.
Redmond loves the aggressiveness, but on the bases, Fernandez pretty much has the red light.
The way Fernandez looks at it, he is a baseball player, not just a pitcher. And if he isn’t being ignored by infielders and the pitcher, then he will consider taking a base.
“Why not? If they’re giving it to me, why not?” Fernandez said.
He then answered his own question.
“Stanton was hitting,” Fernandez said. “I didn’t want to get hit hard. But why not? What they are giving, why not take? That’s how I was taught when I started playing.”
The fact he is a pitcher, he says, is not a reason to stop playing other parts of the game.
“I got no choice,” he said. “If I’m on base, I’ve got to run the bases the right way. I’m not going to say, ‘I’m a pitcher, so I don’t take a lead.’ The game was close too.”
Asked when Fernandez last stole a base, he chuckled: “Who knows? I don’t remember one.”
When Fernandez pitches, he certainly is all-in. He’s a perfectionist, and gets upset when he has to surrender the baseball. He also was a bit frustrated by a couple of misplays in the field.
After he came out of the game in the seventh inning, veteran Reed Johnson spoke with him.
“Reed, he told me, ‘Great job, man. Let us finish it,’ ” Fernandez said. “He was talking to me. ‘Take it easy, you did a great job.’ “
Saturday night marked the second 30,000-plus crowd in the homestand, and the players certainly took notice.
“It’s fun to go out there, and the crowd was great out there,” Fernandez said. “It was fun. It was amazing. They were into it.”
Outfielder Christian Yelich, @ChristianYelich Tweeted: “Electric Atmosphere in Marlins Park tonight! Another solid outing by @JoseFernanez77 #TheFish”
And first baseman Garrett Jones, @Garrett_GIJones, Tweeted, “Great crowd tonight!!! Place was rocking! #fish #win”
– Joe Frisaro
MIAMI — All the preaching about having an approach at the plate paid off in the Marlins’ series against the Rockies.
Miami took three of four, and a major reason is the offense basically wore down Colorado’s pitching.
In the four games, the Marlins posted 27 runs, which is tops in the National League. Only the Mariners, with 28 runs, have scored more. In terms of doubles, the Marlins are tops in the Majors with 12.
It’s been a dramatic change from a year ago, when the Marlins were last in the Majors in runs scored (513) and doubles (219).
Hitting coach Frank Menechino constantly talks about having a plan at the plate. The approach mentality has resulted in players grinding out at-bats.
A telling stat that gets little to no attention is pitches seen. In the four games, the Miami’s batters saw 572 pitches. And entering Friday night, that total ranks sixth most among any team in the Majors. The D-backs and Dodgers rank first and second, and both of those clubs have played more games because they opened the regular season in Australia.
The point about seeing so many pitches is the Marlins literally wore down the Rockies relievers.
To show how important this is, consider Wednesday night, when Miami got down, 6-1, and could have called it a night halfway through the game. However, they scrapped back, and eventually lost 6-5, having the tying run in scoring position when the game ended.
In that game, Rockies closer LaTroy Hawkins threw 36 pitches in the ninth for the save, making him unavailable on Thursday afternoon. Matt Belisle threw 11 pitches on Wednesday. Colorado had five pitchers combine to throw 167 pitches on Wednesday, compared to 141 pitches for Miami’s three pitchers.
On Thursday, the Marlins fell behind again early. But they ran up Franklin Morales’ pitch total to 90, and the lefty was out of the game after 5 1/3 innings. Tommy Kahnle entered and threw 27 pitches, and Belisle ended throwing the eighth. Miami scored four times off Belisle, who threw 26 pitches.
In eight innings, the Rockies pitchers combined for 143 pitches. The Marlins pitchers, in nine innings, logged 140.
* The Rockies repeatedly shifted Christian Yelich, and their positioning helped take some hits away from the 22-year-old. They moved third baseman Nolan Arenado into the hole at short, and he snared a liner early in the series. Yelich also chopped a few ground balls up the middle that resulted in outs, because of the shift. In the outfield, they shaded him the other way.
* Jacob Turner was in line for a loss when he exited the game Thursday, but the team picked him up. Still, even though he gave up five runs, it was important that Turner made it through six innings because he saved the bullpen. The night before, Henderson Alvarez was out of the game after three-plus innings. Kevin Slowey was used for four innings, and did a terrific job saving the ‘pen. Brad Hand was warming up in the early innings on Thursday, but Turner staying in the game meant manager Mike Redmond didn’t have to use both of his long relievers in back-to-back games.
* A.J. Ramos and Carlos Marmol have both looked effective. The two right-handers will offer some nasty sliders and 95-plus fastballs to opposing batters.
* Miami’s bullpen allowed one runs and posted an 0.60 ERA in the series against the Rockies, striking out 12 in 15 innings.
On the farm
Triple-A New Orleans beat Colorado Springs on Thursday. Kyle Jensen belted a home run. Lefty Brian Flynn had a strong outing, striking out five in six shutout innings. He allowed two hits and walked one. In reliever Arquimedes Caminero gave up a run in two innings, and struck out three. He blew a save, but he also was awarded the win. Chris Hatcher collected the save.
Double-A Jacksonville edged Huntsville, 3-1. Anthony DeSclafani struck out seven in six innings, giving up one run on two hits. He collected the win. Nick Wittgren had a 1 2/3 inning save. Alfredo Silverio went 2-for-4 with an RBI.
Andrew Heaney, the team’s top prospect, starts on Friday night for Jacksonville.
LINEUP vs. Padres
1) Hechavarria SS
2) Baker 2B
3) Stanton RF
4) McGehee 3B
5) Jones 1B
6) Saltalamacchia C
7) Ozuna CF
8) Johnson LF
– Joe Frisaro
MIAMI — The Marlins got off to a hot start, beating the Rockies twice in two days at Marlins Park. After losing a tough one, 6-5, on Wednesday night, the club on Thursday afternoon still has a chance to capture a series victory.
For a team looking to gain some early season momentum, it would be a big boost, especially since it would mean they bounced back.
The struggles of 2013 have been well documented. Miami started off 1-9, and never got anything going the first two months.
In ’13, the Marlins’ first series win came from April 29-May 1, when they took two of three against the Mets.
What the Marlins have seen from the Rockies these past four days are a heavy dose of left-handed pitchers. On Thursday, Colorado went with its third southpaw. Franklin Morales got the nod.
The Marlins, meanwhile, have five right-handers.
Jacob Turner will make his 2014 debut in the matinee.
The first pitch is set for 12:40 p.m. ET.
Because Morales is on the mound, the Marlins will go with Jeff Baker at second base in place of Derek Dietrich, who got the start on Wednesday against right-hander Jordan Lyles.
Catcher Jeff Mathis also is getting the start in place of Jarrod Saltalamacchia.
1) Yelich LF
2) Baker 2B
3) Stanton RF
4) McGehee 3B
5) Jones 1B
6) Ozuna CF
7) Hechavarria SS
8) Mathis C
9) Turner P
– Joe Frisaro