Sublime starters help Marlins finish off franchise-best homestand
MAY 07, 2014 5:48p ET
MIAMI -- It's no coincidence the Miami Marlins closed out their best nine-game homestand in franchise history behind another masterful starting pitching performance.
Right-hander Tom Koehler threw eight shutout innings, and Marcell Ozuna produced a walk-off sacrifice fly to center for the Marlins' 1-0 victory over the Mets on Wednesday afternoon.
Miami (19-15) finished 8-1 against the Braves, Dodgers and Mets, improving its MLB-best home record to 17-5. The Marlins are four games above .500 for the first time since April 5 and are within striking distance of first place in the NL East.
Compare that to last year, when the Marlins didn't win their 19th game until June 11. At this point in 2013, they were already 10 back in the division.
Koehler allowed two hits with five strikeouts and one walk on 95 pitches. Though he earned the no decision, Koehler lowered his ERA to 1.99, which ranks sixth in the National League.
Since his season-worst start April 27 at Citi Field, when he allowed four runs on five hits in five frames, Koehler has given up five hits and no runs in his past 15 innings.
"We're starting to get comfortable with who we are, not trying to go out there and pitch to somebody's ability but to our own," said Koehler, who entered Wednesday with the third-lowest home ERA in baseball. "Having great defense like you saw behind us and two veteran backstops back there really make the game a lot easier."
Koehler is not alone in his success, merely carrying the torch. On Tuesday, righty Henderson Alvarez tossed his second shutout in his past four starts.
The Marlins recorded back-to-back team shutouts for the first time since Aug. 1-2, 2013, against the Mets and Cleveland Indians, respectively. They recorded their sixth of the season -- seven shy of last year's total.
The four members of the rotation who have not missed an outing -- Jose Fernandez, Nathan Eovaldi, Alvarez and Koehler -- have recorded a quality start 22 of 28 times. All four have sub-3.00 ERAs.
In the team's wins, Miami's starters have averaged 6.8 innings, 4.4 hits and 1.5 earned runs. Even the staff's splits for losses are respectable: 5.4 innings, 6.6 hits and 2.9 earned runs per game.
"Pitching has been great, and these guys feed off each other," manager Mike Redmond said. "They don't want one guy to get too much notoriety or press. They want to push each other, and I think that's great.
"These guys are so competitive they want to go out and give this ballclub a chance to win. When somebody goes out and has a great night, a great pitching performance the next guy wants to match him. That's exactly what we want. We want those guys to go out there and compete not only for the ballclub, but compete with each other."
Their performances don't go unnoticed by the offense, which mustered just three hits Wednesday but still ranks fifth in the majors with 157 runs.
With runners at the corners, New York inserted righty Kyle Farnsworth to face Ozuna, who is 1 for his past 14. His fly to center was enough to drive Stanton in.
"Where we are right now with our rotation, I like our chances," said McGehee, who went 1 for 2 with a pair of walks. "We've got a chance to match up no matter how good they are over there.
"It makes it fun. Those close games you want the ball and it's almost the same feeling as if you were at the plate with the game on the line. It's fun to try and have a chance to make those plays to pick up your pitcher. There wasn't too much to do other than sit and watch him. It was good to see."
Last season, the young staff set a franchise record for lowest ERA. Their development and maturation remains the foundation of the organization.
Now the trick will be for the Marlins to carry this momentum with them on the road, where they have won just twice in 12 contests. It certainly helps when three of their past four victories have come in walk-off fashion.
"We all want to go out there and do a little better than the other one," Koehler said of the friendly competition. "The more important thing is the team getting the win, and this was a really nice homestand for us. Hopefully we pack it up on the road and keep it going."