With 36 games remaining, the Miami Marlins (63-63) sit four games out of the second National League wild-card spot after winning six of nine at home.
As the Marlins embark on a three-city, nine-game trip, NL MVP talk surrounding All-Star slugger Giancarlo Stanton has picked up steam. But if Miami wants to stay in the race, others will need to step up and do their part.
Christian Yelich’s and Marcell Ozuna’s bats are starting to heat up. Jarrod Saltalamacchia has an RBI in three straight games. Adeiny Hechavarria’s improvement at the plate from last season has helped the bottom of the lineup.
FOX Sports Florida’s Christina De Nicola (@CDeNicola13) spoke with analyst Tommy Hutton (@THUT14) about the state of the Marlins. She’ll catch up with Hutton and other members of the broadcast team throughout the 2014 season for insight on the club.
FOX SPORTS FLORIDA: What are your thoughts on Stanton as the frontrunner for NL MVP?
TOMMY HUTTON: I think he should. I keep thinking about candidates and I won’t include a pitcher because I don’t think a pitcher should win the MVP. You have (Milwaukee Brewers catcher) Jonathan Lucroy, (Brewers outfielder) Carlos Gomez, (Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Yasiel) Puig. But when I think about all of those guys Stanton just blows them away with what he’s done on the team he’s played for and kept this team a little bit in the hunt still.
FSF: I guess the debate is what does MVP mean? Is it value to the team, does it have to be postseason implications?
HUTTON: I think it depends on the year. I think some years you might have guys who are on a team — like when Kirk Gibson won the MVP (in 1988) and didn’t have great numbers. Andre Dawson won on a last-place team (in 1987 with the Chicago Cubs). Really it depends on the year, but if you watch the Marlins you know the value Stanton has had to the team. Playing every game, playing right field, playing good defense. Aside from what he’s done offensively.
FSF: Speaking of value. A few guys in the lineup like Garrett Jones, Jarrod Saltalamacchia … who in particular would you like to see step up the last month that the team really could use?
HUTTON: Both those guys. Hechavarria has stayed consistent. We think he’s the most-improved hitter from last year to this. But production you’d like to see those guys step up and Ozuna go on a little consistent run. You know he can do it because we’ve seen him do it. Lately he’s been inconsistent.
FSF: Speaking of Hechavarria, I’ve defended him a bit on Twitter. You guys two Twitter Tuesdays ago did the same. What’s the most impressive thing about him this season that wasn’t there last year?
HUTTON: That he has stayed with his approach to drive the ball the other way. Even early in the year there were some times when he hit line drives to second base for outs. He’d hit the ball good to right field for an out. He still stayed with his approach, and it’s really paid off.
FSF: I was telling someone the other day who said, ‘He doesn’t hit home runs’ that with that approach he’s not going to. His equivalent is the triple.
HUTTON: Our ballpark affects a guy like him, affects a guy like (Casey) McGehee. It doesn’t affect Stanton because he has such great power. It allows those guys to hit balls into the gaps and be good hitters. You’ve seen what it’s done for Casey McGehee this year.
FSF: In terms of the pitching staff — starters, bullpen — are you liking what you’re seeing? The rotation has bounced back a bit.
HUTTON: I think all of a sudden you’re getting guys like (Nathan) Eovaldi, who has already thrown more innings that he ever has. You’re getting guys like that and the bullpen’s been fantastic. I think the bullpen’s ERA since the All-Star break is a little over 2. You keep your eye on those guys. It’s good to watch a (Tom) Koehler. Henderson Alvarez threw 180 something innings with Toronto (in 2012), so he’s been there before. The other guys haven’t, but it’s good to see them develop and get that. That’s just a bonus for next year.
FSF: Any cause for concern with Steve Cishek? He’s been shaky lately.
HUTTON: I think he’s all right. The last couple of times he’s been fine now. He had a bad spell just like a starter or hitter will have a slump. Plus, he pitched a lot. If you look at all the closers, what is he 31 of 34? They’re all about the same or worse.
FSF: What do you make of this upcoming series in Colorado? Games you have to win.
HUTTON: Denver’s a tough place to play. I know they’re not a great team and they don’t have (Troy) Tulowitzki or (Carlos Gonzalez) but you still go in there … it’s a tough place to play.
FSF: Not just that but they’re playing for pride or positions for next year. It’s not like they’re playing for absolutely nothing. They’re still a major-league team.
HUTTON: That’s like the two pitchers they faced (in the Texas Rangers series). Trying to win a job for next year.