MIAMI — Miami Marlins right-hander Tom Koehler’s locker was empty following Wednesday night’s 5-0 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies.
After six shutout innings, Koehler (6-6) watched from the dugout as his teammates picked up their second consecutive win for the first time in 19 contests, the second-longest such skid in the majors.
Once the final out was recorded, Koehler bolted for the hospital to be with his wife, Ashley, who is expecting the couple’s first child — a girl named Riley. He was placed on the paternity list.
"The first thing he said to me was about the pitching aspect of it," catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia said. "I just told him, ‘Go have a baby. Don’t worry about tonight. You have another start in five days. Go have a baby.’ "
Koehler struck out seven and walked one over 91 pitches (56 strikes) while allowing three hits. It marked his fifth start of six or more shutout innings but his first since May 17 in San Francisco. He is tied with four others for the fourth most in the big leagues this season.
After opening the year with quality starts in seven of nine outings, Koehler watched his ERA climb from 2.25 to 3.70 when he struggled to close out sixth innings and find his command. He has quality starts in his past three, recapturing that late 2013, spring training and early season groove.
The 28-year-old did, however, need to work out of jams in both the first and sixth.
With a pair of runners in scoring position in the first, Koehler struck out Chase Utley and Marlon Byrd and induced a Ryan Howard groundout to avoid damage. In the sixth, he worked around a leadoff walk and then a single for three straight outs.
"You don’t want to give up runs in the first inning, it really puts the offense in a jam, and then you’ve got to do a lot, especially against a quality pitcher like Cole (Hamels) out there," Koehler told FOXSportsFlorida.com after exiting the game. "If you give him a little bit of a cushion, he can go out there and shut down an offense. I just tried to get out of there, and put up as many zeroes as I could."
Added Saltalalamacchia: "He was warming up and pitching like she was getting ready to give birth any second. He threw the ball well, really just attacked the hitters, went after them. Sixth inning, those first two hitters he kind of nitpicked a little but then (pitching coach Chuck Hernandez) talked to him, got him back on track on attacking the guys and it worked out."
Two days after offering to pitch in relief should the taxed bullpen need any help, Koehler helped the Marlins capture their first home series since taking down the Tampa Bay Rays on June 2-3.
Once the incumbent for the fifth spot in the rotation, Koehler has worked on his consistency and been a solid producer for Miami in 2014.
"I’ve said it all year and even last year — this guy I thought was our most improved pitcher from last year to this year and what he’s been able to do," manager Mike Redmond said. "I think he’s really benefitted from being able to get these starts and to go out there not only confidence-wise but it’s improved his mechanics. I know he’s worked hard with Chuck and this guy has the ability to be a workhorse for us down the road. He’s strong and I think he is capable of throwing 200 innings with no problem.
"He’s young and still a work in progress for him, the consistency. I see him being able to make adjustments, being able to pitch out of jams and at this point it’s just now going out there and continuing to log the innings and improve and push himself to get through that sixth inning and pitch later in the game, which he’s capable of. It’ll come. As far as a teammate and what he brings to our ballclub, he’s consistent. He brings it every day. He’s a great guy, great teammate, he’s a competitor, he’ll do whatever you want him to do and now he’s gonna be a dad, so that’s cool."