Rick VandenHurk is hoping he can stick in the majors this time.
VandenHurk pitched six strong innings to earn his first win in more than a year, leading the Florida Marlins to a 3-2 victory over the San Diego Padres on Monday night.
VandenHurk, making his first start since last July 27, allowed two runs and five hits, struck out four and walked two. He picked up his first victory since he pitched five innings in a 4-0 victory over Atlanta on June 22, 2008.
The 6-foot-5 right-hander provided a spark for a club whose starting pitchers have ranked near the bottom in most major NL pitching categories this season.
“It feels good to be back here,” VandenHurk said. “Nervous, like always. But I felt good. I decided to go out there and pitch and try to keep us in a spot to win the ballgame.”
Hanley Ramirez hit a solo homer for the Marlins, who scored twice in the seventh to snap a three-game skid. Leo Nunez pitched the ninth for his fifth save in eight chances, completing the five-hitter.
VandenHurk was recalled from Triple-A New Orleans on Monday after making eight starts there following a stint on the disabled list. He went 1-1 with a 7.71 ERA in four starts with the Marlins last season but manager Fredi Gonzalez sees a different pitcher this time around.
“I saw him command his fastball on both sides of the plate,” Gonzalez said. “I saw him throw his breaking pitches (well).”
After the game, the Marlins announced they were optioning starter Andrew Miller to New Orleans and VandenHurk would start at the Los Angeles Dodgers on Saturday. Gonzalez said VandenHurk’s outing influenced the decision.
“I’m not even looking at that,” VandenHurk said about staying in the rotation for the rest of the season. “I just want to keep working hard, keep improving and we’ll see where it ends.”
VandenHurk limited the Padres to just three hits before he allowed back-to-back homers to Adrian Gonzalez and Kevin Kouzmanoff in the sixth, giving San Diego a 2-1 lead.
The Padres have lost 15 of 19 and have the majors’ worst record since June 1 at 12-31.
Gonzalez’s drive was his 25th of the season and first in 24 games. The All-Star first baseman has hit only three homers since June 2.
“I never really panic too much because I know my home runs come in streaks,” Gonzalez said. “Hopefully, I can hit a few more the next couple of days, the next couple of weeks.”
The Marlins loaded the bases with no outs in the seventh on consecutive singles by Jeremy Hermida, Cody Ross and Dan Uggla off Greg Burke (2-2). John Baker‘s groundout tied it and Burke issued an intentional walk to pinch-hitter Ross Gload to load the bases again.
Rookie Luke Gregerson relieved Burke and struck out Chris Coghlan before Emilio Bonifacio walked to give Florida a 3-2 lead. Ramirez then struck out to end the inning.
“Obviously, I wanted to shut them down there keep it where it was,” Gregerson said. “It’s a tough situation.”
Ramirez hit his 15th homer in the first inning off Tim Stauffer, who was making his second start since being called up from the minors on July 11. He gave up three hits over six innings.
“(Ramirez) is a great hitter and he made me pay for it,” Stauffer said.
The Marlins will make a corresponding move on Tuesday to replace Miller, but Gonzalez didn’t say what it would be. … VandenHurk became the 26th pitcher and the 41st player overall used by the Marlins this season. … Padres 2B David Eckstein (strained right hamstring) is running at 75 percent, according to manager Bud Black. Eckstein, eligible to come off the 15-day DL on Tuesday, likely will not be ready to play until later this week.