Padres send Richard to the mound seeking fourth consecutive series win
MIAMI -- Finally, Jose Urena is in the win column.
After going 14 consecutive starts without his team winning -- including seven losses that went on his personal ledger to start this year -- Urena beat the St. Louis Cardinals on Tuesday.
"It was awesome to get a win for Jose," Marlins rookie right fielder Brian Anderson said. "He's been grinding for us."
Marlins manager Don Mattingly echoed those sentiments.
"It was good to get Jose on the board," Mattingly said. "He didn't have his great stuff (on Tuesday), but he hung in there."
Urena (1-7, 4.60 ERA) will get a chance for a winning streak Sunday when he faces the San Diego Padres and their starter, Clayton Richard (4-6, 4.67). Richard had 14-win seasons in 2010 and 2012 but is 21-32 since.
The 26-year-old Urena averages 96 mph on his fastball as he is still trying to find his way after what was thought to be a breakthrough season in 2017 at 14-7 with a 3.82 ERA.
Unfortunately for Urena, he has taken a step back this year, although some of that has been a function of poor run support. His WHIP has improved from 1.27 last year to 1.24 this season.
Urena nearly won his first game of the year last week when he allowed one run in six innings against the host Padres. But Brad Ziegler blew the save chance and San Diego eventually swept Miami.
Richard pitched against Miami in that same game, allowing just a two-run homer to Starlin Castro in seven innings. Richard, in seven career starts against the Marlins, has a 2.67 ERA.
Since starters rarely finish games these days, the bullpens could be a big factor in Sunday's rubber match of the series (Miami won 4-0 on Friday and San Diego prevailed 5-4 on Saturday).
Ziegler, a soft-tosser with a submarine throwing slot, has since lost his closer job and is now being used in the middle innings or in a setup role.
Miami is using hard thrower Kyle Barraclough (1.32 ERA) as its closer. Hard throwers Tayron Guerrero (5.67) and Drew Steckenrider (4.18) are other key pieces of the revamped, young bullpen, along with lefty Adam Conley (2.08).
Barraclough, Guerrero, Steckenrider and Conley are all under age 30.
Meanwhile, San Diego's bullpen is led by Brad Hand (1.95 ERA, 18 saves).
Hand, a former Marlins pitcher, saved 21 games last year with a 2.16 ERA, making the All-Star Game for the first time.
To some extent, Hand has been a victim of his own success.
"I love it here," said Hand, who is signed with San Diego through the 2021 season. "But I'm sure if someone offered (the Padres) the right group of prospects, I would probably be traded."
Until or unless that happens, Hand -- who pitched one scoreless inning Saturday in San Diego's win -- is still a member of the Padres and is set to impact Sunday's game.
"I'm used to (the trade speculation) by now," Hand said. "But when I signed here, I wanted to help the young guys come up, and I wanted to win a World Series here."