Marlins

Miami Marlins road woes tough to explain

mnavarro@MiamiHerald.comApril 29, 2014 

SPORTS BBN-PADRES-MARLINS 3 MI

Marlins utility man Jeff Baker suggests that one reason for Miami’s 2-10 record on the road is that the team has encountered excellent pitching.

DAVID SANTIAGO — Staff photo

At home, they rank second in batting average (.293), third in runs scored (76) and hit .328 with runners in scoring position. The record: 9-4.

On the road, they lead baseball in strikeouts (134), rank fifth from last in runs scored (32), and hit .163 with runners in scoring position. The record: 2-10.

Can anyone explain why the Marlins have had such a split personality this season? Utility man Jeff Baker offered his opinion before the Marlins fell to 0 for 4 in road series this past weekend in New York.

“To be honest with you, we’ve faced some really good pitchers on the road,” said Baker, who enters Tuesday’s series opener against the first-place Atlanta Braves (17-7) on a career-long 0-for-23 slump dating to his last hit on April 6.

“The guys in Atlanta, I’m not sure what they have as a team — probably close to a 2.00 ERA. I know it’s like the best in baseball. The Mets pitching is good, the Nationals. It’s the quality of pitchers we’re seeing with those guys.”

That’s one explanation that carries some weight. Only Philadelphia, where the Marlins were swept April 13, owns an ERA (4.24) in the bottom half of baseball.

Another thought Baker shared: “I think the biggest thing — and it’s kind of a catch-22 with our ballpark — you’re not going to hit too many homers at home. So I think our approach is a little bit better at home. Sometimes it’s hard not to think about it just because as a hitter and a competitor you want to drive the ball and hit the ball out of the park.

“You go on the road in some of these other parks and you kind of feel like you want to make up for it because you’re not going to get the power numbers, you’re not going to drive in the runs at home. I think we kind of fall into that a little bit instead of just trying to keep staying with our approach, grinding at-bats, seeing a lot of pitches, which at home we’re very, very good at doing. But I think it’s a combination between the two. I think as we get into a bigger chunk of the season and get going, I don’t think the numbers are going to be as dramatic as they are right now.”

The good news for the Marlins: the next nine at are home. Tuesday, Jose Fernandez will be back on the mound, a week after tossing eight scoreless innings and matching a career high with 14 strikeouts in a 1-0 win over the Braves and Alex Wood at Turner Field.

Fernandez, 21, (3-1, 1.99 ERA) has never lost a game at Marlins Park, where he’s 11-0 with 1.07 ERA, 135 strikeouts and only 30 walks in 18 starts. He also loves facing the Braves.

“For sure, it gets you going,” said Fernandez, who is 2-1 with a 1.29 ERA in three starts against Atlanta. “It’s a team you’ve got to beat. They’re in your division. They’ve got a good team. They play the game the right way.

“We’re going to try to do our best.”

At 11-14, the Marlins are in a better place than they’ve been recently. Last year, they didn’t win their 11th game until May 10, 36 games into the season. Two years ago, Ozzie Guillen’s team started 11-14.

Despite four heartbreaking walk-off losses on the road over the first month of the season, president of baseball operations Mike Hill said Sunday he’s been encouraged by his team’s play coming off last year’s 100-loss season.

“Lot of mistakes against good teams,” Hill said. “If you’re going to make them, prefer to make them now and hopefully we don’t repeat them. But at this point I really believe a lot of the mistakes we’ve made we’ll learn from them, and it will benefit us come later in the summer. Part of that whole growth and maturation of a roster, we’ve gotten it right out of the box, which you can’t always say.

“This is a resilient team, a tough team that plays hard day-in, day-out, even after tough losses. And we’ve had our share of tough losses, to say the least.

“ But that’s what makes a team battle-tested. That’s what’s going to help us in the long run.”

Hill said we haven’t seen the best from the Marlins yet.

“There’s a lot of talent,” he said. “When we consistently minimize the mistakes against good teams, you’re going to see us on a roll. As long as we pitch we can play with anybody. That was in the case in Atlanta. That was the case with Washington. You minimize the mistakes and execute the pitches.

“Our defense hasn’t been great to this point. Late innings we’ve had some missteps. But that’s all part of the process of a team gelling and coming together.”

Coming up

•  Tuesday: Marlins RHP Jose Fernandez (3-1, 1.99 ERA) vs. Atlanta Braves LHP Alex Wood (2-3, 1.54), 7:10 p.m., Marlins Park.

•  Wednesday: Marlins RHP Nathan Eovaldi (1-1, 2.87) vs. Braves RHP Aaron Harang (3-1, 0.85), 7:10 p.m., Marlins Park.

•  Thursday: Marlins RHP Henderson Alvarez (1-2, 2.73) vs. Braves RHP Ervin Santana (3-0, 1.95), 7:10 p.m., Marlins Park.

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