Come Thursday, Jose Fernandez can kick back and relax. He’ll make his final start of the season Wednesday, at which point the Marlins will place him on the shelf in order to preserve his golden arm for safekeeping.
Given how poorly the other starters have been looking of late, though, Fernandez might be the last one in need of a breather. Over the previous six days, he has been the only one of the bunch to make it five full innings.
On Monday, Henderson Alvarez became the latest starter for the Marlins to succumb early, yanked after a five-run fourth inning in Atlanta’s 5-2 victory.
“We’re in a bad rut right now with our starting pitching,” manager Mike Redmond said. “It seems like we’re good the first time through the order and the second time through the order it seems like the wheels are coming off.”
Alvarez looked like a million bucks the first three innings before collapsing in a heap of embers in the fourth when the Braves opened their barrage with three consecutive doubles and five hits in all.
That means that the past six starters for the Marlins have lasted exactly 4 1/3, four, seven, three, four and four innings, respectively. And guess who the seven belongs to? Fernandez, of course.
Alvarez said he couldn’t locate either his fastball or change-up for strikes. As a result, the Braves took advantage for a big inning.
“We’re giving up big numbers and really taking ourselves out of the game early,” Redmond said.
The Marlins, who have been scoring of late, came up all zeroes against Kris Medlen and the Braves until the seventh when they finally broke through with two runs.
Chris Coghlan went 4 for 4 at the plate, Ed Lucas drove in both runs with a double, and Juan Pierre came up with a pinch-hit double to give him 2,213 career hits — two behind Joe DiMaggio on the all-time list.
They have been healthy and, for the most part, they have been relatively successful. The combination of those two factors are the reason why the Marlins could match a major league record by having five pitchers total at least 65 relief appearances each.
“It’s definitely plausible,” said Chad Qualls, who has 59 relief appearances with 21 games left on the schedule. “It just shows we’ve been a pretty solid unit.”
Mike Dunn already has passed the milestone with 67 appearances. A.J. Ramos (61), Steve Cishek (61), Ryan Webb (59) and Qualls are all within range.
“It’s rare for an entire [bullpen] to stay healthy throughout the year,” Cishek said. “And, for the most part, everybody’s pitched well enough to stay here, too, so that’s another rare thing.”
Poor pitching, in other words, hasn’t merited any minor-league demotions for the Marlins’ five workhorse relievers.
Dunn pointed out that the coaching staff deserves some credit, too, by sticking with the five pitchers even when they’ve gone through ruts.
“We’ve all struggled at some point, but they’ve shown the trust in the players to work it out,” Dunn said.
The four other teams to have five pitchers with at least 65 relief appearances: the 1992 Cardinals, 2006 Cubs, 2006 Astros and 2008 Mets. Qualls was a part of that ’06 Astros bullpen.
After the trade of Ricky Nolasco in July, Placido Polanco inherited the unofficial title of highest-paid Marlin with his $2.75 million salary. On Sunday, he became $125,000 richer when he qualified for a contract performance bonus by playing in his 100th game.
There aren’t enough games left on the schedule for Polanco to qualify for an additional $125,000 by playing in 125 games.
This and that
• Redmond said he and pitching coach Chuck Hernandez are exploring ways to build in extra rest between starts for struggling pitcher Jacob Turner.
• Redmond said Brand Hand would start the second game of Saturday’s doubleheader in New York.
• Giancarlo Stanton said his injured ankle is improving. He took batting practice Monday but was left out of the lineup.
• Catcher Jeff Mathis left Monday’s game with a bruised thumb.
• Tuesday: Marlins RHP Tom Koehler (3-9, 4.70) vs. Atlanta Braves RHP Julio Teheran (11-7, 3.01), 7:10 p.m., Marlins Park.
• Wednesday: Marlins RHP Jose Fernandez (11-6, 2.23) vs. Atlanta Braves LHP Mike Minor (13-6, 3.06), 7:10 p.m., Marlins Park.
Koehler is in the midst of a three-game losing streak in which he has a 5.68 ERA over his past six starts. Koehler faced the Braves at Turner Field on July 2, tossing five innings and allowing three runs in an 11-3 loss.