The prospects looked bleak. It hardly seemed possible.
But in three days’ time, Brad Hand and Jacob Turner — two pitchers struggling for their major-league existence — each recorded wins for the Marlins.
Turner, starting for the first time since being exiled to the bullpen in June, led the Marlins to a 6-5 victory Tuesday night over the Braves and their first three-game winning streak in a month and a half.
“We believe in the guys we have in our rotation,” manager Mike Redmond said. “It’s an opportunity for them to solidify spots in the rotation. We’re looking for them to step up. I’ve been talking about that for a while, probably all year.”
Sure, Turner received plenty of help in the form of the Marlins’ highest scoring output since July 6. Donovan Solano had his first four-hit game, Christian Yelich scored three times, and nearly everyone in the lineup — Turner included — contributed with the bat in some manner.
But it was Turner who shined brightest, as the Marlins knocked off the Braves for the second consecutive night, hanging on for the win despite a late-inning Atlanta rally in which a seemingly comfortable 6-2 lead in the eighth for the Marlins was reduced to a single run.
Steve Cishek took over in the ninth, however, and shut down the Braves for his 23rd save.
Starting for the first time since June 11 when he lost his job after giving up five runs in only four innings to the Texas Rangers, Turner survived a shaky first inning before settling down and pitching the way the Marlins have long hoped he would.
After giving up a run in the first, Turner allowed only two more Braves to reach base over his four remaining innings: Chris Johnson on a leadoff single in the second and Justin Upton on a solo homer in the third.
“Being able to get out of there with just one run was huge,” Turner said of the first inning, which ended when Evan Gattis grounded into a bases-loaded double play.
Turner not only retired the final seven batters he faced before coming out after five innings and 82 pitches, but also he did something in the fourth that he had never done in his 249 previous major-league innings: He struck out every batter he faced, whiffing Gattis, Johnson and Andrelton Simmons.
“I felt good out there,” Turner said. “I felt strong getting up and down, which I hadn’t done in a while. Overall, I was happy with it.”
It was an unexpected performance from a pitcher who took a 2-6 record and 6.22 ERA to the mound Tuesday at Turner Field.
Not only had Turner never won at Turner, going 0-2 in his three career starts, he owned only one career road victory — at Tampa on June 5 — before notching his second on Tuesday. He is now 2-12 for his career on the road.
“It’s been a rough go for him,” Redmond said of Turner. “He’s been in the bullpen. But, you know what, he’s been positive, and it was good to see him go out there and pitch great.”
But it almost came unraveled.
Mike Dunn walked the first batter he faced in the eighth, struck the second with a pitch, and before the inning was over, the Braves had three runs and turned a 6-2 deficit into a one-run nail-biter. The Marlins would have limited the damage to just one run had they completed an inning-ending double play on Justin Upton’s ground ball to short.
But Solano’s throw to first was wide of the mark, pulling Jeff Baker off the bag, and Justin Heyward made them pay with a two-run double off Bryan Morris.
Johnson singled to lead off the ninth off Cishek and was replaced immediately with pinch-runner Jordan Schafer. The Marlins said they knew that Schafer would try to steal second, and Cishek threw over to first four times to keep him close.
But Schafer was thrown out by Jeff Mathis trying to steal second, with Adeiny Hechavarria making a nice pick-and-tag on Mathis’ one-hopper to the bag, and Cishek took care of the next two hitters.
“We at least maybe bought ourselves a half a step, which ended up being enough to get him,” Redmond said of Cishek’s repeated throws over to first.
Said Mathis: “Stevie did a good job of holding him at first, and Hech made a great play at second. It was a big play.”