With a healthy Giancarlo Stanton and Jose Fernandez there’s no telling how important Thursday night’s showdown against the Washington Nationals might have been.
Unfortunately for the Marlins, it turned out to be just another game that moved them closer toward postseason elimination.
On a night when a recovering Stanton was finally able to catch up with his teammates, the Marlins couldn’t muster enough offense against Gio Gonzalez to match the hurting the Nationals put on left-hander Brad Hand.
The division champions put together five consecutive two-out hits in the fourth inning and scored five runs off Hand, laying the foundation for a 6-2 win in front of 18,010 at Marlins Park.
“[Hand has] had that big-inning problem a few times,” manager Mike Redmond said. “But we didn’t help him out either. We didn’t execute the pickoff there. That out would have been big. It just kind of took off from there.”
Gonzalez, a Hialeah native and graduate of Monsignor Pace, scattered six hits, struck out five and allowed only two runs over seven innings to pick up the win. He’s now 6-2 with a 1.67 ERA in eight career starts against the Marlins.
Reed Johnson, starting in place of the sidelined Stanton, doubled home a run in the second to give the Marlins a brief 1-0 lead. Jeff Baker then drove in the Marlins’ other run on a single in the sixth. But it hardly made a dent in the scoreboard with Washington ahead 6-1 at that point.
Hand, who is in the rotation in part because Fernandez was lost for the season back in May, lasted only five innings. He’s now 3-8 with a 4.59 ERA in 15 starts this season.
The Marlins (74-78) entered the day seven games out in the wild-card race but could be eliminated by the end of the weekend.
▪ Marlins right-hander Tom Koehler, tied for 19th in Wins Above Replacement rankings (2.7) in the National League, is hoping to get the Marlins back on track Friday night against the Nationals.
He has been stuck on nine wins since Aug.17 despite posting a 3.19 ERA and failing to give up more than three runs in any of his past five starts.
“It would be nice [to get to double digit wins],” said Koehler, who has far exceeded the expectations set for him when the season began and he was tabbed the team’s fifth starter. “Winning a big-league game isn’t an easy thing to do. You saw last year it took me nine starts to get my first win.”
Even though he has hit a new career high for innings pitched this season (1791/3), Koehler (9-9, 3.71 ERA) said he feels great. “I was telling somebody the other day that I can’t believe it’s ending because of how I feel right now, which I guess is a good thing going forward,” he said.
▪ Redmond said Fernandez, set to return after the All-Star break next year, visited doctors Thursday to receive final clearance before starting a throwing program on Oct.1. Fernandez had Tommy John surgery back in May.
“Time-wise he’s right on schedule,” Redmond said. “I haven’t talked to him, but I’m sure he’s anxiously awaiting this clearance.’’
▪ Friday: Marlins RHP Tom Koehler (9-9, 3.71 ERA) vs. Washington Nationals RHP Doug Fister (14-6, 2.55), 7:10 p.m.
▪ Saturday: Marlins RHP Jarred Cosart (4-2, 2.05) vs. Nationals RHP Jordan Zimmerman (12-5, 2.83), 7:10 p.m.