When the season started back in April, Jose Urena and J.T. Realmuto were making beautiful music together over in New Orleans.
The pair of rookies are starting to do the same thing for the Marlins now.
Called up a week into the season from Triple A to fill the shoes of the now departed Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Realmuto belted a three-run home run in the eighth inning Friday night while Urena, called up on May 26 to help an ailing rotation, tossed 6 2/3 innings of one-run ball to pick up his first big-league win as the Marlins beat the Rockies 5-1 in front of 20,355 fans at Marlins Park.
“The game is simplifying itself for me,” said Urena, who after giving up five runs on 10 hits in his first career start at Pittsburgh has given up just five earned runs combined over his last three starts, which have all gone at least six innings.
“The more you pitch the more you learn.”
Urena, who was 4-0 with a 1.21 ERA in six starts in New Orleans, only struck out one batter Friday. But he didn’t surrender any walks and picked up 12 of his 20 outs via the ground ball.
“The thing that is so impressive about him is the way he competes and he challenges in the strike zone pitch after pitch,” said manager Dan Jennings, who could have some interesting decisions to make with his starting rotation now that the Marlins are getting some of their guys back from the disabled list.
“Right now Urena is in that rotation and somebody will have to knock him out. But he’s earned that right to get that opportunity every fifth day.”
The Marlins (26-36) broke a scoreless tie in the fourth on an interesting, two-out at-bat by Marcell Ozuna, who appeared to hit his first home run of the season at Marlins Park on a towering ball down the left field line.
Instead, the homer was reviewed and overturned after replays showed the ball went inches left of the foul pole. Ozuna then sent a screaming line drive down the left field line that landed just foul. Instead of getting frustrated, Ozuna remained focused and smacked a two-strike fastball from Rockies starter Kyle Kendrick into center field, plating Christian Yelich from second base.
“What can you say about the at-bat Marcell Ozuna had?” Jenning asked afterward. “He almost hit for the cycle.”
Said Ozuna, who extended his season-long hitting streak to 13 games: “That's what happens when you don’t lose your focus.”
Martin Prado then belted his fourth home run of the season off Kendrick in the sixth to make it 2-0, one pitch after a Kendrick nearly hit him and knocked him down.
Carlos Gonzalez then homered off Urena with one out in the seventh to trim the Marlins to 2-1. Jennings came to get Urena two batters later, and the Marlins bullpen held serve.
Realmuto then provided a nice cushion when he crushed a 1-2 pitch from reliever Scott Oberg into the Rockies bullpen in left. It was his third homer of the season.
“He’s probably hitting the loudest .246 or whatever it is,” Jennings said of Realmuto. “With any luck at all this guy would be hitting .270 or .280. He’s got power and just watching that swing in slow motion you see him pull his hands inside and able to turn on that ball. Tremendous at-bat to battle, fight off some pitches and get that ball out.”
This and that
▪ After the game, the Marlins recalled reliever Steve Cishek from Double A Jacksonville, where he pitched five scoreless innings in four appearances after being demoted June 1.
“From all the reports we have he went down and he worked on exactly what needed to be corrected,” Jennings said. “This team needs Steve Cishek to do what he’s capable of doing.”
Pitchers Kendry Flores and Andre Rienzo were optioned to Triple A after the game to make room for Cishek, and Saturday starter Mat Latos, who is being activated from the disabled list.
▪ Jose Fernandez made his second rehab start in Jupiter on Friday night and used 65 pitches to get through five scoreless innings. Fernandez gave up only two hits and a walk and struckout four, hitting 94 to 98 miles per hour regularly on the radar gun.
It was a much better effort than his first rehab start last Saturday in Port Charlotte, where he gave up five runs on eight hits and pitched just three innings.
“He got contact early, didn’t mess around, worked ahead, worked all his pitches in, threw breaking balls for strikes, which he didn’t do last time,” rehab pitching coordinator Wayne Rosenthal said. “One thing he didn’t do tonight — he did not overthrow and he stayed 94 to 98 without even trying. This was a huge step to go onto the next outing.”