Quick. Name the Marlins pitcher with the most wins over the past two seasons.
It’s not Jose Fernandez.
Nor is it Henderson Alvarez.
Heck, it’s not even close.
If you came up with Tom Koehler — perhaps the most overshadowed member of the rotation — give yourself a pat on the back and an advanced degree in Marlins knowledge.
Koehler registered his 18th win since the start of the 2014 season when the Marlins opened a four-game series on Thursday at Petco Park with a 4-0 triumph over the Padres.
Next on the win list: Alvarez with 12, with all of those coming in ‘14.
“You look at his numbers in the minor leagues, he was a winner,” manager Dan Jennings said of Koehler. “There’s a reason guys win, and he’s got that reason about him.”
While there are more heralded pitchers on the Marlins’ starting staff, Koehler continues to deliver outside the glare of the spotlight. On Thursday, he limited San Diego to three hits over seven scoreless innings to improve to 8-6.
The advanced metrics community tends to believe pitching wins are an overvalued statistic, a product of other factors, such as the run support a pitcher receives, as much as his performance on the mound.
But Koehler disagrees.
“You ask any pitcher who pitches in the big leagues, they value the win,” Koehler said. “Nobody’s going to ask me in the offseason what my QR or whatever was. They’re going to ask me how many games I won and lost. That’s the only true stat that defines whether a team won or lost the game.”
His 3.16 ERA ranks 16th among National League starters — and best on the Marlins — with at least 80 innings under their belt this season.
Not bad for a former 18th-round draft pick, and a pitcher penciled for the back end of the rotation when this season began. But with injuries decimating the starting staff, Koehler has thrust himself closer to the front end.
After starting out the three-city trip by losing their first four games, including a humbling three-game sweep at the hands of the last-place Phillies, the Marlins have won three straight. Two of those have been shutouts.
Koehler and the Padres’ Tyson Ross dueled through five scoreless innings before the Marlins strung together five straight, two-out singles in the sixth to take a 4-0 lead.
And that was all Koehler needed.
He totaled a season-high 109 pitches, but gave up no extra-bases hits, walked four and hit a batter. In the fifth, the Padres loaded the bases with one out. But Koehler got Ross to ground into a fielder’s choice, with the force coming at the plate, and retired Abraham Almonte on a foul pop to end the threat.
“Guys like Dan (Haren) have helped me a lot,” Koehler said of his veteran teammate. “When the situation gets tighter, you don’t necessarily need to throw better pitches — or nastier pitches. Just stick to your game plan and execute the pitch. If it’s good enough to get a guy out with nobody on, then it’s still good enough to get a guy out with guys on.”
Other than the sixth inning, the Marlins were quiet offensively.
Ross struck out the first four batters he faced and had seven whiffs through the first three innings. The Marlins managed only three infield hits through the first five innings.
But with two outs in the sixth inning, Martin Prado got things going with a single to center. Christian Yelich, Justin Bour, Casey McGehee and J.T. Realmuto followed with singles of their own, sending Ross to the showers.
After Koehler was finished, Steve Cishek took over and worked a 1-2-3 eighth inning. It was an important outing for Cishek, who is being heavily scouted in advance of the July 31 trade deadline.
At least six teams are known to have interest in the former closer, who is providing better results of late and isn’t a likely fit in the Marlins’ future plans, not with his escalating salary.