Miami Marlins

Miami Marlins big boppers not hitting but team is scoring runs

Miami Marlins left fielder Marcell Ozuna is congratulated by teammates after hitting a grand-slam home run during the first inning of a baseball game against the New York Mets at Marlins Park on Thursday, April 13, 2017, in in Miami.
Miami Marlins left fielder Marcell Ozuna is congratulated by teammates after hitting a grand-slam home run during the first inning of a baseball game against the New York Mets at Marlins Park on Thursday, April 13, 2017, in in Miami. dsantiago@elnuevoherald.com

Justin Bour isn’t hitting. Martin Prado isn’t playing. Giancarlo Stanton isn’t bashing. Christian Yelich isn’t raking.

That’s half the Marlins lineup.

But in the very small sample size of their first 10 games, the Marlins of 2017 are doing something the Marlins of 2016 didn’t.

They’re scoring runs.

Does manager Don Mattingly have reason for optimism that last season’s dysfunctional lineup — one that ranked fourth in the majors in batting average but 27th in runs scored — has figured out a way to convert hits into runs?

“Absolutely,” Mattingly said Saturday before the Marlins took on the Mets.

Even with a handful of their core players getting off to tepid starts — or, in the injured Prado’s case, no start at all — the Marlins are, at the very least, keeping the scoreboard operator from dozing off on the job.

Heading into Saturday, they were averaging five runs per game.

That might not sound like a lot. But only three teams — the Rangers, Nationals and Diamondbacks — were averaging more runs per contest. And it’s a huge improvement over last season’s Marlins, who averaged only four runs per game.

“It was not just one year,” Mattingly said of the run-starved Marlins. “It was the year before, also.”

Which is true. For as difficult as it was for the ’16 Marlins to put runs on the board, the 2015 Marlins were even more challenged: 3.78 runs per game, good for 29th in the majors.

“We’ve got to keep it up,” Stanton said. “It’s going to be a different hero every night. That’s what we need. That’s what the best teams do. To keep up down the stretch, that’s what you’re going to need.”

The hitting heroes so far have been Marcell Ozuna and J.T. Realmuto. They’ve shouldered a big chunk of the offensive load, combining to drive in nearly half (23) of the team’s 50 runs.

It was Realmuto’s two-out double in the ninth that beat the Mets 3-2 on Friday night.

But the Marlins have also received contributions from members of the supporting cast, such as backup infielder Miguel Rojas (.375 average in 24 at-bats) and Tyler Moore (4 for 10, including three pinch-hits).

Yelich entered Saturday with a .227 average and only one extra base hit, a foul pole home run in New York. Bour might be coming around with his first homer of the season Saturday despite a .143 average. Stanton has two homers, but both came in the same game.

Mattingly isn’t ready to pronounce the Marlins as cured offensively, not 10 games into a season. But he likes some of the signs he’s seeing.

“I think we’re seeing a group effort,” Mattingly said. “We’ve tried to put an emphasis on being able to move runners, getting a guy in from third base. Part of that is young guys and growing up and understanding the cat-and-mouse part of hitting with pitchers.”

The question is whether the Marlins can sustain their early scoring success over the course of 162 games.

“You’re going to have ups and downs during the course of the season,” Mattingly said. “There’s going to be times when it looks really good, and times it won’t. So far, it’s pretty good.”

REALMUTO ILL

After delivering the game-winning hit on Friday, Realmuto went home and fell ill. He wasn’t in Saturday’s lineup and didn’t take batting practice.

“He’s a little under the weather [Saturday],” Mattingly said. “[He was] a little dehydrated this morning. We sent him home to rest. As much as anything, we’re thinking [it is] food poisoning. It’s something that came on quickly.”

Mattingly said he was hopeful Realmuto would be able to return in time for Saturday’s game.

COMING UP

▪ Sunday: Marlins RHP Dan Straily (1-1, 7.56) vs. Mets RHP Matt Harvey (2-0, 2.92), 1:10 p.m., Marlins Park.

▪ Monday: Marlins RHP Tom Koehler (0-0, 3.27) at Mariners LHP Ariel Miranda (0-1, 5.06), 10:10 p.m., Safeco Field.

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