The Marlins might have found just the fix for their losing ways, an opponent struggling just as badly as they. In a showdown of doormats, the Marlins on Monday took care of the last-place Padres in a 7-2 victory at Petco Park.
The Padres were only the third opponent they’ve faced this season with a losing record, and they’ve done well with those, going 7-3. But there are just not enough of them -- only five total in the National League -- to make a difference in the grander picture.
"I feel we have to start playing better against teams that are in the hunt," said Miguel Rojas, one of six Marlins on Monday with at least two hits. "That's what is going to take us to another level. If we play good baseball against teams that are in the bottom of their divisions, we're going to be just OK. If we're going to take the next step, we have to start playing better like we did against the Mets."
No, the schedule hasn’t been easy on the Marlins. They entered Monday having faced the most demanding schedule in the majors, at least going strictly on the combined .532 win percentage of their opponents.
After getting swept at home by the Nationals, the Marlins needed a break.
And they found one in the form of the Padres, who are pulling up the rear in the National League West.
The Marlins came up with four runs in the first inning on five consecutive hits, and Caleb Smith held the Padres in check for seven strong innings to earn the win and improve to 4-5.
Smith allowed only four hits, one being a solo homer by Franmil Reyes. And, unlike previous performances when the strikeout was his greatest weapon, he recorded most of his outs on contact, including 13 on balls hit in the air. Smith finished with only four K's, well below his average.
But the Marlins caused enough damage offensively in the first three innings to render Reyes' blast as insignificant and added insurance runs late to cement their 20th win. The Marlins out-hit the Padres, 15-6.
Starlin Castro and Cameron Maybin each drove in runs with singles in the first. But it was Yadiel Rivera’s screaming liner up the middle that gave Smith his four-run cushion before ever taking the mound.
Rivera’s single, which drove in two runs, came frighteningly close to hitting Padres starter Eric Lauer in the head.
"Kind of scary," Rivera said. "I"m glad he got out of the way. The ball was going right to his face."
When the Marlins added another run on another RBI single by Maybin, Lauer was finished.
Smith, meanwhile, was sharp.
The lefty pitched into the eighth, making it the longest start of his career.
San Diego is the first stop on the Marlins' three-city road trip. But the Padres are the only team of the trio with a losing record, providing the Marlins with an opportunity to shine.