The Miami Marlins aren’t out of the hole yet, but they are slowly climbing their way out of the National League cellar after another successful road trip.
Five wins in the past seven games — including a four-game series split against the St. Louis Cardinals and a three-game sweep at the Philadelphia Phillies for the first time since August 2009 — are another sign that things might be moving in their favor after a 10-31 start.
“You want to see improvement,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said, “and hopefully that’s the trend we’re setting moving forward the rest of the year.”
Even with this run over the past five-plus weeks — the 20 wins in 35 games are tied for the third-best mark in the NL over that span — the Marlins (30-46) are still 16 games under .500 and 15 games behind the NL East-leading Atlanta Braves. However, Miami has moved to within three games of the San Francisco Giants, who have the second-worst record in the NL at 33-43.
The next big test comes this week when the Marlins host the Washington Nationals and Phillies for a pair of three-game series in their final homestand ahead of the All-Star Break.
“Just have to keep playing,” said center fielder JT Riddle, who hit three go-ahead home runs during the Marlins’ past four games. “Keep doing what we’re doing.”
That means taking the momentum they gained on the road trip and bringing it with them back to Marlins Park. During this winning stretch, the Marlins have gone 13-7 on the road compared to only 7-8 at home. This includes a 2-7 mark in their last stretch at Marlins Park nestled between winning 13 of 19 games to start this run and their recent 5-2 journey through St. Louis and Philadelphia.
So what has been the difference between the Marlins’ success at home and on the road? It primarily comes down to their offense. While the team is playing better overall — the Marlins’ .260 batting average since May 17 ranks 11th in MLB — there are discrepancies in their production at home and on the road.
Let’s look at the numbers:
▪ The Marlins have averaged 5.35 runs per game on the road over the last 35 games compared to 3.67 at home. They have been shut out four times in this stretch — twice at home and twice on the road — but have been held to one run or fewer six times in the 15 home games (40 percent) compared to three times in 20 road games (15 percent).
▪ While their batting averages (.258 at home vs. .262 on the road) and average on balls in play (.317 at home vs. .311 on the road) are nearly identical, the Marlins’ slugging percentage is almost 65 points higher away from Marlins Park (.434 on the road vs. .370 at home). Home runs play a big factor in this. Miami has 10 home runs in its past 15 games at Marlins Park compared to 26 in its past 20 road games.
“I don’t know what it is, but hopefully we can continue to change that script at home,” outfielder Garrett Cooper said. “It’s baseball. You take your lumps. We struggled to start the year, but we’ve picked it up a lot lately.”
Cooper has been one of the catalysts in the Marlins’ offensive uptick. He is riding a career-high 14-game hitting streak and leads the team with a .352 batting average since Miami’s first win of this run on May 17. Outfielder Harold Ramirez (.311) and shortstop Miguel Rojas (.309) are hitting well, too, during this stretch. Third baseman Brian Anderson (.288) is close behind.
The Marlins are also getting timely production up and down the lineup. Bryan Holaday, who has assumed the catcher role while Jorge Alfaro and Chad Wallach are on the injured list with concussions, has hits in seven of his past nine appearances. Wilkin Castillo, who had not played in the majors in more than a decade before Saturday, drove in the go-ahead runs in Saturday’s win over the Phillies. Cesar Puello, obtained on Wednesday from the Los Angeles Angels, drove in the go-ahead run on Friday.
“You start to get a lot of different pieces in the lineup that can do something, and when you’ve got pitching, you’re going to be in a lot of games,” Mattingly said. “So if we can keep getting some key hits, we’re going to be all right.”