When the Marlins needed another rally, another offensive push to overcome another mid-game deficit against the Philadelphia Phillies, Starlin Castro once again found a way to step up.
Castro, who moved over to third base on Aug. 4 when Isan Diaz was called up and has started at his more natural second base spot just twice since then, hit a go-ahead, two-run double in the sixth inning.
The hit capped a three-run rally, and the Marlins held on after that for a 3-2, series-clinching win over the Phillies on Sunday at Marlins Park. Miami won the series opener 19-11 before dropping Game 2 9-3 on Saturday. The Marlins (47-82) are 9-7 against the Phillies (67-62) this year with a three-game series in Philadelphia to close out the season remaining.
With that Castro continued torrid run at the plate that has gone on for close to two full months. The 29-year-old, 10-year MLB veteran is hitting .328 (60 for 183) since July 2 with 34 RBI, 11 doubles, eight home runs, two triples and 22 runs scored. He was hitting just .230 for the season heading into this stretch.
“Star’s swinging good,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said of Castro, who also hit two home runs and drove in five runs off the bench in Friday’s win. “It’s what we’ve been talking about all year long. He’s going to get there. I think guys that can hit always end up where they’re supposed to be.”
It salvaged a solid performance for starter Elieser Hernandez, who looked as sharp as he has been all year for five-plus innings before unraveling just enough for the Phillies to temporarily take advantage.
A long Cesar Hernandez single, a Rhys Hoskins home run to break up a scoreless game and a nine-pitch at-bat with J.T. Realmuto resulting in an inning-ending popup ended the starter’s day on the mound.
Hernandez, who has been dealing with a blister on his throwing hand for the past couple weeks, threw 19 of his 82 pitches in that three-batter sequence with two outs in the sixth, a stretch that ended a dominant run by the 24-year-old.
He had given up just one hit at that point in the game and had retired 13 consecutive batters, five by strikeout. Sunday also marked just the second time this year Hernandez did not walk a batter while throwing six innings.
Hernandez said he started feeling the blister again in the fourth inning and it impacted how he threw his slider down the stretch.
“I try to keep the same game, the same way I pitch,” Hernandez said. “... I was just working hard, trying to be out there as long as I could.”
The Marlins offense, which had just two hits against Phillies starter Austin Nola to that point, found enough life immediately after falling behind. Bryan Holaday doubled, Curtis Granderson drew a walk, Jon Berti hit an RBI single before Castro hit his two-run double to left center for the game-winning rally.
“We were just trying to get someone on base,” Holaday said. “Nola was on his game. He was pretty nasty today.”
Hernandez’s performance also provided relief for a much-taxed bullpen. The Marlins’ starting pitchers in the first two games — Hector Noesi on Friday and Jordan Yamamoto on Saturday — respectively threw just three and 3 2/3 innings, forcing the bullpen to toss 11 1/3 innings over two days.
The Marlins added Kyle Keller from Triple A New Orleans and optioned Tyler Kinley — who threw 42 combined pitches on Friday and Saturday — to simply add depth to the taxed bullpen.
Jeff Brigham, Jarlin Garcia and Ryne Stanek each threw a scoreless inning of relief. Stanek earning the first save of his MLB career after primarily being used as an opener with the Tampa Bay Rays before being sent to the Marlins at the trade deadline.
The Marlins’ starting rotation is getting some added reinforcements.
Mattingly announced Sunday that the club intends to reinstate 23-year-old right-hander Pablo Lopez from the injured list and play him Monday to begin their four-game series against the Cincinnati Reds at Marlins Park.
Lopez has been on the IL since June 19 with a right shoulder strain. He went 5-5 with a 4.23 ERA, 73 strikeouts and just 18 walks in 76 2/3 innings over 14 starts before the injury kept him out of big-league action for two months.
The move also allows Mattingly to give the rest of his starting rotation an extra day of rest as the bulk of the young starters continue to exceed career innings.