Miami Marlins

Marlins’ Dee Gordon in thick of NL batting race but has tough competition

After a slump in July following a thumb injury, Dee Gordon has heated up again in August.
After a slump in July following a thumb injury, Dee Gordon has heated up again in August. El Nuevo Herald

The Marlins have had one batting champion, Hanley Ramirez in 2009. Dee Gordon is in the thick of the battle to give the Marlins their second champ.

Gordon took a .331 average into Tuesday, .003 behind Arizona’s Paul Goldschmidt. But it’s far from a two-man race. Washington’s Bryce Harper (.328) and San Francisco’s Buster Posey (.326) are right there, too.

“You’re talking about three of the top five best hitters in baseball, not me,” said the humble Gordon of his competition. “You can’t knock any of those guys. You can’t say one’s better than the other because all of them are just so talented. And for a little slap hitter [Gordon] to even be in that discussion?”

With his speed, Gordon has the ability to beat out bunts and infield hits.

But the others draw walks, something Gordon doesn’t do often, and that changes the equation in their favor.

“It’s actually tougher on Dee because he’s got to get hits,” said former Marlins outfielder-turned-broadcaster Preston Wilson. “Goldschmidt can go 1 for 2 in a ballgame. Dee’s not going to go 1 for 2. Dee can go 2 for 4. But he’s not going to go 1 for 2. That’s where Goldschmidt’s advantage is.”

Still, Wilson said he feels Gordon and Goldschmidt are the two to beat.

“Posey is a great hitter,” Wilson said. “But Goldschmidt does something that I haven’t seen someone his size do in a very long time. He’s in that Miguel Cabrera-type arena.”

Gordon got off to a hot start and was voted to the National League All-Star team. But after dislocating his thumb, he suffered through a rough July in which he hit just .208.

Now that the thumb has fully healed, he’s heating up again. His average thus far in August: .333.

“There’s still a month and a half to go,” Gordon said of his chances of winning a batting title. “I’m not looking at that right now.”

PHELPS OUT FOR YEAR

The Marlins have lost yet another pitcher to a season-ending injury.

David Phelps was diagnosed with a stress fracture in his right radius after undergoing tests in Miami on Monday.

Phelps, who went 4-8 with a 4.50 ERA, made 19 starts after joining the rotation in mid-April. He will be eligible for salary arbitration for the second time after the season.

Manager Dan Jennings said it’s uncertain when Phelps would be ready to pitch again.

“We haven’t got that far,” Jennings said. “I think that’s to be determined.”

▪ The news was better for outfielder Christian Yelich. Jennings said that tests showed Yelich, who was placed on the 15-day disabled list on Monday, has nothing more than a bruised knee.

VERY FEW WHIFFS

Strikeouts are such a rare item for Justin Nicolino that the rookie left-hander could threaten the Marlins single-season individual record for lowest ratio of whiffs per nine innings.

Nicolino, who notched the win in the Marlins’ victory over the Brewers, is averaging 2.7 strikeouts per nine innings. Nicolino struck out out three Brewers in 6 2/3 innings.

The team record for lowest strikeout ratio (minimum 20 innings pitched) belongs to Mark Valdes, who averaged 2.4 whiffs per nine innings for the Marlins in 1996. Valdes threw a total of 48 innings that season.

“I’m not an overpowering guy and I’m not going to punch out many people,” Nicolino said. “So if I can go out there and get guys to hit my pitches, and get a fly ball out or ground ball out, that’s what I’m going to do.”

Nicolino averaged 4.9K/9 this season at Triple A New Orleans and 6.3K/9 over the course of his minor-league career, so more strikeouts could come.

COMING UP

▪ Wednesday: Marlins RHP Tom Koehler (8-10, 3.68) at Milwaukee Brewers RHP Wily Peralta (3-7, 4.07), 2:10 p.m., Miller Park.

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