A.J. Ramos doesn’t flinch when he sees a marquee player like Adrian Gonzalez step into the batter’s box.
Ramos says it gets him more stoked.
“Whenever someone like that comes up, I’m really amped,” Ramos said. “That’s when the crowd gets into it. If you watch me, I’m looking up at the stands just taking it all in because not many people get to do something like that.”
Ramos faced such a crucial situation Monday night with Gonzalez at the plate representing the winning run in a one-run game.
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Ramos struck him out, and then followed with another against Corey Seager.
The previous game against the Giants, Ramos struck out Matt Duffy and Buster Posey as part of another scoreless ninth, which nailed down a win and sparked the Marlins’ three-game winning streak entering Wednesday.
Ramos converted a save in each of those games and is a perfect 5 for 5 so far this season.
Despite surrendering six walks, Ramos has not allowed a run in eight innings this season (eight appearances), and has allowed only three hits while striking out 10.
“[Ramos] is used to be the kind of guy that’s been a little overlooked his whole career,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. “And he feels like he has to fight for everything he gets. That mentality probably serves him well when you’re out there in the ninth in tough spots. He’s not afraid of that moment.”
Ramos three-save streak in as many games came after having not pitched in a save situation for 12 days with the Marlins struggling.
His clutch performances — and the way he’s kept his composure during his relief appearances when runners have reached base —have been a vital part of the bullpen’s recent turnaround after a rough start.
The Marlins entered Wednesday night’s game with the third-best bullpen ERA (3.03) in the National League behind the Nationals (2.02) and Mets (2.67).
“Whether it’s one run or two runs for me or against me, I keep that pressure on myself and that’s how I go about it,” Ramos said. “[Having more chances] means we’re in position to win. To stay focused, I practice every day to stay sharp. It’s part of the bullpen life.”
The Marlins turned to Ramos nearly a year ago at Dodger Stadium, desperate to find a reliable option to lock down victories.
Steve Cishek, the Marlins’ previous closer, had just blown consecutive save opportunities in as many games with the second against the Dodgers.
Ramos, who had previously been used in a setup role, was tabbed to close out the Dodgers on May 13 and delivered. Cishek was later traded, and Ramos converted 32 of 38 save chances to finish the season.
“Some people say he’s a seventh or eighth inning guy or he’s a set-up guy,” Mattingly said. “If you can get outs, you get outs. Some people put a lot of pressure on themselves in that ninth inning and don’t handle it as well. A.J. doesn’t seem to be bothered by that spot.”
Kyle Barraclough, who was obtained by the Marlins last year in that Cishek trade, has been another welcome addition to the bullpen.
Barraclough has not allowed a run in 5 2/3 innings and has 10 strikeouts with only two walks since being recalled on April 17. Barraclough entered the spring as a potential setup option, but struggled to find the strike zone consistently.
Barraclough said working with Marlins Vice President of Pitching Development Jim Benedict on some mechanical adjustments and getting comfortable with his changeup and slider helped with command of all his pitches.
“I think it just helped being able to throw 25 to 30 pitches [in the minors] in an outing instead of maybe going out for an inning and throwing seven pitches and saying that’s all my work for today,” Barraclough said.
To make room for Justin Nicolino’s start Wednesday, the Marlins optioned reliever Nick Wittgren to Triple-A New Orleans.
Giancarlo Stanton’s three-run home run to right-center field capped a sixth inning in which the Marlins scored five runs off Clayton Kershaw and beat the Dodgers 6-3. Stanton homered in three consecutive games for the 10th time in his career hit his eighth homer in 17 career games at Dodger Stadium, and second against Kershaw. Ichiro Suzuki tied Frank Robinson for 33rd on the all-time hits list (2,943) with a pinch hit single.
Thursday: Marlins RHP Jose Fernandez (1-2, 4.37 ERA) vs. Dodgers RHP Kenta Maeda (3-0, 0.36 ERA), 10:10 p.m., Dodger Stadium.
Friday: Marlins LHP Adam Conley (0-1, 5.12 ERA) vs. Brewers RHP Zach Davies (0-2, 9.72 ERA), 8:10 p.m., Miller Park.