Miami Marlins

Marlins’ Mattingly expects a battle to the end for N.L. East crown

Miami Marlins manager Don Mattingly, left, prepares to celebrate with J.T. Realmuto, after he and Adeiny Hechavarria scored, on an error by Washington Nationals second baseman Stephen Drew, during the third inning of a baseball game at Nationals Park, Sun., May 15, 2016, in Washington.
Miami Marlins manager Don Mattingly, left, prepares to celebrate with J.T. Realmuto, after he and Adeiny Hechavarria scored, on an error by Washington Nationals second baseman Stephen Drew, during the third inning of a baseball game at Nationals Park, Sun., May 15, 2016, in Washington. AP

Bloody.

That’s Marlins manager Don Mattingly’s word to describe the National league East, where heading into play last night only 2 1/2 games separated the first-place Nationals (23-15) from fourth-place Miami (20-17).

But in this case, being bloody, being black and blue, isn’t such a bad thing.

“There’s gonna be teams kind of beating each other up in this division,” said Mattingly, who liked the way his club shook off losing the first two games of the weekend series in Washington to battle back for the split. “That’s kind of a good thing, because if you get a couple of games back you don’t have to worry about it.

“Early on the Nationals looked like they were gonna run away like the Cubs have, but then they came back to the pack a bit. Within our division we play so many games. The Phillies are gonna beat everybody, and we feel we feel we can beat everybody, so it’s gonna be a little bloody in this division. You just have to hang in there and persevere. Keep trying to win series and keep grinding.”

Although some might be surprised to see the Marlins well within striking distance,virtually everyone is shocked to see the 22-16 Phillies — coming off a 63-99 disaster of a season — right in the hunt. Thank Pete Mackanin’s club’s spectacular 14-3 record in one-run games for that.

“You can’t give away outs,” Marlins first baseman Justin Bour said. “Your bullpen has to do well. And you have to drive in runners when you have the opportunity. Obviously, the Phillies have surprised us all with the hot start they’ve gotten off to. It’s gonna be fun to watch this division.”

For Marlins as well as Phillies fans, it’s certainly a lot more fun than they could have expected.”

HONOR FOR FERNANDEZ

For the fourth time in his young career — but the first since 2014 — Jose Fernandez has been named National League Player of the Week. The big right-hander, in his first full season since coming off Tommy John surgery, earned the honor for his pair of 11-strikeout games in wins over the Brewers and Nats in which he allowed just one run.

“He’s been throwing the ball well the last couple of games,” Mattingly said. “It looks like he’s getting untracked, what we kind of expected. No question [Sunday] was his best outing this year.”

Fernandez (5-2, 3.21 ERA) is slated to make his next appearance at home Saturday against Washington.

FAMILIAR FOES

When Christian Yelich steps into the batter’s box Tuesday night for the second game of the series, he will be staring at a familiar face. Phillies’ right-hander Vince Velasquez was his teammate on his high school travel squad in Thousand Oaks, California, where both grew up.

“He was playing shortstop back then,” said Yelich, whose other teammates on that squad included current Rockies Nolan Arenado and Tony Wolters, along with Tyler Skaggs of the Angels. “He always had a really good arm, so it’s not surprising he’s made it.

“The first time I faced him was in Miami. It’s kind of cool seeing guys you played with in high school now in the big leagues. We had a pretty decent travel team.”

Coming up

▪ Tuesday: Marlins LHP Wei-Yin Chen (3-1, 4.40 ERA) at Philadelphia Phillies RHP Vince Velasquez (4-1, 2,70), 7:05 p.m., Citizens Bank Park.

▪ Wednesday: Marlins RHP Tom Koehler (2-3, 5.14) at Phillies RHP Jeremy Hellickson (3-2, 4.12), 1:05 p.m., Citizens Bank Park.

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