Whether it’s on the road or at home, Marlins manager Don Mattingly believes the key to success is showing up ready to play.
That approach helps explain why Miami entered Tuesday among baseball’s best road teams with a 13-7 record away from Marlins Park.
“The main thing is guys show up the same way,” Mattingly said. “Guys that are committed to playing and wanting to win, you’re going to show up ready to play. At that point, if your pitcher keeps you in the game, why not? Why can’t you win on the road?”
The Marlins have shown you can.
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Entering Tuesday, only the 14 road victories by the White Sox topped Miami. And the Marlins’ .657 road winning percentage was third in the majors behind Seattle (.684) and the Cubs (.813).
“They seem pretty even-keeled about the way they go about their business,” Mattingly said. “You don’t really feel a difference when we’ve lost a couple in a row.”
It’s not like Miami has beaten up on bottom-dwellers, either. The six road teams the Marlins have played were a combined 17 games above .500 entering Tuesday. Five of the six have winning records.
“We have played well [on the road] and we’ve played well in some pretty tough places,” Mattingly said. “We’ve had to play some pretty good teams.”
In light of this past week’s Play Ball initiative by Major League Baseball, where the league encouraged youth participation in baseball, Mattingly and Marlins hitting coach Barry Bonds were asked their advice on hitting for kids and parents who coach them.
“You’re a kid, have fun,” Bonds said. “Nothing else you can say.”
Mattingly had a similar take.
“My advice really is to just have fun, make sure kids are enjoying it,” he said. “Same for coaches and parents. Just encourage the kids to have fun.”
The Marlins manager said he honed his stroke on the playgrounds and corner lots as much as the diamond, something from which he thinks kids today would benefit.
“We just played a lot,” he said. “We played all kinds of different games. Didn’t go to cages. Didn’t have cages or instructors, taking lessons. Just went out and played. You just learn to play.
“You get a lot of at-bats in the sandlots. There’s no pressure there. And no parents there. You just go play and nobody’s telling you how to do everything. It’s just a good place to learn.”
Enjoying the game, Mattingly believes, is a requirement for any kid with big-league dreams.
“To me, if a kid loves playing, then they love practicing and that’s what you really have to get to,” he said. “If they’re going to be any good, they’re going to have to love the game.”
Marcell Ozuna carried a 16-game hitting streak into Tuesday’s game. He has batted .415 with five homers and 11 RBIs over his career-high tying streak.
“He’s using the whole field now,” Mattingly said. “Before he was pulling a lot of balls, chasing balls out of the strike zone. Early on, he really wanted to get off to a good start. If you keep swinging at crap in the dirt, you ain’t going to hit. It’s pretty simple.”
Mattingly expects right-hander Edwin Jackson to be activated Friday when the Marlins open a five-game homestand against Washington. Jackson (right triceps strain) has been on the DL since April 18.
Left-hander Mike Dunn is progressing from a left forearm strain that has kept him sidelined all season. Dunn has thrown two bullpen sessions. The next step, Mattingly said, is for him to throw on back-to-back days to see how he responds.