For a weary bullpen, it was Tom Koehler to the rescue.
The Marlins’ unheralded workhorse pitched a gem in the Marlins’ 2-0 victory over the Giants on Tuesday, and probably no one was more relieved than Miami’s relievers.
One night after Don Mattingly called on eight relievers in a 14-inning marathon loss to San Francisco, he needed only two to shut the lid on the Giants. That’s because Koehler turned in seven scoreless innings in one of his finest starts of the season.
Koehler has been the Marlins’ best starter over the past four turns through the rotation, allowing only two earned runs over 28 combined innings while going 3-0.
“Tom has been really saving us,” said Marlins manager Don Mattingly. “He’s basically been our best pitcher for the last month. We needed the innings tonight. He came through again. He came up big tonight. We didn’t have a bunch of bullets in the bullpen.”
Said Koehler of his recent run of success: “Hopefully it’ll end up being (my) best 12-game stretch But we’ve got a long way to go here. I’m not trying to get too high on what’s going on.”
On Tuesday, he held the Giants to only two hits while improving his career mark against San Francisco to 3-0.
“It’s not like he doesn’t have good stuff,” Mattingly said of Koehler. “He’s a guy that’s probably had to battle all the way through the system. He wasn’t a high draft pick where everybody was talking about him. A guy who had to fight his way. In general, those guys are usually a little tougher.”
Koehler said when he wasn’t pitching as well in early July, he was probably trying to be too fine. But he said things turned around when he worked with pitching coach Juan Nieves in making a couple of mechanical adjustments, and just by getting back to the basics.
“He can change speeds and he’s a little erratic, and he can be effectively wild,” Mattingly said. “ You don’t know quite what you’re going to get with Tom, and to me that’s part of his success.”
There was little offense by either team, perhaps due to the lingering fatigue from having battled more than five hours on Monday, and what scoring there was came off Giancarlo Stanton’s broken bat.
With two aboard in the first, Matt Moore’s full-count fastball broke Stanton’s bat in half. But Stanton, who was playing with a sore hip caused by a catch on Monday, generated so much power with the swing that the ball sailed over the head of Giants left fielder Angel Pagan and caromed off the wall for a RBI double.
“I’ve never seen anything like that,” Koehler said. “That’s a joke. A bat’s not supposed to go 110 feet and the ball 370. It just doesn’t make sense. But I’m glad he’s on our side.”
Stanton came out in the eighth due to his sore hip and won’t start Wednesday. But Mattingly said it’s nothing serious and Stanton should be good to go after the off day on Thursday.
The Marlins added another run that first inning on Marcell Ozuna’s ground ball out.
And that was the end of it for both teams.
Brian Ellington worked a scoreless eighth before Fernando Rodney took over in the ninth to record his second save since taking over the closer’s role from injured reliever A.J. Ramos.
“I know what we’re trying to do here, and I want to be part of something special, and I think we have a special group,” Koehler said of the Marlins, who are still in playoff contention and hold the final wild card spot at the moment.