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Why seven is an unlucky number for this Marlins pitcher

It's been a trying season for Marlins pitcher Jose Urena, who has yet to record his first win after leading the staff in victories last season with 14.
It's been a trying season for Marlins pitcher Jose Urena, who has yet to record his first win after leading the staff in victories last season with 14. Getty Images

Adam Conley remembers a dugout conversation he had with former Marlins starter Tom Koehler that has stuck with him since. It was the same game in 2016 that Ichiro Suzuki recorded his 3,000th hit, and while most of, if not all, of the attention that day was given to Suzuki’s achievement, Conley was feeling down.

He had pitched poorly, giving up six runs in a 10-7 Marlins victory.

Because he made it through the necessary five innings, though, and the Marlins’ lineup gave him more than enough offensive backing, Conley received the pitching win.

“You just won a game,” Koehler said to Conley. “Never forget how hard it is to win a game up here.”

Those same words ring true now with Jose Urena, who will head out to the mound here on Wednesday in search of his first win of the season.

He is 0-7, matching the franchise record for a pitcher to start a season. One more loss and a record no pitcher wants — 0-8 — belongs to him.

“It’s a little tough,” Urena said. “But that’s the game.”

With 14 wins, Urena led all Marlins pitchers last season in W’s.

Now he can’t buy one.

“The thing is, I know what I can do,” Urena said. “I trust myself. I’ve been working hard everyday. I just go out there, compete, and do the best I can. I go for wins. I don’t go for losses. Nobody wants to lose. But that is the game.”

Individual pitching wins, many argue, are overblown, a poor barometer of success and one that is contingent on too many outside factors. An example: when the late Roy Halladay pitched his perfect game in 2010, Josh Johnson received the loss even though the only run he allowed in the 1-0 Marlins defeat was unearned, the result of a fielding error.

Johnson pitched well enough to win, but he was branded with an L.

Urena hasn’t been on the opposite end of a perfect game or no-hitter. Nor has he pitched to the level he did last season when he finished 14-7 with an earned run average of 3.82. His ERA this year sits at 4.69.

His opening day start was a catastrophe, one of his five starts in which he has given up four or more runs while pitching six or fewer innings.

But the lack of a single win so far isn’t all his doing.

Of the 128 pitchers who have totaled at least 40 innings, Urena has received the lowest run support in the majors, a paltry 2.55 runs per nine innings according to ESPN Stats.

In three of his 11 outings, Urena went seven innings and gave up just one earned run. The Marlins were shut out in two of them and scored just two runs in the other. Urena was 0-2 with one no-decision in those three starts.

“It’s been one of those years so far where nothing has seemed to go his way,” said Marlins manager Don Mattingly. “There were a couple of early games where he wasn’t sharp. But from that point, he’s been pretty good. He’s kept us in games. He’s given us chances to win.”

Except, every time Urena has pitched for them, the Marlins have lost.

Going back to last season, Urena has now started 13 consecutive games in which the Marlins ended up losing. No Marlins pitcher has ever endured such a drought.

But Urena is confident his day will come.

“I’ve thrown a lot of bad games, maybe give up five runs, maybe six runs, and I got the win,” Urena said of some past wins. “But that’s how it is. Sometimes it’s weird.”

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