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Marlins hit the road looking for some hits

         Phillies manager Charlie Manuel was so frustrated with his team’s hitting that during a pre-game session with the media last week, Manuel turned to the Phillies beat writers and said: “Recommend something, I might just try it.’’

            Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez hasn’t asked for help from the South Florida media – yet. But his Marlins began a nine game road trip in San Francisco looking for some help at the plate.

            Gonzalez said after Sunday’s loss to the Cubs that it’s not a matter of his team’s approach at the plate.

“I think guys are trying to do too much,’’ he said.

That’s the same advice veteran outfielder Luis Gonzalez has for the young Marlins.

            “Everyone is trying to come up with the big hit,’’ Luis Gonzalez said. “We’re putting too much pressure on ourselves. Our pitching staff has really stepped up and now it’s up to us to step up and start scoring some runs.’’

            The Marlins have trouble manufacturing runs, but Luis Gonzalez said it’s because the team was built that way.

“This is a different type team,’’ he said. “We don’t have a lot of guys who put the ball in play. We’re pretty much like an American League club. We hit a lot of home runs, and when we don’t hit the home runs the strikeouts are magnified a little more.’’

They led the majors in home runs for most of the season, and at one point the Marlins were on pace to set a new home run record, but those bats have gone silent of late. The Marlins aren’t just failing to hit the long ball, they’re not hitting much at all, and are once again are on pace to set a new record for strikeouts.

The Marlins are hitting just .222 for the month of August and have hit just 10 home runs and scored only 53 runs this month. They scored only 19 runs in the recent seven-game homestand

But if you think the Marlins are bad, just look at the Phillies. They Marlins are ranked 15th in the NL in hitting for the month of August. The Phillies are 16th – hitting just .202 for the month with a lineup that is loaded with big hitters. Philly has hit just 14 home runs and has scored only 49 runs for the month.

Had the Marlins played well, they could have run away from the Phillies. Instead, they begin the nine-game road trip four games behind the Mets, who are hitting .270 in August with 19 home runs and 76 runs.

“It’s just one of those funks,’’ said Marlins veteran infielder Wes Helms. “It happens to everyone. Good teams pull themselves out of it. I think these guys just need to slow the game down a little bit, and don’t try to knock in four runs.with one swing of the bat.

“We’re going on the road and we are going to get a start fresh,’’ he said. ‘We are still in the mix and we’ve got a lot of games to play (38). I believe this is a good team and we will pull ourselves out of it.’’

The Marlins batted. just 200 over their recent seven-game homestand, and hit just .152 in their weekend series against the Cubs, but even with those pathetic numbers, the Marlins could have won all three games against the Cubs and if not for some meltdowns from the bullpen, they could have gone 5-2 instead 2-5 on the homestand.

Obviously, Renyel Pinto, who allowed seven runs in two appearances covering 1 2/3 innings, cost them the chance to win two of those games. Pinto took the well-deserved losses in both, and closer Kevin Gregg blew a 5-3 lead Friday when he gave up a three-run homer to Cubs pinch-hitter Daryle Ward. 

But the Marlins are going to have to start hitting if they plan on winning the NL East, and there is no better time then this road trip .

“It’s not that we don’t want to (manufacture runs),’’ said Marlins center fielder Cody Ross. “We are trying to move runners and get guys in from third base, but we have just been in a funk. I think we will get out of it. There’s too much talent on this team. We’re going to hit again and we’re going to score runs again.’’

Ross has changed his approach at the plate and he is spraying the ball to all fields more now. But the problem with the Marlins is they are hurting up and down the lineup. It’s not one player, but a collection of players who just aren’t hitting.

The one exception is Hanley Ramirez, who after a 10-game home run drought, hit two homers on the recent homestand. Ramirez batted .450 (9 for 20) over the seven-game homestand and had a .621 on-base-percentage. Teams are beginning to pitch around him, He had nine walks during the homestand, and it will become even more important for the No. 2 hitter in the lineup to produce behind Ramirez.

Fredi Gonzalez has tried to mix it up lately, and he has used Ross and Luis Gonzalez in the No. 2 spot. Another option might be Paul Lo Duca, a veteran who knows how to give a team a professional at-bat.

This is a road trip that could see the Marlins make up some ground. They are playing two sub-500 teams, starting the trip with the Giants and ending in Atlanta. They play three games in Arizona this weekend, but the Marlins have had success against the Diamondbacks and went 5-1 against them at home this season.

“We need to start swinging the bats and we need to put together a streak of seven or eight games,’’ said Marlins first baseman Mike Jacobs. “I think this team can have a streak like that. That’s what we need to do to get right back in this.’

Here’s a look at the NL East contenders  in August

TEAM                         BA                   R                      HR                   OBP

Mets                            .270                 76                    19                    .334

Marlins                         .222                 53                    10                    .314

Phillies                          .202                 49                    14                    .303