The Marlins found themselves in a hole every game this series, as the Padres combined to score nine first-inning runs in the three games. Such a formula has been a recipe for disaster for Florida this year, and the Fish have a 17-34 record when they allow their opponent to score first.
“This is a club that can’t afford to give up three or four runs in the first inning,” manager Jack McKeon said. “We don’t have that kind of offensive power, that we can overcome big leads early.”
This point — if you can’t get an early lead, you have to hope for a comeback — was particularly evident against San Diego, which has the league’s best bullpen, as determined by ERA (2.83). Padres relievers pitched 9 2/3 scoreless innings in the series, allowing only six hits and racking up 13 strikeouts.
“I think you’ve got to get ahead of those guys, because their bullpen is lights out, whether it’s [Mike] Adams, [Luke] Gregerson, [Heath] Bell or [Chad] Qualls,” Logan Morrison said. “Those guys are really good. So you’ve got to get on their starting pitching. Problem is their starting pitching was pretty good. [They] made pitches when they had to, and we didn’t really have disciplined at-bats against them; I’m including myself in that.”
The end result: After the top of the first inning each game, Florida trailed the rest of the way. San Diego led in every inning of the series.
In Stanton’s 287-game minor-league career, he played center field 46 times. In his 191st big-league contest, Stanton played center, shifting over from right field when manager Jack McKeon rested in regulars with his team trailing 14-3 on Wednesday.
“It’s not bad. [There’s] a lot of room to work with out there,” Stanton said. “As long as I play, I don’t care where it is.”
Stanton didn’t seem to mind the move, as he made a Willie Mays-like basket-style catch on a long fly ball by Logan Forsythe to Sun Life Stadium’s “Bermuda Triangle”
“You get way better reads in center,” Stanton said. “You can see the location off the bat and if [the pitcher] misses his location, you can see [the ball] a lot faster than you would from the corners.”
When asked if Stanton could play center field full time, not necessarily now but during his big league career, McKeon said he wasn’t sure.
“It’s hard to say,” McKeon said. “I haven’t seen that much of him.”
The idea of sticking Stanton in center to be a player similar to Matt Kemp, like some fans have suggested recently, is intriguing. Kemp’s defense in center, though, does not receive good reviews from advanced fielding metrics.
And the guess here is that Stanton will remain in right field, which is where he best profiles, but his arm strength and range would allow him to play center on an as-needed basis.
With trade rumors swirling and the trade deadline approaching, McKeon said Wednesday that Edward Mujica would fill the closer’s role if Leo Nuñez gets traded.
But the manager also offered a few intriguing insights about his other bullpen arms. McKeon said lefty Mike Dunn could also close games, though McKeon wants Dunn to “polish up his breaking ball.” McKeon added that Steve Cishek could be a late-inning pitcher “down the road.”
In typical McKeon-ese, he has been referring to Mujica as “Murica” while praising his relief ace. The 27-year-old Venezuelan pitched two scoreless innings of relief Thursday against his former Padres teammates, allowing one hit and striking out one.
-- Matt Forman