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Will the Marlins reward Josh Johnson with some run support? And is Buck finally out of his funk?

It's been a rough month for a lot of Marlins.

But not Josh Johnson.

Josh JohnsonThe team's Opening Day starter, who went 3-0 with a 4.41 ERA in May and helped led the Marlins to wins in all six of his starts last month, has a 1.95 ERA in June, which ranks ninth in the National League. In all four of his June starts, he hasn't allowed more than two earned runs.

The trouble? The Marlins are 1-3 over that stretch as they've provided Johnson with just six runs of support -- including just one run over his last two starts.

Johnson, who is 4-5 with a 3.96 ERA overall, will try to keep his strong month going when he takes the mound against the last-place Phillies on Friday night at Marlins Park. Johnson is 5-4 with a 3.68 ERA in 13 career starts against the Phillies.

"He's been a lot more consistent," catcher John Buck said. "His ball is heavier. He's repeating his delivery so he knows where the ball is going. He's got that hard slider back to where I can even use it sometimes to lefties to get in on them, not just a swing and miss pitch. It's that old stuff I saw at the beginning of last year. It's welcomed to me."

When it comes to run support among National League starting pitchers, the Marlins don't have anyone among the top 25. In fact, here is where they rank in terms of run support among the 60 qualified starters according to ESPN.com.

26. Mark Buehrle, 6.09 average run support (per inning pitched).
31. Ricky Nolasco, 5.98
44. Josh Johnson, 5.44
50. Carlos Zambrano, 5.22
58. Anibal Sanchez, 4.59 

IS BUCK FINALLY OUT OF HIS FUNK?

John BuckAlthough he was an All-Star in Toronto in 2010, Buck has never been confused for a great hitter. His career average in nine seasons is .237.

But even Buck admits it's been tough to look up at times this season and see on the scoreboard exactly how low his batting average has gone this season. 

"I'm not going to say I'm not human and I didn't look up and it didn't bother me," said Buck, who went into Friday's series opener against the Phillies hitting .181 with seven homers and 20 RBI in 55 games this season.

"I think it literally has gotten to the point that it's so low that even if I get four hits a game, it's still going to be low."

The good news for Buck? The worst may finally be over. The 31-year old veteran has started to pick up the pace over the last two weeks and went into Friday's series opener against the Phillies hitting .313 with two homers and six RBI in five games over the homestand including hitting the game-tying home run in Wednesday's win over the Cardinals.

Buck was hitting a season-worst .160 back on June 15. 

Buck said if you watch the video of his at-bats from before this home stand to now you wouldn't be able to tell the difference in his swing because his "hands are only a fraction of a bit higher" when he puts the barrel on the ball.

"A lot of the pitches I'm hitting now I was fouling straight back before," Buck said. "... It was staying the course and continuing to believe in my approach, that I was going to get back to being me."

Buck said what has helped him through his offensive struggles this season is the notion he can help the team in other ways -- by calling a good game behind the plate and by having quality at-bats and drawing walks. He's drawn 33 walks this season. He had 16 total back in 2010. 

Manager Ozzie Guillen said it's been nice getting some production out of the bottom of the Marlins order. 

"One thing about John is he never takes his offense to his defense. A lot of players do," Guillen said. "Buck just goes out there and separates one thing from another. He knows his main job for us is our pitching staff. So far he's been great. I know it's been a tough month. But if you look at it overall, in general, he's been very good."

> Buck said he can already tell how much fresher his body feels playing inside Marlins Park versus being exposed to the heat and humidity at Sun Life Stadium last season.

"I can definitely tell with the last at-bat or two because I don't feel like I'm just standing in the box. I feel like I'm more with it," Buck said. "The daily grind of every game and having to revive my body for the next day was tough. There were times last year when I would start to cramp or lose 10 pounds a game just from sweating. I was going home crushing Pedialyte, Gatorade to come out and do it again. [My body] feels a lot better."

> Guillen said the two defensive mishaps the Marlins have had in back-to-back games with pitchers throwing wide of second base on balls hit back to the mound are a result of shortstop Jose Reyes taking too long to get to the bag and Carlos Zambrano and Heath Bell trying to turn two too quickly.

"Make it easier. Just get one out," Guillen said. "I think the last play [Bell in Wednesday's win], whoever was covering second base [Reyes] was a little late. With Carlos, Carlos made a bad throw."

"You have to be aware. Playing that position all my life [shortstop] you cheat to that position a little bit and be aware if the ball is hit to the pitcher what are you going to do. Most of the time when you don't make that play it's because pitchers try to turn double plays by themselves. You get one out and let the fielder make the play."

> Guillen said the combination he's using in center field between Justin Ruggiano and Scott Cousins provides the Marlins with the best defense they've had all year long. "Sometimes you wonder why those guys play in Triple A," Guillen said.

> Sunday, the All-Star teams will be announced. Asked what his favorite memory of his three All-Star appearances were, Guillen said his first experience in Cincinnati back in 1988.

"All of a sudden you dress up with Dave Winfield, [Don] Mattingly, Willie Randolph, Ricky Henderson, George Brett, Alan Trammel," Guillen said. "There's nothing greater in baseball -- other than the World Series -- being in the All-Star Game. Especially your first year, being around those guys. You know some of those guys are going to be in the Hall of Fame. It's a great experience. It's fun."

FRIDAY'S LINEUPS

> Phillies (36-42): 1. Jimmy Rollins SS, 2. Juan Pierre LF, 3. Chase Utley 2B, 4. Carlos Ruiz C, 5. Hunter Pence RF, 6. Shane Victorino CF, 7. Placido Polanco 3B, 8. John Mayberry 1B, 9. Cliff Lee LHP.

> Marlins (35-40): 1. Jose Reyes SS, 2. Hanley Ramirez 3B, 3. Giancarlo Stanton RF, 4. Logan Morrison LF, 5. Justin Ruggiano CF, 6. Omar Infante 2B, 7. Gaby Sanchez 1B, 8. John Buck C, 9. Josh Johnson RHP.

Comments

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Flagstafffishfan

Admittedly John Buck looks much better at the plate. And YES we scored some runs for JJ!

dont count your chickens yet

Hold your breath when the game gets turned over to the bullpen

Stan M

Here is a devastating article on Hanley in case anyone missed it.

http://www.sun-sentinel.com/sports/miami-marlins/fl-hyde-miami-marlins-0629-20120628,0,1773901.column

Hope they keep playing this Ruggiano and possibly sign him for next year. Does not bode well for Kearns who has been awful since his return from injury.

Was thinking back to this Spring and what was the first inkling that all just might not be as wonderful as anticipated. Remember when Cepedes said he wanted to play in Miami, that the FO said they would go all out to sign him, and then out of nowhere we find that he signed in a totally unexpected manner. At the time it didn't seem critical and was just a public relations pratfall. Now it sure looks like we could have used him.

laurelbowie

Oh, yeah, Kearns. I'd forgotten the Fish even had a guy named Kearns.

Flagstafffishfan

Interesting article from Hyde Stan. Many of us have been saying this for two years now that Hanley Ramirez may be done. We'll see.

Marlowe

Hanley has naked pics of Samson

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