Opposite dugout: Marlins can hit for average, but power not producing enough

marlins-logo.jpgManager: Don Mattingly (2nd season)

Record: 30-37

Last 10 games: 6-4

Who to watch: 2B Dee Gordon (.293 with 27 SB), LF Marcell Ozuna (18 HR, 49 RBIs), 1B Justin Bour (17 HR, 44 RBIs), RF Giancarlo Stanton (17 HR, .277/.358/.542), RHP AJ Ramos (4.30 ERA, 9 saves)

Season series vs. Nationals: 1-2

Pitching probables:

June 19: RHP Tanner Roark vs. LHP Justin Nicolino, 7:10 p.m., MASN2
June 20: LHP Gio Gonzalez vs. RHP Edinson Volquez, 7:10 p.m., MASN2
June 21: RHP Max Scherzer vs. RHP Dan Straily, 12:10 p.m., MASN

Inside the Marlins:

The last time the Marlins finished a baseball season with a winning record, which was in 2009, they were called the Florida Marlins and shared their stadium with the Miami Dolphins. With the Marlins currently seven games under .500, it looks like the stretch of losing seasons might continue for a team that’s won more World Series in the past 20 years than all but four teams in baseball. The Fish are in fourth place in the National League East, trailing the first-place Nationals by 11 games, but they’re only a half-game out of second.

On offense, the stats show the Marlins are better at hitting for average than they are at drawing walks or hitting for power. Their team batting average (.269) ranks third in the NL, but their on-base percentage (.328) sits at sixth place, while their slugging percentage (.428) is firmly middle of the pack at seventh. It’s easy to understand these numbers, given the Marlins rank third in the NL for singles, but 10th for homers and 14th for doubles. While the Marlins as a team are struggling to generate extra-base hits, they do have a trio of batters slugging better than .500. The first - and least surprising - player is defending the Home Run Derby champion, right fielder Giancarlo Stanton, who is slugging .542, an encouraging rebound from last season’s .489 clip. Joining Stanton in Miami’s power-hitting outfield is left fielder Marcell Ozuna, who currently owns career highs in average, on-base percentage and slugging this year, with a slashline of .324/.391/.583. The other power hitter in this Marlins lineup is first baseman Justin Bour. He currently has 17 homers in 198 at-bats. Last season, he had 15 homers in 280 ABs. A major increase in long balls has put Bour’s slugging percentage at .601, the best number of his career. In fact, Bour’s slugging percentage is higher than some of his well-known peers at first base, including Paul Goldschmidt, Anthony Rizzo and Miguel Cabrera. Outside of the power hitters, the Marlins can count on slap-hitting second baseman Dee Gordon to hit singles and steal bases. Gordon’s 25 steals only trail Billy Hamilton for the major league lead in the category. One of the major disappointments for the Marlins is that they can no longer count on having the seemingly ageless Ichiro Suzuki as a productive bench bat. Last year Suzuki was able to hit .292 as a 42-year-old. This year, it would seem the signs of aging are finally catching up to the Japanese legend: his average has fallen to .224.

The series begins on Monday with lefty Justin Nicolino on the mound for Miami. Nicolino is coming off the disabled list after a left index finger injury to make his first start since May 30. Nicolino has only made three starts for the Marlins this year, due to a combination of injury and spending time in Triple-A. This season, he’s had one good start (six innings, one earned run), one bad start (four innings, five runs) and one start cut short due to injury (three innings, zero earned runs). Nicolino’s career ERA is 4.49 in 33 games (28 starts) spanning three seasons. On Tuesday, the Nats will face right-hander Edinson Volquez. Before his June 14 start against the A’s, Volquez was on fire. Including his June 3 no-hitter against Arizona, Volquez had a 0.41 ERA over his last three starts against the Phillies, Diamondbacks and Pirates. Then the A’s rolled into Marlins Park and knocked Volquez around for four earned runs in four innings. The right-hander had more walks than strikeouts against Oakland, which is very rarely a good sign. Volquez has improved his ERA and WHIP from a dreadful 2016 spent in Kansas City. However, his numbers aren’t as good as they were in 2014 and 2015, when he was a starter for two different playoff teams. Wednesday’s starter will be right-hander Dan Straily. In six major league seasons, Straily has already appeared for five different teams. Straily’s is enjoying a career year. His 3.58 ERA and 1.128 WHIP are both the best numbers he’s posted in career thus far. The Nats don’t have a ton of familiarity with Straily, as only two of their hitters have faced him at least 10 times.

After losing in walk-off fashion to the Braves on both Saturday and Sunday, it’s fair to say the Marlins bullpen has had better days. On Saturday, closer AJ Ramos allowed a run in both the ninth and 10th innings that led to Atlanta’s 8-7 win. Yesterday, rookie Drew Steckenrider allowed three ninth-inning singles, leading to a 5-4 walk off win for the Braves. Ramos has only blown one save this season, but his ERA has ballooned to 4.30 after three straight seasons of an ERA under 3.00. Before Ramos can have a chance to close, Marlins skipper Don Mattingly usually trusts David Phelps in the eighth inning as his top setup man.

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