MIAMI (AP) — Much like Miami’s suddenly respectable offense, Tom Koehler has hardly resembled the pitcher who struggled on the mound throughout much of 2013.
The Bronx native will try to extend his dominant run at Marlins Park while avenging a recent defeat to the New York Mets on Wednesday when surprising Miami goes for its 11th win in 12 home games.
After scuffling along with the worst offense in baseball last season, the Marlins (18-15) have made quite a turnaround at the plate in 2014. They rank among the NL leaders with a .271 average, 156 runs and a .338 on-base percentage after finishing last in the majors in all three categories last season.
That offensive improvement has played a role in their recent success at Marlins Park, where they’ve averaged 6.0 runs and batted .317 while going 7-1 on a homestand that began with matchups against a pair of pitching-rich clubs in Atlanta and the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Miami, a major league-best 16-5 at home, didn’t need many runs Tuesday to win its second in as many nights to open this three-game set with the Mets (16-16). Giancarlo Stanton and Casey McGehee went a combined 4 for 6 with three RBIs, while Henderson Alvarez tossed a six-hitter in a 3-0 victory.
Stanton has gone 11 for 29 with three homers and nine RBIs while hitting safely in all eight games on the homestand. McGehee is batting .363 with 21 RBIs at Marlins Park, going 13 for 30 over the past seven games there.
“We’re playing with a lot of confidence right now,” manager Mike Redmond said. “Hopefully we can finish it off Wednesday and go on the road and start winning some games out of our suitcase.”
Redmond’s club goes for the sweep in the finale behind Koehler (3-2, 2.41 ERA), who has shown tremendous improvement since going 5-10 with a 4.51 ERA in 23 starts last season.
Koehler has limited opponents to two runs or less while working through six innings in five of six starts overall and is 3-0 with a 0.90 ERA in three home outings. He gave up three hits over seven scoreless innings in Friday’s 6-3 win over the Dodgers.
The right-hander gets a rematch with the Mets after he surrendered a season-high four runs with four walks over five innings in a 4-0 loss at Citi Field on April 27. He’s 1-2 with a 3.19 ERA in five career starts versus New York.
Chris Young hit a two-run homer in that contest, but had a six-game hitting streak snapped Tuesday. Daniel Murphy, who is 4 for 9 with a homer versus Koehler the past two seasons, has gone 9 for 18 with a home run in his last four.
The Mets were shut out for the third time Tuesday, losing for the fifth time in their last six on a rain-shortened eight-game trip. They rank near the bottom of the majors with a .228 average.
“These guys are red hot here,” manager Terry Collins said. “We’re going to get hot, too.”
Zack Wheeler (1-3, 5.13) hopes to regroup from the shortest outing of his career in Friday’s 10-3 loss at Colorado. He allowed a career-worst seven runs and seven hits with two walks over four innings.
Although he hasn’t factored in a decision versus Miami, Wheeler has pitched well by allowing three runs with 15 strikeouts over 13 innings in his two career starts – both New York victories.
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