BALTIMORE -- When the Marlins went into rebuild mode last offseason, one side effect of the roster exodus was a higher spot in the batting order for catcher J.T. Realmuto, which has paid dividends throughout the season.It sure appeared so on Saturday at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, when he
BALTIMORE -- When the Marlins went into rebuild mode last offseason, one side effect of the roster exodus was a higher spot in the batting order for catcher J.T. Realmuto, which has paid dividends throughout the season.
It sure appeared so on Saturday at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, when he blasted his eighth and ninth homers and drove in four runs to help the surging Marlins to a 5-4 victory over the struggling Orioles.
Now two-and-a-half months into what could be his best offensive season, Realmuto says spending most of the year hitting third or higher has been more blessing than curse.
"I still have really good hitters behind me," insisted Realmuto, who is one behind Justin Bour for the team lead in home runs. " ... Having JB behind me and [Starlin Castro], they're still going to give me good pitches to hit. So I feel like it's actually helped me out in that sense."
Realmuto had three hits, all off Alex Cobb (2-9), helping send the Marlins to their fifth victory in six games, and the Orioles to a ninth straight loss -- matching their longest skid since July 2011.
It was Realmuto's second multi-homer game of the season and the fourth of his career. He previously went deep twice in the Marlins' 8-6 victory over the Dodgers on April 25.
Realmuto pushed his average up to .309 and now has 26 RBIs, becoming the sixth Marlin with at least 25 RBIs. Manager Don Mattingly credited his catcher's filmwork and preparation.
"His swing has always been good," Mattingly said. "I just think he's getting a better understanding of what the [pitcher] is trying to do to him. Trying to stay in the middle of the field at times. He'll try to [make a pitcher pay] if he leaves the breaking ball up. He's done a great job with his approach and I think that's the biggest growth I've seen in two years."
Realmuto's effort at the plate helped Marlins lefty Wei-Yin Chen (2-3) get the better of his only previous MLB team in his first win since April.
In his maiden appearance against the Orioles -- for whom he pitched four seasons -- Chen lasted beyond the fifth inning for the first time in four starts. He scattered eight hits and a walk over six frames, allowing Manny Machado's two-RBI single in the third and Jonathan Schoop's solo shot in the sixth.
"It was kind of strange feeling," Chen said through a translator. "But I tried not to let the emotion get to me. I tried to focus on pitching."
After Baltimore scored another run in the seventh, Brad Ziegler worked 1 1/3 scoreless innings of relief. Drew Steckenrider faced the minimum in the ninth for his first save of the season and second of his career.
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That was close: Ziegler relieved Tayron Guerrero with two out and runners on the corners to face Trey Mancini in the seventh inning. Ziegler narrowly missed stabbing Mancini's hard grounder up the middle, but shortstop JT Riddle fielded and threw to first just in time to end the Orioles' two-out rally.
Locking it down: With regular closer Kyle Barraclough pitching four of the previous five days, Mattingly turned to Steckenrider with the top of Baltimore's order due up in the ninth. Steckenrider issued a leadoff walk to pinch-hitter Corban Joseph, but then induced Adam Jones into a grounder to Castro at second. Castro tagged Joseph and then shoveled to first fractions ahead of the sprinting Jones to complete the double play and snuff any potential comeback.
"That was huge," Mattingly said.
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Mattingly said he might use Miguel Rojas as a late defensive replacement, but kept Yadiel Rivera in the game at third for all nine innings. Rivera repaid his manager's decision in the eighth when he barehanded Schoop's chopper and fired to first just in time. It was just Rivera's 24th MLB assist as a third baseman.
Collectively, the Marlins only have 19 career at-bats against Dylan Bundy (4-7, 3.66 ERA), the Orioles' starter in Sunday's finale. Of those, 14 belong to Castro, from his previous two seasons with the Yankees, when he went 5-for-14 with two homers and five RBIs against the Baltimore right-hander. Righty Trevor Richards (1-3, 4.41) will look for his second career win for Miami in the 1:05 p.m ET start.
** Ian Quillen ** is a contributor to MLB.com based in Baltimore.