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Marlins hold off Phils after Urena's strong outing

Right-hander continues impressive stretch with 5 innings of 1-run ball
September 16, 2018

PHILADELPHIA -- The numbers say Jose Urena has been a different pitcher since plunking Braves rookie Ronald Acuna Jr. a month ago. The Marlins' right-hander says otherwise."I do the same," Urena said after Miami's 6-4 win over the Phillies on Sunday at Citizens Bank Park. "The people know me, the

PHILADELPHIA -- The numbers say Jose Urena has been a different pitcher since plunking Braves rookie Ronald Acuna Jr. a month ago. The Marlins' right-hander says otherwise.
"I do the same," Urena said after Miami's 6-4 win over the Phillies on Sunday at Citizens Bank Park. "The people know me, the people know how I pitch. I'm not going to change that for nobody."
Urena spaced three hits across five innings, struck out four and walked one. He allowed one run, a leadoff homer to Cesar Hernandez on his first pitch of the game, and likely would have gone deeper into the game had the Marlins not removed him for precautionary reasons after right hand cramps flared up in the fifth.

The strong outing gave Urena a 2.16 ERA in his last five starts, an impressive stretch that dates back to his one-run complete-game win against Washington four days after being ejected for hitting Acuna with the first pitch on Aug. 15. Urena has returned to throwing like he did a year ago, when a 14-win campaign led the Marlins to believe that they had a starter around which they could build a rotation for the future.
"We feel like he's thrown the ball good all year, better than his numbers early on," manager Don Mattingly said. "But lately, he has been on a little bit of a roll."

Urena didn't pick up his first win until June 5. When the 27-year-old temporarily became baseball's most notorious hurler a month ago, his ERA sat at 4.74. Then, he made adjustments. He wants to attack hitters, and Mattingly has noticed improved location on either side of the plate. He's seen pitches stay down and a breaking ball that cuts deeper. Urena hasn't hit a batter since Acuna.

"Sometimes you gotta locate more," Urena said. "We're at the end of the season. Gotta finish strong. That's in my mind. ... If you look at a lot of the first half, I didn't throw curveballs. Just once in a while. Now, I'm throwing more. And I'm throwing a different changeup, too."
An altered grip is part of the reason Urena has made that change to his pitch arsenal. It's also part of the reason, he said, his hand started to cramp on Sunday. Urena doesn't expect the cramps to interfere with his next start, but for most of the fifth inning he kept his hand open save for when he gripped the ball.

"If I tried to squeeze, that would get worse," Urena said. "I will be fine. I will be fine. It's gone away."
Tyler Kinley, Kyle Barraclough, Drew Steckenrider and Adam Conley protected the lead after Urena left, giving him his seventh win this season. The Phillies' chipped away against Barraclough in the seventh and Conley in the ninth, but both were able to strike out Rhys Hoskins to end the threats.

Early on, Miami's offense suffered a similar fate against Phillies starter Nick Pivetta, who recorded seven strikeouts his first time through the Marlins' order. That didn't last. Peter O'Brien roped a two-run home run in the fourth, John Holaday doubled in Austin Dean in the fifth, and three more runs scored in the sixth. That was enough to break a five-game skid and send the Marlins' home with their first win here since April 8.

O'Brien homers: Pivetta snagged a comebacker off the bat of Starlin Castro in the fourth and appeared to have the makings of a double play until J.P. Crawford botched the second half of the sequence by overthrowing first base. And after Derek Dietrich's ensuing strikeout would have ended the inning, O'Brien put the Marlins ahead with his home run. The ball got out in a hurry, landing just past the left-field seats 3.8 seconds after popping off O'Brien's bat.
"My biggest thing is just consistency," O'Brien said. "Go up there and have quality at-bats and do whatever I can to help the team win. Stay ready for whatever opportunity I get and maximize it."

Confusion on basepaths: After Castro and Dietrich began the sixth with singles against Luis Garcia, O'Brien clubbed a line drive to right-center. Odubel Herrera nearly tracked the ball down but missed it and crashed hard into the wall. Dietrich, unsure if Herrera had caught the ball, stood between first and second base, and O'Brien passed him. O'Brien was ruled out, and Dietrich went on to score from first on Lewis Brinson's RBI triple.
"It was a fairly tough read," Mattingly said. "It's one of those that looks bad, but the one thing Peter could do is once he sees [Dietrich] retreating is just not keep going and pay attention to where he's at."

O'Brien has eight career home runs, three of which have come at Citizens Bank Park. The Phillies are the only team O'Brien has multiple homers against.
In the eighth, Carlos Santana lofted a shallow fly ball to left field. Isaac Galloway sprinted in while JT Riddle shaded out, and the two avoided a collision when Riddle slid and Galloway jumped over him to make the catch.

"He has a good approach. We're going to get him some extended playing time as we finish up. We'll see. The one thing I do like about Peter is he has a good feel for a game plan and what he's looking for and what he's trying to do and an understanding of who he is: that he's dangerous, and that he can hit the ball out of the ballpark." -- Mattingly, on O'Brien
The Marlins return to Miami on Monday to start a brief two-game set with Nationals at 7:10 p.m. ET. Trevor Richards (3-9, 4.85 ERA) will face Washington's Erick Fedde (2-3, 5.12). Richards has twice faced the Nats during his rookie season and struck out eight in six scoreless frames on July 28.

Joe Bloss is a reporter for based in Philadelphia.