Urena ends up-down season on top of his game

September 29th, 2018

NEW YORK -- The first pitch threw this season was belted for a leadoff home run by of the Cubs on Opening Day. The 27-year-old right-hander came a long way since then, and on Friday night, he capped his up-and-down year on a high note.
Urena yielded one run in six innings, and backed by four hits and an RBI from , the Marlins defeated the Mets, 8-1, at Citi Field.

"Miggy kind of started it out, and we got contributions from everywhere," Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. "Jose was good. Other than that first-inning run ... Jose was pretty good all night long."
The way Urena finished up in 2018 makes him a favorite to again be Miami's Opening Day starter in 2019. In September, the right-hander went 5-0 with a 1.20 ERA. The turnaround came after he was suspended for hitting of the Braves on Aug. 15 at Atlanta.
"Even though we were out of contention, he showed that he can pitch, and he can be our ace," Rojas said. "I'm so happy for him, because he shows signs of being an ace, and what we need.
"He definitely settled after that [suspension]. I feel he came back with a mindset and a different attitude of attacking hitters. I've been seeing he's working on his off-speed a little more."
Since hitting Acuna, Urena was 6-0 with a 1.80 ERA over his final seven starts. Opponents batted .176 in that span.
"It means a lot for me, and for my teammates," Urena said. "We got it together. I'm happy and I'm proud of them. When we started the season, that was a little frustrating for me. I was thinking more about them. All the time, they had my back."
Urena closed his season at 9-12 with a 3.98 ERA.
"Obviously, you want to put wins on the board," Mattingly said. "I know they don't act like they matter, but, I think guys want to win. They want to stay in the game. Even though Jose was throwing the ball well [and losing early], the analytics said he was throwing the ball better this year than last year when he won 14. Guys still want to win games."

Miami broke the game open with four runs in the seventh inning. , Rojas and J.T. Realmuto each had RBI singles in the inning.
The Mets got on the board in the first inning on 's RBI single, which scored , who led off with a single.

But in the fourth inning, Miami pulled even at 1 on 's fielder's-choice RBI. singled to open the inning off , and scored when Sierra tapped to second, and with the Mets trying to get an inning-ending double play, was safe at first.
The game featured the return of , who saw his first MLB action since 2016. Wright pinch-hit in the fifth inning against Urena, and tapped a 96-mph fastball to third for an out.

Urena is the fourth Marlins starter to win as many as five games in September, joining Pat Rapp (5-0 in 1995), Javier Vazquez (5-0 in 2011) and (5-1 in 2006).
"I think guys should get better with time, with experience," Mattingly said. "You never know how long it's going to take a guy [to emerge]. But Jose is an extremely hard worker. I remember when he was really young, and I was on the other side [managing the Dodgers]. Jose was just a skinny kid. Now, you see a different guy, body-wise, he just continues to work. He never really backs off of that."
A two-run fifth inning snapped a 1-1 tie and gave the Marlins the lead for good. Miami had three doubles in the inning off Oswalt. Rojas led off with a two-base hit, and the Marlins nearly left him stranded. But with two outs, O'Brien doubled to left, making it 2-1, and added a run-scoring double.

The Marlins entered Friday having been swept in three games at Washington, where they faced and Max Scherzer.
"It's been a couple of tough days, facing Strasburg, Scherzer," Rojas said. "I feel like we had a really good game tonight with our approach. Getting runners in from scoring position has been the toughest thing for us the whole year, but today we were able to do it."
has 161 hits, tying him with Mark Kotsay (1998) for the fifth-most hits by a Marlins rookie in a season.
"I'm happy we got the first one, and we're trying to finish with a sweep." -- Rojas
Mattingly not expecting SS platoon in 2019
One of the rookie bright spots for the Marlins has been , who comes off an impressive win over the Reds, throwing seven shutout innings. The right-hander closes out his season on Saturday at 7:10 p.m. ET against the Mets at Citi Field. New York counters with lefty , while David Wright is scheduled to start at third base behind him.