MIAMI -- Jose Urena has bounced back from the low point of his campaign to pitch his best games of the season. The right-hander was sharp again on Monday afternoon and, in the process, threw a roadblock in the Phillies' pursuit of the National League East-leading Braves.
Urena allowed one run over seven innings and, backed by Rafael Ortega's two-run single in the second inning, helped the Marlins trip up the Phillies, 3-1, on Labor Day afternoon at Marlins Park.
"That first inning, it looked like [Urena's] stuff was electric -- and it stayed that way all game long," Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. "They hit a couple of balls hard, squared them up, right at us. But Jose was good today."
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Since he was suspended five-games for hitting Braves rookie Ronald Acuna Jr. with a pitch on Aug. 15 at Atlanta, Urena has a 2.45 ERA in three starts (6 ER over 22 IP).
"I've tried to be aggressive and attack those hitters, trying to get ground balls and get weak contact," Urena said. "When you attack more, things can happen. I've got people behind me, and they do a pretty good job in the field."
In the series opener against the Phillies, the right-hander matched his season high with seven strikeouts, accomplished twice previously this season. It's the fifth time in his career he's fanned as many as seven.
Urena didn't walk a batter, as he provided another reminder of why the Marlins feel he has performed far better than his 5-12 record.
Urena kept the Phillies off balance with a two-seam fastball that maxed at 97.9 mph. Of his 99 pitches, 44 were two-seam fastballs. The righty also threw 26 sliders, inducing 10 swinging strikes, and 18 changeups.
After falling behind on Asdrubal Cabrera's home run with two outs in the second, the Marlins responded with three runs off Vince Velasquez in their half of the inning. Derek Dietrich tripled to right, and scored on Lewis Brinson's RBI single to center. Austin Dean doubled and Ortega slapped a two-run single to left.
Adam Conley worked a clean eighth inning in relief of Urena, and Drew Steckenrider struck out two of three he batters faced in the ninth for his third save. The bullpen has been roughed up as of late, but Mattingly said the decision was made to stick with the regular back-end relievers.
"Those guys got a little bit of rest the last couple of days," Mattingly said. "We've tried to find different combinations out there. We decided that we were going to go with those guys and show confidence in them. They've been pretty good all year long. They've had a bad stretch, but we need to get them back in order and see what happens."
Cabrera's homer was his 22nd of the season, with six coming against the Marlins. For his career, he has 13 home runs off Miami pitching, his high against any club.
"The Dietz (Dietrich) triple right out of the gate, that gets us a guy in scoring position," Mattingly said. "Then Lewis gets the hit that gets him in. I think that [helped], right there. You saw Jose's stuff, and you felt like he was going to be good today. To get that run right back and, obviously, be able to add a couple of more was huge right there."
Urena is the latest Marlins' starter to work deep into a game during this homestand. On Friday and Saturday against the Blue Jays, Dan Straily and Wei-Yin Chen each worked eight innings.
"I don't know if it's a stretch or what it is," Mattingly said. "But the guys have thrown the ball well for us, especially on this homestand -- with Dan starting it, then Wei-Yin, and Jose today."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Before Monday's game, Mattingly spoke of rookies getting an opportunity to showcase themselves for the future. Part of what the organization is looking to see is how they handle certain situations. In the second inning, the club had some good situational hitting off Velasquez. Brinson's RBI single up the middle was an example of not trying to do too much and overswing at a pitch. Ortega added a simple approach on his two-run single that proved to be the difference.
"I was trying to hit something in the middle of the field," Brinson said. "Get something up. Obviously, [Velasquez] has a good fastball. My plan was to stay on the fastball. Obviously, he's got good secondary stuff, too. I just told myself, 'Stay on that fastball, see it up, and drive it through the middle.' That's what I did."
Ortega had quality at-bats all game, getting robbed of a single in the first inning when Cabrera snared a low liner at second base. He also lined out to left. But in the second, he was rewarded with the game-winning hit.
"I was just trying to shorten up my swing and use my hands more," he said. "Lately, I've been kind of using my body too much. I shortened my swing, trying to hit the ball up the middle."
When Urena struck out Nick Williams to lead off the fifth inning, it was the right-hander's 114th strikeout of the season -- establishing a career high. Urena's previous season high was 113 in 2017. Urena has now fanned 117 on the season.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Along with making an impact at the plate -- collecting a two-run single in the second inning -- Ortega also saved a run with two-outs in the sixth inning. With Roman Quinn on first, Carlos Santana blistered a liner to right field. Getting a good jump, Ortega sprinted back and ran the ball down at the wall for the third out. According to Statcast™, Santana had an exit velocity of 104 mph, and a hit probability of 80 percent.
"When it came off the bat, I thought it was going to be at the wall," Ortega said. "But I kept going with it. I never gave up on it, and I was able to get there."
HE SAID IT
"We had a good plan against a good pitcher today. Stay on his fastball. Don't really fall behind. We executed that plan. Got three runs early, and held them all game. Urena did a great job today. We played great defense behind him." -- Brinson on Marlins' approach off Velasquez.
Trevor Richards gets the nod for the Marlins on Tuesday at 7:10 p.m. ET vs. the Phillies. The rookie seeks his first win since July 14, but has pitched much better than his record. In his last seven starts, he has a 3.49 ERA with 46 strikeouts in 38 2/3 innings. Jacob Arrieta goes for Philadelphia.