MIAMI -- Settling on a leadoff hitter has been a work in progress for the Marlins. The speed and athleticism of J.T. Realmuto make him a tempting candidate, but one manager Don Mattingly is wanting to avoid.Mattingly has repeatedly said he prefers Realmuto in a better position to hit with
MIAMI -- Settling on a leadoff hitter has been a work in progress for the Marlins. The speed and athleticism of J.T. Realmuto make him a tempting candidate, but one manager Don Mattingly is wanting to avoid.
Mattingly has repeatedly said he prefers Realmuto in a better position to hit with men on base, so the 27-year-old catcher was in the second spot on Tuesday. The decision paid off in a 4-2 win over the Dodgers at Marlins Park as Realmuto had three hits, including a two-out RBI double in the series opener.
"[Mattingly] talked to me about that, a few days before he moved me from the leadoff spot," Realmuto said. "He came and asked me what I thought about moving down a little bit, so I could maybe have a little more traffic on the bases in my first at-bat. I was all for it."
Mattingly actually approached Realmuto, who has led off in 11 games, about sliding down in the order. But the day he did so, the catcher had three hits on Friday and was a triple shy of the cycle.
"I got three hits and almost hit for the cycle," Realmuto said. "He was like, 'I can't move you now.' But I enjoy it, obviously, to be in position to get RBIs."
Experimenting with the offense, Mattingly had Martin Prado leading off, ahead of Realmuto. The new look helped generate a run in the first inning, with Prado and Realmuto each collecting singles, and the Marlins pushed across an unearned run when second baseman John Forsythe was charged with a throwing error while trying to complete what would have been an inning-ending double play on Brian Anderson's grounder to short.
Miguel Rojas' sacrifice fly produced a second run, which came in the fourth inning off Dodgers lefty Alex Wood.
The Dodgers chipped back to 2-1 on Yasiel Puig's home run with off Tayron Guerrero with one out in the seventh inning. Guerrero hummed two straight fastballs clocked at more than 100 mph to Puig. But with the count, 1-1, the lanky right-hander threw an 84.1 mph slider, and Puig deposited it over the wall in left.
Realmuto stepped up again in the seventh inning, with an RBI double and he scored on Anderson's single to right.
"You never know when that spot's going to be," Mattingly said of Realmuto coming up with a runner on base. "For me, J.T. is a guy you trust, he will give you good at-bats, quality. That's kind of what the thinking is. Again, you don't know when that's going to happen or when that spot is going to be. Obviously, you want him to come up there with men on base."
Cody Bellinger homered in the ninth off Brad Ziegler, who recorded his sixth save.
MOMENT THAT MATTERED
Protecting a two-run lead in the fifth inning, Mattingly decided to pull starter Wei-Yin Chen after 4 1/3 innings, with two runners on. Nick Wittgren entered, and retired Joc Pederson on a fly ball to left field, before Justin Turner lined out to Prado at third.
"We've kind of watched Chen over the last few years," Mattingly said. "It seems like when he hits that wall, he hits it. He took a lot of pitches to get there."
Chen was at 83 pitches, and he didn't complete the necessary five innings to qualify for the win.
"Luckily, Prado was right there," Wittgren said of Turner's liner to third. "We have a bullpen that can come in and finish things off. We kind of showed that today."
Anderson has reached safely in 11 straight games, a career long for the rookie.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Prado may be 34 years old, but the veteran third baseman still has plenty of spring left in his legs. He showed it in the fifth inning, going airborne to snare a bunt attempt by Wood, who was trying to advance Puig to second. Wood's bunt was on the first-base side, but Prado charged and actually slid into foul territory. Wood jumped over the Miami third baseman to avoid a collision. More >
"That's my main focus every time we come to the field, is to play as hard as I can play, and not worry about where we're at," Prado said. "Just showing the people out there who are paying for their tickets to watch us that we're playing hard every day."
HE SAID IT
"I couldn't be more happy. I literally thought that I hit it. This is what we're building here. Be accountable for your teammates and celebrate who is after you. I failed in that moment. I was just rooting for J.T. to come through, and he did." -- Prado, on Realmuto's double in the seventh inning after the third baseman struck out
Caleb Smith has emerged as the Marlins' most effective starter, and the lefty starts at 7:10 p.m. ET on Wednesday against the Dodgers. Smith has a strikeout rate of 31.9 percent, which according to Inside Edge, is 12th highest among MLB pitchers with at least 20 innings. Walker Buehler starts the middle game for Los Angeles.
Joe Frisaro has covered the Marlins for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro and listen to his podcast.