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Strong Koehler, successful challenge boost Marlins

Starter strikes out seven in seven innings; Stanton triples, homers

SAN FRANCISCO -- It's not often that the man responsible for calling replay challenges down to the dugout gets the game ball. But that was the case Saturday night at AT&T Park.

Miami staff assistant Pat Shine's decision to call manager Mike Redmond and challenge the ruling on an early would-be double by Giants second baseman Brandon Hicks loomed large in Miami's 5-0 defeat of San Francisco.

If Shine doesn't pick up the phone, maybe the Giants put together a second-inning rally and it's a whole different ballgame.

"That was unbelievable. In my mind Pat Shine won the game today," starter Tom Koehler said after tossing seven scoreless innings. "I looked at the replay to see how close it was. Second inning of the game and if you're wrong, you burn your challenge in the second inning. He's been doing a great job all year and that's why he got the game ball today when we came in from the field. That's no joke. He got the game ball."

With his team trailing, 1-0, early, Hicks roped one down the right-field line and nearly hit a homer, but it bounced off the bricks near the foul pole. As he rounded first and went into second, Hicks' foot barely missed the far corner of the bag. After a failed appeal to first base, Redmond came out to make the crucial challenge, in which umpires determined that Hicks indeed missed the base.

"I thought I touched it," Hicks said. "I felt like I did a little bit, but I looked up at the same time. I was trying to find where the ball was at."

After that sequence, Koehler got Brandon Crawford to fly out and strand Hector Sanchez at third base before finishing five more shutout innings. Along the way, he showed a lot of emotion on the mound.

Koehler got himself out of some tense situations with key strikeouts. In the third, he struck out Pablo Sandoval to end the inning with Hunter Pence standing on third base, and in the sixth, he punched out Gregor Blanco to end the frame with runners on the corners.

"Any time you can get out of an inning -- whether it's a big play defensively or a strikeout on a good pitch -- I think it kind of carries momentum into the dugout," Koehler said. "That's what we're trying to do, just get the offense as excited as they can be for their at-bats coming up."

It marked Koehler's first start since teammate Jose Fernandez underwent Tommy John surgery earlier this week. But it's not like he's looking to fill Fernandez's shoes.

"I think that's something that we were thinking about early on," Koehler said. "But, truthfully, we can't replace him. I can't replace him, [Jacob] Turner can't replace him, nobody can replace him. So we've got to make sure to go out there and pitch our brand of baseball."

While fellow righty Henderson Alvarez (2-3, 3.62 ERA) has tossed two shutouts this year, he hasn't been as consistent as Koehler.

Saturday marked the third start in May in which Koehler went at least seven innings without giving up a run, as he lowered his ERA to a team-best 2.25. He never faced more than five batters in any frame, allowing four hits and two walks while striking out seven. The 27-year-old bounced back strong after he didn't make it out of the fourth inning against the Dodgers in his last start.

Still, Redmond wasn't quick to label Koehler his team's de facto ace now that Fernandez is gone.

"I don't like to use numbers and that stuff," Redmond said. "I just have five pitchers and they all have a job to do -- and that's to pitch and give us a chance to win a ballgame. I think you saw that tonight out of Tommy."

The Marlins opened the scoring in the second after Giants starter Tim Lincecum issued consecutive walks to Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Marcell Ozuna. Adeiny Hechavarria made Lincecum pay by lacing a single to right field and scoring Saltalamacchia, who used a nice twisting slide to avoid a tag at the plate.

Miami extended its lead on Garrett Jones' RBI triple in the sixth, before Saltalamacchia drove Jones home with a sacrifice fly. Giancarlo Stanton, who also tripled in the third, made it 4-0 with a solo shot in the seventh, his first homer of the series and 12th of the year.

"He was using a lot of offspeed pitches today," Casey McGehee (1-for-5, double) said of Lincecum. "I thought we did a pretty decent job of not helping him out and chasing him out of the zone. To his credit, I thought he did a good job of not giving in."

Pinch-hitter Jeff Baker added an RBI single in the ninth to plate Hechavarria. A.J. Ramos pitched a perfect eighth, while Kevin Slowey and Steve Cishek navigated through some trouble to record a scoreless ninth for the Marlins. After Slowey walked Crawford to load the bases and turn it into a save situation, Cishek struck out Tyler Colvin to end the game and earn his ninth save.

With the victory, the Marlins became the first National League club to record seven shutouts this year.

"We're going to continue to improve and work on what we need to work on," Koehler said. "Hopefully we can continue showing people what we're capable of doing."

Alex Espinoza is a contributor to
Read More: Miami Marlins, Giancarlo Stanton, Tom Koehler, Adeiny Hechavarria, Garrett Jones