PHILADELPHIA -- The summer months of June and July hadn't been kind to Tom Koehler. But he had yet to face his favorite team.
Koehler on Thursday night made his third start of the season against the Phillies to close out a 10-game road trip and four-game set in Philadelphia with a 9-3 Marlins win. He hadn't made it past the fifth inning in three of his previous five starts. In all but one, he'd allowed at least three runs. His ERA over that span? An unsightly 7.36.
But the Phillies -- baseball's second-worst offense and a team Koehler had pitched well against twice this season -- presented him with a chance to get back on track as the dog days begin to take their toll. He took full advantage, turning in his longest start of the season, with his only runs -- and hits -- allowed coming on a pair of home runs from Ryan Howard in the fourth and Freddy Galvis in the eighth.
"I needed to pitch better than I had been," Koehler said. "And I did that tonight. Me and Jeff [Mathis, catcher] had a really good game plan, and we executed it. When you do that, it really doesn't matter who you're facing."
Koehler had made it through the seventh three times this season -- two coming against the Phils, in which he settled for a no-decision and a tough-luck loss. He made it four on Thursday with his career-high-tying eight innings, retiring the first 10 batters he faced and not allowing a hit until Howard's homer.
He also added an RBI single for good measure.
With just one earned run allowed, Koehler lowered his season ERA against the Phils to 1.64 -- his best against any team this season. Against the other 28 teams, Koehler's ERA sits at 5.14.
"This is a younger team, they're a little more aggressive, he's able to use his breaking ball more," manager Don Mattingly said. "They allow him to pitch out of the strike zone a little bit more.
"Sometimes it's just confidence. If you've been good against a team one time or two, then you feel good every time you walk in that building. I'm not quite sure ..."
Koehler isn't quite sure, either.
"Baseball's just weird like that," Koehler said. "There's things that appear to be trends, but more times than not it's just happenstance."
Whether or not facing the Phils gave him a confidence boost, pitching eight innings and leading his team to a win certainly will as the Marlins head home for a crucial 10-game homestand for divisional and Wild Card positioning against the Mets, Phillies and Cardinals.