MIAMI -- Trevor Richards experienced his share of highs and lows in the first half of his rookie season. But no matter the outcome, a constant for the rookie right-hander was his composure.
Richards showed it again on Saturday afternoon, and mixed in arguably his best changeup in his first 13 big league starts. He threw six shutout innings, and he was picked up by his bullpen as the Marlins blanked the Phillies, 2-0, at Marlins Park.
Richards, Brad Ziegler, Drew Steckenrider and Kyle Barraclough combined for Miami's eighth shutout.
After losing by the identical score on Friday night against Jacob Arrieta, Miami was able to get all the runs it needed against All-Star Aaron Nola in the first inning.
"It's fun going against those guys," Richards said of one of the top starters in the National League. "You know they're going to pitch a good game. You know going in you've got to pitch well. Just the mindset going in, you've got to execute your pitches from the get-go."
Not overpowering, Richards relies on spotting his 90-92-mph fastball and executing his changeup, which is a plus pitch. Of the 98 pitches he threw, 55 were four-seam fastballs, and 36 were changeups. Richards induced 13 swinging strikes on his changeup (16 total).
In the sixth inning, Richards issued a two-out walk to Maikel Franco, but he struck out Nick Williams, getting him to swing through a changeup.
"I was just focusing on keeping it down," Richards said. "Whenever it gets hit, it's up in the zone, and righties or lefties are able to turn on it. It all starts with fastball command. If I'm not throwing my fastball for strikes, my changeup isn't going to be effective."
Matched against Nola, Richards needed to be on point to keep his team in the game. Nola entered the game having lasted at least seven innings in three straight outings. Nola was effective for six innings, giving up two runs on four hits, before being lifted for a pinch-hitter in the seventh.
"As much as anything, just attacking the strike zone, and getting back to what made him successful," Marlins manager Don Mattingly said of Richards' success. "You know when you face a guy like Nola, you're going to have to get a guy who keeps you in the game. We got him early, too. That's what you need to do."
Shut out, 2-0, in the series opener on Friday, the Marlins struck quickly off Nola, scoring twice in the first inning. Derek Dietrich led off with a single and scored on Starlin Castro's fielder's-choice grounder. Martin Prado added a two-out, RBI single. Three of the four hits Nola allowed came in the first.
"It's been two real close games," Prado said. "Basically, we've faced two guys who just know how to pitch, and how to mix secondary pitches. To be able to get them early in the game against Nola, who is a guy who along the way gets better. It was huge right there.
"It's not the run support you want to give to your pitcher. At the end of the game, we got a good win for the team."
Nola, the brother of Marlins' Triple-A New Orleans catching prospect Austin Nola, faced the Marlins for the second time this year. On May 2 at Marlins Park, Nola threw 7 1/3 shutout innings in a 6-0 Phillies win.
"Martin's hit was big. It adds on," Mattingly said. "Instead of getting out of that with one, you end up getting a couple, and it gives you a little breathing room."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
The back end of the Marlins' bullpen has been lockdown for most of the season, and that was the case again on Saturday. In the seventh inning, Ziegler got Aaron Altherr to bounce into an inning-ending 6-4-3 double play. And in the eighth inning, Steckenrider worked around a leadoff single to Cesar Hernandez. Barraclough, in the ninth, retired the first two, but issued back-to-back singles to Scott Kingery and Andrew Knapp. He got out of it by retiring pinch-hitter Jesmuel Valentin on a foul pop to shortstop JT Riddle.
Monitoring their innings in the second half will be a priority, because all three are over 40 innings -- Ziegler (47), Steckenrider (42 2/3) and Barraclough (42 1/3)
"We've used them a lot," Mattingly said. "It's one of the things we'll be looking at. We look at it all year long, but we'll really pay attention in the second half. Those are guys who are part of your future, and you don't want to get those guys hurt."
Castro's fielder's-choice RBI in the first inning turned out being his team-leading seventh game-winning RBI of the season.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Cameron Maybin made the most of his time getting full-time work in center field with Lewis Brinson (right hip bone bruise) on the 10-day disabled list. With two outs in the fifth inning, and with Jorge Alfaro on third base, Rhys Hoskins smoked a drive to center. Maybin, in full stride, ran the ball down and bumped into the wall. According to Statcast™, Maybin recorded a five-star catch. It had a 22 percent catch probability. The hot smash was projected at 398 feet, with an exit velocity of 102.4 mph. Maybin covered 95 feet in 5.3 seconds.
"That was an incredible play," Richards said. "He saved the game right there. That's at least one run. Who knows after that? He covered some ground there. That's incredible."
HE SAID IT
"That's a first for me, right there. I've seen guys catch it, and they throw it out to the outfield or whatever. But that was a different one." -- Mattingly, on Franco, believing Castro's grounder in the sixth inning was foul and flipping the ball into the stands for a two-base error
The Marlins close out their first half on Sunday in Marlins Park at 1:10 p.m. ET against the Phillies. Jose Urena has had a misleading first half (2-9, 4.13 ERA), battling a right shoulder injury in late June. On May 2 against the Phillies, Urena lost, despite giving up two runs (one earned) in seven innings. Right-hander Enyel De Los Santos goes for Philadelphia, in place of Zach Eflin (blister).