MIAMI (AP) – The Miami Marlins will finish with their most successful season in four years, but that likely won't stop them from wondering just how far they could've gone had their two biggest stars not fallen victim to season-ending injuries.
Tom Koehler takes his seventh crack at his 10th victory as Miami and its struggling offense faces the Philadelphia Phillies on Thursday.
The Marlins (75-82) got off to a solid start and had won nine of 10 before young ace Jose Fernandez was forced to have Tommy John surgery following a loss May 9.
Miami dipped back below .500 in mid-June and never fully recovered despite Giancarlo Stanton having an MVP-caliber season. He led the NL with 37 homers and his 105 RBIs topped the majors when he suffered multiple facial fractures after being hit by a pitch Sept. 11, ending his season.
The Marlins have scored two runs or fewer in nine of the 12 games since Stanton went down, including Wednesday's 2-1 loss to the Phillies. They've been outscored 42-28 in Stanton's absence and have dropped five of their last six.
Despite the setbacks, Miami is guaranteed its best season since finishing 80-82 in 2010.
"We're having a tough time scoring," said manager Mike Redmond, whose club has homered once in its last nine games. "That's the way it's been going since we lost G."
Koehler (9-10, 3.76 ERA) hasn't received much run support lately while going 0-1 with a 3.50 ERA in six starts since beating Arizona on Aug. 17. Control issues have plagued him all season - his 70 walks are among the most in the NL - and he allowed four free passes Friday while giving up three runs in five innings of a 3-2 loss to Washington.
"I think it comes back more to the fact that I wasn't executing my pitches throughout the at-bats," Koehler said. "I fell behind a lot."
The right-hander has walked only two in 18 innings against the Phillies this season while going 1-0 with a 2.00 ERA in three starts. Koehler gave up three runs in six innings of the Marlins' 5-4 comeback victory the last time he faced them Sept. 14.
Koehler opposed David Buchanan in that outing, and this contest will feature the same matchup.
Buchanan (6-8, 3.77) gave up one run in 6 1-3 innings against the Marlins before the Philadelphia bullpen allowed four in the ninth. The rookie then allowed three runs in 6 2-3 innings of a 3-1 loss to Oakland on Friday.
The right-hander is 0-3 in eight starts since beating Houston on Aug. 6 - the first start of his second stint in the majors this season - but he has a 2.89 ERA in that stretch while allowing fewer than three earned runs six times.
"He's shown very good improvement," manager Ryne Sandberg said. "He's really making the most of this opportunity. He's come a long way in a lot of ways."
Philadelphia (72-86) also is winding down a disappointing season and had lost four of five prior to Wednesday's victory. Winning pitcher Kyle Kendrick went 3 for 3 with an RBI, and Marlon Byrd's run-scoring single in the eighth proved to be the difference.
Jonathan Papelbon returned from a seven-game suspension and picked up his 38th save.
The Phillies are 10-8 against the Marlins in 2014, winning the season series for the fifth straight year.
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