MILWAUKEE -- As the starters go, so have the Marlins' relievers.
For several weeks now, Miami's bullpen has been a strong suit. Even in the weekend series at Milwaukee, the relievers have stepped up.
Despite losing the first two games at Miller Park, Miami's 'pen combined for seven scoreless innings with 11 strikeouts.
"A successful 'pen kind of goes hand-in-hand with the starters," Marlins president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest said. "What's happened is, as the starting pitching has improved, so has the 'pen. They haven't had the stress on them that they did before, handling the innings."
For the most part, Miami's starting pitching has been highly effective -- and dramatically improved -- since June 1. Their collective ERA of 3.60 in that span is middle of the pack in the National League.
By going deep into games, the rotation has eased the burden on the bullpen. For instance, the Marlins' bullpen since June 1 has thrown 132 1/3 innings, which falls near the middle in the Major Leagues.
"Even when we've played these extra-inning affairs, or whatever, they've done a good job handling multiple innings," Beinfest said. "I think they've come together nicely."
Manager Mike Redmond has the luxury of two lefties -- Mike Dunn and Dan Jennings.
Closer Steve Cishek has been effective, and veterans like Chad Qualls and Kevin Slowey have performed in whichever roles they have been assigned.
"Having two lefties out there has been helpful to Red," Beinfest said. "They've kind of fit into roles and done a good job."
Ryan Webb and A.J. Ramos are two right-handers who throw in the mid-90s.
"It's all 92 [mph] and up out there, by and large," Beinfest said. "So there are some good arms."
Pitchers successfully zeroing in on Stanton
MILWAUKEE -- When Giancarlo Stanton gets going, it seems the rest of the Marlins' offense follows.
But it has been a challenge to get the 23-year-old slugger to stay hot.
"It's like, I'm me for two games, and then I'm back to [bad] for 10," Stanton said of his inconsistent year. "That's kind of how it's been all year. We still have the second half."
Stanton remains one of the biggest power threats in the game. But his numbers have not reflected what he did in his first three seasons.
Injuries have played a factor, as he missed all of May with a strained right hamstring. In 53 games before Sunday, he was batting .241 with 10 home runs and 27 RBIs.
A year ago, Stanton finished second in the National League in home runs with 37. And he batted .290 with 86 RBIs.
On an inexperienced team, Stanton is the clear target in the Marlins' lineup that teams do not want to let beat them. In Saturday's 6-0 loss to the Brewers, Stanton was seeing 3-1 sliders in a game his team trailed by six runs.
"It seems a little different this year, in terms of I'm getting walked a little bit more," Stanton said.
Stanton walked 31 times in 53 games, compared with 46 walks in 123 games last season.
The Marlins are hopeful the middle of their order will improve with Logan Morrison and Marcell Ozuna batting behind Stanton.
Finding a consistent rhythm has been difficult because Stanton is being pitched around.
"It's different when you get pitched to five at-bats in a row," he said.
In general, power hitters have to deal with being pitched carefully.
"It's just who is going to show up today," Stanton said of his own plate discipline. "Am I going to swing at the nonsense? You've got to be ready. If you look at the stats, you'll see more than one me. That's basically been the story that has been going on. There are little things. But I'm still not getting it done."
Marlins seeing double plays in lieu of runs
MILWAUKEE -- One reason the Marlins are last in the Major Leagues in runs scored is because they rank near the top in an undesirable category.
Through Saturday, the Marlins have grounded into 89 double plays, the fourth most in the game.
Double plays have crippled the club all season.
"I think that's what happens when you're not swinging the bats well: You ground into double plays," Marlins manager Mike Redmond said. "That's what happened for [the first] two months. We were grounding into double plays.
"When you're going good, that's a line drive to right. Now, we're getting a couple of good at-bats from a couple of guys. That's it. Really, we're getting shut down, one through eight."
But grounding into double plays does not tell the complete story for a team.
What is telling for the Marlins is that they have a high number of double plays while not scoring many runs. Shut out in back-to-back games by Milwaukee in its current series, Miami remained stuck on 306 runs, the fewest in the Majors.
On the flip side, the team to ground into the most double plays is the Cardinals, with 98 through Saturday. The difference is, St. Louis had 474 runs, the most in the National League and third most in the game.
The Angels were second in double plays, with 95. But they tied for seventh overall in runs scored (436). And the D-backs were third in double plays (90) while 14th in runs (402).
Inexperience is certainly a factor for the youthful Marlins, who are striving to make steady progress in the second half.
"Offensively, we're just not getting anything going," Redmond said. "We're getting completely shut down. We're not getting guys on base. We're not getting big hits with the bases loaded. We've had a couple of opportunities to at least put a couple of runs across with a big hit, or a hit. We're not getting it.
"I know guys out there are trying, but at the same time, too, let's go. This is July."