7/10/2013 5:57 P.M. ET
Brantly's work pays off with first home run
By Joe Frisaro and Joe Morgan / MLB.com
MIAMI -- It took 52 games and 175 at-bats for Rob Brantly to connect on his first home run of the season. But as much of a relief as it was to circle the bases, the Marlins' rookie catcher was equally satisfied to once again feel comfortable in his approach.
Brantly, who turns 24 on Sunday, went 2-for-4 with a three-run homer in Miami's 6-4 loss to the Braves on Tuesday night.
In his first full MLB season, the left-handed-hitting catcher has endured his share of growing pains. He entered Wednesday batting .242 with a .296 on-base percentage, one homer and 18 RBIs.
Brantly's three-run homer came in the second inning on Tuesday.
"It's been a lot of work this year," Brantly said. "It's been a big learning process for me, as far as putting together consistent at-bats. I really feel like [Tuesday] was one of the first days in a long time where I put together some consistent at-bats. I just want to carry it over."
The daily grind of the big leagues magnifies the importance of staying mentally focused.
"It's what it always is -- it's mental, always," Brantly said.
There have been challenges both at the plate and behind it.
Brantly has committed six passed balls and he has four errors. In Tuesday's loss, Henderson Alvarez was charged with a wild pitch on a ball that Brantly probably could have technically blocked better. It was ruled a wild pitch that could have just as easily been a passed ball.
"I love the position I play at, because you do have to stay locked in the entire time," Brantly said. "With each game, and each success and each failure, I'm growing, and we're growing as a team."
Marlins Park's dimensions a challenge for homers
MIAMI -- Marlins Park is modern, colorful and comfortable for players and fans. It also is one of the most difficult buildings to hit home runs. Along with having high lime green walls, the dimensions play big. It's 418 feet to dead center, 392 feet in right-center and 386 feet in left-center.
"It's big," Marlins manager Mike Redmond said. "This ballpark plays very big, which I think is good for our pitching, and it's not so good for our offense."
The Marlins, a team not currently loaded with power, have 18 home runs in their ballpark, which is the lowest of any team in the Majors in its own building. By contrast, the Cubs have 61 homers at Wrigley Field.
Visitors have hit 38 homers at Marlins Park for a total of 56 long balls recorded in Miami this season. AT&T Park in San Francisco has had the second fewest total homers, 62, with the Giants accounting for 29.
The longest home run recorded at Marlins Park this year, according to the Home Run Tracker web site, is 459 feet by Juan Francisco, when he was with the Braves on April 10. Francisco's blast was shaded just shy of center to the right-field side, and it smacked off the facing of the upper-deck siding.
Redmond says the Marlins' pitchers need to use the big ballpark to their advantage.
"I think the keys for us is make teams, especially good offensive teams, use the big part of the ballpark here," Redmond said. "You can hit it as hard and as far as you want to center field, where just a couple of balls have gone out all year."
The ballpark was a factor on Monday night in the Braves' 7-1 win in 14 innings. Giancarlo Stanton guessed about six balls could have been homers in other buildings.
Atlanta's Dan Uggla connected on two that he was stunned stayed in the building. And Justin Ruggiano lifted a ball to right-center that Jason Heyward caught just shy of the 392 sign.
"Pitching-wise for us, that's good," Redmond said. "We can be a little more aggressive on the outside corner and let guys hack away, because in this ballpark, it's so big."
Bullpen's effort in Monday's marathon a historic one
MIAMI -- Although the 14-inning marathon against the Braves on Monday ended in defeat, the Marlins took solace in a historic bullpen effort. Following a leadoff triple by Atlanta's Jason Heyward in the top of the sixth, Miami relievers retired 24 straight batters through the 13th inning.
"In our eyes, if we don't score, then we've got to hold them to not scoring, too," left-hander Dan Jennings said. "That's all we were trying to do. Just make sure they didn't score and keep the game close to a point where we could win it in the bottom half each inning. That's all we were really focused on in that time."
According to Stats Pass, only Oakland's bullpen has retired 24 batters in a row in one game since 1974, doing so nearly two years ago. Like the Marlins, the A's also fell short despite a herculean bullpen effort, losing to the Indians, 4-3, in 16 innings on Aug. 31, 2011, at Progressive Field in Cleveland.
Jennings said the bullpen hasn't reflected on its accomplishment much, instead focusing on staying sharp for the remainder of the Braves series after a busy opener. Every reliever except A.J. Ramos pitched during the historic streak.
Miami even optioned Chris Hatcher to Triple-A New Orleans and recalled lefty Duane Below from the Zephyrs after Monday's game in order to add a fresh arm.
"We're still focused on making sure we're ready for yesterday and ready for today," Jennings said Wednesday. "Because, obviously, with a slim bullpen, you do whatever you can to make sure mentally and physically you prepare yourself for the game."
Miami's streak ended when Hatcher issued a leadoff walk to Reed Johnson in the top of the 14th. Two more walks, four base hits and two fielding errors led to a six-run inning for the Braves, who escaped with a 7-1 victory despite ending up on the wrong side of pitching history.
Jennings, Ryan Webb, Chad Qualls, Steve Cishek and Mike Dunn mowed down 24 straight Atlanta batters, breaking the previous franchise record of 18 straight retired by the bullpen in a 5-4 win against the Brewers in 12 innings on July 6, 2005.
Qualls, Cishek and Dunn shouldered the brunt of the load, logging two innings each. Cishek and Dunn accounted for every strikeout during the stretch, fanning five batters between them.
Monday's effort was a strong showing from a Marlins bullpen that has seen a number of its arms improve in recent weeks. Should Miami's relievers go through a rough patch down the road, Jennings feels Monday's game could provide a confidence boost.
"Everybody's feeding off each other," Jennings said. "We watch one guy go out there and have success, and everybody wants to go and do the same thing. I guess you can say it's a springboard. It's absolutely a time for us to feed off each other."
Marlins' People's Hero announced
MIAMI -- U.S. Army SFC John Kloiber of Crestview, Fla., will represent the Marlins as one of 30 winners of Major League Baseball and People's "Tribute for Heroes" campaign.
Kloiber and winners from the 29 other clubs will be honored prior to the All-Star Game on Tuesday at Citi Field and also be included during the All-Star Week festivities.
Kloiber, a Bronze Star recipient, has spent nearly two decades serving in the U.S. Army. He has been deployed to Afghanistan nine times since 2001 and served several years as a member of the 7th Special Forces.
He has also served abroad in Russia, Egypt and Korea among other places.
Kloiber is married with two children. He volunteers with the Special Olympics, helps out with his sons' baseball teams and participates in races organized for charity.
Redmond seeking more patience at plate
MIAMI -- The Marlins are aggressive swingers, and that tendency proved costly in Tuesday night's 6-4 loss to the Braves.
Miami got to Atlanta starter Julio Teheran early, tagging the 22-year-old for four runs, with one earned, on 51 pitches through only three innings. The Marlins led 4-3 with the Braves' starter in danger of not pitching deep into the game.
However, the short at-bats started coming in the second and began piling up in the third. Beginning with Adeiny Hechavarria's two-out single in the third, 19 of Miami's next 25 batters had at-bats of three pitches or fewer.
"We need to do a better job of getting ourselves deeper into counts," Miami manager Mike Redmond said. "It seems like we'll burn that pitcher out a little bit in the first three innings. Then, as we get towards the middle, we'll have back-to-back first-pitch swings and soft outs. We can't do that."
After throwing 51 pitches in his first three innings, Teheran needed only 44 to get through the final 4 1/3 frames of his outing.
Only two Marlins swung at the first pitch during the team's first run through the batting order. But beginning in the third, 12 more batters hacked at Teheran's first pitch.
The Marlins' first-pitch swing percentage of 48 from the third inning on dwarfed the league average of 29 percent. Although Miami has four qualified players swinging at more first pitches than the league average, it falls below the MLB average as a team.
Additionally, the Marlins' 3.73 pitches per plate appearance is only slightly lower than the MLB average of 3.79, but only four qualified Miami players eclipse that mark individually.
A first-pitch swing percentage of 27 is likely the result of a 30-game stretch from May 31 to July 4 that saw the Marlins post the best record in the Majors at 19-11. Redmond feels the team has lost some patience at the plate during its current five-game skid.
A dip in patience at the plate cost Miami on Tuesday night, and Redmond believes working counts is one of the key ways in which the Marlins will return to the level of play they enjoyed during June.
"When we're going good, we're really grinding out at-bats and getting deep into counts," Redmond said. "When you start losing some ballgames, guys start feeling like, 'Hey, I've got to pick up the slack. I've got to get the big hit. I've got to get on base.' And you start getting out of your game plan a little bit."
Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro. Joe Morgan is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.