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Marlins tied for first despite lack of clutch hitting

The SportsXchange

Manager Ozzie Guillen said he was flipping through a packet of daily statistics the other day when he saw something that made his jaw drop -- his Marlins are among the worst teams in baseball when it comes to situational hitting.

"I was, 'Wow,' " Guillen said. "How the (bleep) are we where we are right now?"

The Marlins are 31-23 record and in a virtual tie with Washington for first place in the competitive National League East. But they are hitting .230 with runners in scoring position, 10th among National League team.

The Marlins are batting just .184 with runners in scoring position and two outs, 14th in the National League.

Logan Morrison, who has been battling mostly fifth in the order, is hitting .146 with runners in scoring position, and No. 3 hitter Hanley Ramirez is batting .200 in those situations.

Ramirez has been swinging a hot bat lately -- he's 12-for-19 with four homers and six RBI in his last six games. But Morrison is hitting .231 overall.

Guillen said he's not planning any major changes to the batting order as long as the Marlins continue to win. But he said he might bat cleanup hitter Giancarlo Stanton third and Ramirez fourth at some point.

For now, he wants to see if the bottom of the lineup will wake up first. In particular, he said Morrison needs to step up.

"We have to get somebody to start swinging the bat better behind Stanton," Guillen said. "We have to figure out who. Look around from nine to (fifth), nobody is swinging the bat well. Nobody."

Guillen ruled out moving Omar Infante (.311) from two to five, swapping spots with Morrison.

"The main thing for us, LoMo has to get hot because I need somebody to protect Stanton," Guillen said.

Stanton is 2-for-12 over his first three games in June after winning the National League Player of the Month award for May. He knows pitchers might change their approach against him.

But Guillen still wants the top of the order to run. The Marlins lead the majors with 62 stolen bases.

He has no plans to dissuade Jose Reyes and Emilio Bonifacio (who's on the disabled list) from running in an effort to discourage opposing teams from pitching around Stanton.

"Stanton is not Barry Bonds," Guillen said. "Stanton is swinging the bat well. I love that. But I'm not going to take away from my players the way that they play. I like aggressiveness on the bases. That's the way we will play."

The Marlins went 8-14 in April, which started off with the distraction of Guillen apologizing for comments he made about Fidel Castro. But the Marlins are 23-9 since May 1 on the strength of their pitching.

"The way we started off, a lot of people don't believe what we can do. Our talent is there. This team little by little is starting to put stuff together," Guillen said.

The Marlins are glad to see closer Heath Bell fire off five consecutive saves. Guillen said he's confident Bell's struggles are over.

"I believe in the guy," Guillen said. "I know there a lot of doubts out there, and every time we put the kid in closer situation people always think about April. I don't. I believe in the kid."

But the Marlins know the biggest test is how long they can keep up their pace. They're encouraged because their offense still hasn't clicked. They'll need that to happen if they hope to outlast the rest of the teams in the division.

"This division is totally ridiculous," said Bell. "It's the best division in baseball, plain and simple, hands down. You could have said that (before) with the American League East."
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