- Steve Berthiaume, ESPNEWS anchor
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The Florida Marlins have lost seven straight games with six of those losses coming by one run. The Elias Sports Bureau reports the Marlins and Diamondbacks (last month) were the first teams to suffer six one-run losses in a seven-game span since the 1988 Braves. Florida manager Edwin Rodriguez insists his team has been just one hit away from winning every one of those games -- and now it's the job of Eduardo Perez to find that one hit.
Perez has left ESPN, where he worked as a Baseball Tonight analyst, to replace John Mallee has the Marlins' hitting coach. Mallee was reportedly a popular figure among the Marlins' core group of promising young hitters, many of whom worked with Mallee in the minor leagues. Now Perez arrives with the entire group in an offensive free-fall. "Right now, it's a trust factor," Perez said. "I've got to gain their trust. I have to communicate with them and listen to them and each one is an individual, they're not all the same and I'm the one that has to make adjustments towards them. What you have to do is trust them, so they in the long run can trust you. Right now I'm going to go in there and respect them as players and just listen to what they have to say."
The Marlins' seven-game losing streak is their longest in more than two years. They have yet to win in June. Through the first six games of their current 11-game homestand, Florida is averaging only 2.7 runs per game and has hit .148 (8-for-54) with runners in scoring position while stranding 57 baserunners. In fact, over their last 12 games, the Marlins have hit just .171 (19-for-111) with runners in scoring position. "This is a game of numbers and you're going to hit your lows," said Perez, who played 13 years in the major leagues and has managed and coached in the Puerto Rican Winter League and World Baseball Classic. "The question is, how can you control your lows and right now we have to go out there and just stop pressing, stop trying to do too much."
Mike Stanton's two-run, two-out single in the ninth inning Wednesday night tied the game at 2 before the Marlins lost 3-2 to the Braves 10 innings. But Stanton is only 3-for-19 on the homestand with three RBIs and is hitting just .184 over his last 12 games with 13 strikeouts. "You have to swing at strikes," Perez said. "Mike knows that. He chases a lot of balls out of the zone but when they're in the zone, he makes people hurt 'em."
Perez's biggest test may be star shortstop Hanley Ramirez, currently on the DL with a left back sprain. Ramirez's nagging back has been a problem for much of this season; a reason why he's off to the worst start of his career at .210/.306/.309. Perez will approach Ramirez with patience. "He's had a bad season for his standards but right now he's an individual that we have to focus on differently," said Perez, whose Hall of Fame father Tony has previously counseled Ramirez as part of his position as Marlins' special assistant to the president. "We're going to work with him to get healthy, that's the first thing. Right now, we're looking at June 15 against Philadelphia as the first game to get him back. If he's able to get back, then from there we'll see his approach and we'll just take our time with him and at least give him two weeks to get settled in."
Even with Ramirez and pitcher Josh Johnson on the DL, and a winless June, the Marlins are just five games back of the NL East-leading Phillies. Perez will be in uniform for Thursday's game. "I've been hired right now by Jeffrey Loria and the Florida Marlins to go out there and do a job," Perez said. "We're a team that can contend. We have very good pitching and when we get JJ back we'll even be better. We're a team that can run, a team that can play defense, a team that has to play with passion and right now when you don't score runs you play with no passion."
Follow Steve Berthiaume on Twitter: @SBerthiaumeESPN.