When Tom Koehler and Jacob deGrom take to the Marlins Park mound Saturday afternoon, they'll be two tall right-handers looking to not only give their team a lengthy start, but also turn around their recent individual struggles. Both hurlers were unable to turn in a quality start in three tries this month.
The game is a significant one for both clubs given their standing in the National League East. Koehler and Miami are just a game behind first-place Atlanta and a half-game behind second-place Washington, while deGrom and New York -- for all that's gone wrong, and despite being eight games under .500 -- are within striking distance at 5 1/2 games back.
When the Marlins were rolling along a few weeks ago, Koehler was also in a steady groove. But in his last two starts, the 27-year-old has labored, giving up nine earned runs in 11 1/3 innings.
Miami split those two games. At Texas on June 10, the club rallied late for an 8-5 win. Koehler worked 5 1/3 innings that night, giving up five runs, with four coming in the sixth inning.
In his last outing, a loss to the Cubs, Koehler allowed four runs in six innings. All four runs came in the sixth inning, which erased Miami's early three-run lead.
Koehler started the season working at least six innings in six of his first seven starts. In three of his last five starts, he wasn't able to make it through six full innings.
"The key is still the starting pitching," Miami manager Mike Redmond said. "Where you get exposed is when you get four or five innings out of a couple of starters in a row, as you saw against the Pirates [last weekend]. You get thin, and that bullpen has to eat up a lot of innings. You can't keep that pace up."
It's a little bit of a different story for deGrom, who is still winless after making his Major League debut last month. He posted a 2.42 ERA through four starts -- all at least six innings long -- but that number has since grown to 4.39. In his last two outings, deGrom has allowed nine earned runs on 21 hits in 10 innings.
Manager Terry Collins said the league is starting to figure him out.
"Not that teams are seeing him two times, but there are starting to be a lot of advance scouts who have seen him now," Collins said. "He's got to go back to the same thing we told him before, and that is be sure he uses all his pitches. He's got a good enough command of everything he throws that he doesn't need to sit on one pitch."
Mets: Bullpen a balancing act for Collins
The Mets' bullpen turnaround over the last month and a half has been drastic. It ranked 24th in the Majors with a 4.27 ERA as of May 6 -- three days before closer Jenrry Mejia made his last start -- but has since improved to a 3.33 ERA, which is good for 10th in baseball. Over their last 20 1/3 innings entering Friday, New York relievers allowed three earned runs (1.33 ERA).
Managing a bullpen is never easy, but Collins has done just fine with it of late, even if that means going without clearly defined roles on many occasions.
"Besides also making sure that they're rested, you have to get them some innings to keep them sharp," Collins said. "I have to make sure they get in some games this weekend so they keep continuing to pitch as well as they have been.
"Guys [are] going out there hoping that when they feel good, they're going to get in. They're pretty much notified when they're not going to pitch."
Marlins: Morris riding impressive scoreless streak
Bryan Morris has become a major addition to Miami's bullpen, tossing 11 1/3 scoreless innings over eight games since being acquired on June 1 from the Pirates for a Competitive Balance Round A Draft pick -- 39th overall. The latest zeros came when he pitched two frames Thursday in a 1-0 loss to the Mets.
Morris provides some flexibility because he can throw multiple innings, like he did Thursday, when he logged 40 pitches.
Redmond likes the luxury of a reliever throwing more than one inning from time to time, which saves using more arms in the 'pen. One night, Morris can fill the role, and others -- including Chris Hatcher, A.J. Ramos and Mike Dunn -- can overlap innings.
"Instead of having to use three pitchers or four pitchers to get through [Thursday's] game, Mo has been very effective when he's thrown multiple innings," Redmond said. "It could be Hatcher. It depends on the situation. Ideally, it's perfect to throw each one one inning. But when you're down, sometimes your guys have got to go two. We still have fresh arms, where three days ago, those guys were used a lot."
• Travis d'Arnaud watch: In 11 games with Triple-A Las Vegas, the catcher is hitting .432 with a .479 on-base percentage and a .977 slugging mark. He has six homers, six doubles and 15 RBIs.
• Casey McGehee, with his single in the sixth inning on Friday, has hit safely in 14 of his last 15 games.
Tim Healey is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.