Urena standing out, but has little to show for it

Righty doing part for rotation, but Marlins coming up short

Urena standing out, but has little to show for it

MIAMI -- The performance is picking up, and if Jose Urena keeps throwing like he did on Wednesday, the results should eventually follow. But for now, not much is going in the Marlins' favor.

It was the story again on Wednesday afternoon in Miami's 3-0 loss to the Astros at Marlins Park.

Urena showed yet again that he belongs in the rotation, but he happened to be matched up against Lance McCullers Jr., who was on point for Houston, throwing six scoreless innings while not allowing a hit until the fifth.

Urena, meanwhile, was effective in his 5 2/3 innings, giving up three runs (one earned) with three strikeouts and two walks.

"He's got stuff, and he really pitches fearlessly," Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. "He's fun to watch because he's on the attack. There is absolutely no fear in this guy. You could tell by the way he pitches, he's coming after you and he don't really care who you are."

Both pitchers were unfazed by working both sides of the plate. In fact, Urena and McCullers each hit two batters with pitches, but they also showed plenty of command.

"The confidence is there," Urena said.

Urena is mixing in more of his pitches than just his 95-plus-mph fastball. His changeup and slider are improving, which is crucial if he is going to stay as a starter.

"I'm using different kinds of pitches," Urena said. "In different situations, if you make a quality pitch, you feel like you're getting better."

Urena has made three starts, and he has dropped his past two. In those games, he's received one run of support, and his ERA as a starter is 1.53 in 17 2/3 innings.

"It's fun to watch him pitch," Mattingly said. "He seems to be getting bigger and stronger all the time."

According to Statcast™, Urena's maximum fastball velocity was 97.3 mph, and he induced seven swinging strikes, with four on his slider and two on his changeup. He had 11 called strikes, and he struck out Marwin Gonzalez in the fourth inning on a fastball up and out of the zone.

The big mistake for the Marlins on Wednesday came in the sixth inning, when second baseman Dee Gordon made an error on McCullers' grounder. Instead of going to first base for the third out, he made a poor flip to shortstop J.T. Riddle at second that extended the inning. George Springer followed with a two-run single, and Urena was replaced after 5 2/3 innings.

McCullers Jr. reaches on error

"That was a mental mistake on my part," Gordon said. "I just have got to get up and throw the ball to first. That's it. I can't allow that happen to Urena. I can't let the momentum of the game go to their side and have a guy have a big hit for them. I can't let that happen."

Joe Frisaro has covered the Marlins for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.