Tom Koehler could have used the excuse that he was tired in his previous outing. After all, his newborn baby certainly makes for a good alarm clock, even when he doesn't want one to go off.
But he didn't.
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"It wasn't a lack of sleep," he said. "It was a lack of throwing pitches where I wanted them and they just hammered them."
Koehler -- the second baseball player from Stony Brook University to reach the major leagues, after Joe Nathan -- became a father on July 3. In his first start after paternity leave four days later, he had the shortest outing of his career, allowing seven runs in three innings.
His made up for it Saturday, though, with a performance that new daughter Riley could be proud of.
Koehler tossed 61/3 innings and allowed three runs, two hits and four walks in the Marlins' 5-4 loss to the Mets. He was removed in the seventh inning after walking Ruben Tejada to put the tying run on. Bryan Morris then allowed a pinch-hit home run by Chris Young on the first pitch, costing Koehler a possible victory.
"Can't happen," Koehler said of the walk to Tejada, the Mets' No. 8 hitter.
"When I get ahead and throw strikes, I'm tough to hit and tough to score on," he added. "A lot of times that I do give up runs, it's because I put myself and the team in a situation that allows them to capitalize on things. I expect more out of myself. That's why games like today are frustrating."
When Stony Brook coach Matt Senk first saw Koehler pitch, he took immediate notice of the velocity and late life on his fastball. During Koehler's years at Stony Brook, he refined his off-speed pitches and matured both mentally and physically to become a major-league prospect.
Koehler's numbers at Stony Brook -- 17-19 with a 4.88 ERA in four seasons -- weren't overly impressive. But scouts saw something in him.
"What they saw in him was that everything was there as far as his velocity, the explosiveness, the above-average breaking stuff and his makeup," said Senk, who was in attendance at Citi Field. "All the pieces were there."
Koehler, whose fastball reached 95 mph, didn't allow a hit until Travis d'Arnaud led off the fifth inning with a single up the middle. Kirk Nieuwenhuis then doubled to the wall in left and Juan Lagares followed with an RBI grounder to second to trim the Marlins' lead to 2-1. Tejada then tied the score with a squeeze bunt down the first-base line and reached on catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia's error.
Marlins manager Mike Redmond said that in order for Koehler, 28, to get to the next level as a starter and go late into games, he will have to learn to be more aggressive when attacking hitters.
"When you think about overall strides from last year to this year, he's got great stuff and he'll continue to improve," he said. "He competes. He's got all those things that a manager wants to see in a starter."
Koehler will enter the second half of this season with a 6-7 record and a 3.99 ERA. He plans to spend every second of the All-Star break with his wife, Ashley, a former softball player at Stony Brook, and their new daughter.
"It was tough to leave them," he said. "But as soon you get on the plane, it's back to business, back to baseball. Luckily, I'll see them for a couple of days coming up. That's all I want to do. I don't want to be bothered."
There certainly won't be much time for sleep.