The Miami Marlins (35-47) took what manager Don Mattingly called a “punch in the gut” loss on Sunday in Atlanta. The entire three-game set seemed sweep-able for the Marlins, but when it counted, the Marlins couldn’t get the big hit Friday, then couldn’t get the big out Sunday.
The Marlins and Braves continue to be one of MLB’s most compelling rivalries of late, considering the heated history of the last few seasons. But this series showed the sheer lack of wiggle room for Miami. The Marlins must play near-perfect to finish off games and series. This team lacks the margin for error that other clubs seem to enjoy.
The Marlins record in one-run games this season now stands at 7-19. The only team with a worst record in one-run games is Arizona (2-20). After splitting two games with Philadelphia, and dropping two-of-three in Atlanta, the Marlins return home to face the Dodgers. If the team is going to make things even remotely interesting ahead of the trade deadline, they’ll need to string some wins together.
Marlins Latest Loss in Atlanta ‘Really Hurts’
This Marlins club constantly seems to be on the verge of rejoining the postseason push, but something always goes sideways for them. On Sunday, Miami couldn’t ask for more from its offense, which has so often let the pitching staff down this season.
After a clutch homer from Adam Duvall tilted momentum in Miami’s favor, the Marlins put up three insurance runs in the ninth. Sandy Leon homered for just the second time this season, then Jesus Aguilar followed with a two-run blast, his 13th this year.
Mattingly summoned Marlins closer Yimi Garcia, hoping to secure the series victory in Atlanta. However, as is often evident in Garcia’s appearances, he didn’t seem to have it from the onset. But considering the bullpen had already accounted for 13 innings in the series, Mattingly’s options were limited.
Garcia failed to hold the lead, then Anthony Bass ultimately took the loss when Braves pitcher Max Fried drove in the game-winning run with a pinch-hit single.
Mattingly opted to intentionally walk backup catcher Kevan Smith, despite his .191 batting average, after a wild play at the plate opened first base. Instead, the Marlins pitched to Fried, who entered 5-for-19 on the season (.263).
“Guys aren’t taking it too well obviously,” said Marlins starter Zach Thompson. “But our bullpen has been outstanding this entire year. So it’s just one of those days that, you know, it just kind of sucks and it really hurts.”
Thompson went six innings, allowing three runs before giving way to the ‘pen. Similarly, Sandy Alcantara’s six-inning effort Saturday helped the bullpen, but the ninth and tenth innings on Sunday seemingly wiped away that group’s success this series.
Prior to Garcia’s meltdown, the bullpen went 13 innings allowing just one unearned run, three hits and three walks.
Marlins Positives Hidden in Series Loss in Atlanta
“Obviously, these are tough losses on your club. For everybody in there, it’s a punch in the gut,” Mattingly admitted after Sunday’s debacle. “You lose the game with a four-run lead, and you’ve been battling all day. This is obviously a tough one to take. There’s no getting it back.”
Pablo Lopez’s ejection from the opener stung, and the absurd explanation from Crew Chief Dan Iassogna did little to ease frustrations. But the Marlins bullpen rallied against Atlanta, despite the difficult situation. Marlins relievers went eight innings without allowing an earned run. They surrendered just two hits and two walks. But Miami’s offense couldn’t get the big hit for what could have been a season-defining win.
And while Sunday’s loss in Atlanta might be the Marlins worst in years, there were a few positives to pull from the series.
Anthony Bender continued the spectacular start to his career. Friday, Bender struck out all six batters he faced. On Sunday, Bender entered in the eighth with a one-run lead. Facing the best bats in the Braves lineup, Bender registered another two strikeouts, securing Miami’s lead.
This stood as Bender’s most high-leverage outing and could signal additional late-inning responsibilities for the rookie.
Garrett Cooper’s return proved a lift the Marlins lineup versus Atlanta. Since his return from injury, Cooper’s posted a .526 batting average (10-for-19) and 1.587 OPS over seven games. The Marlins right fielder helped lift the team to victory over Atlanta with his 2-for-4, two-RBI performance Saturday. His solo homer in the sixth provided the winning margin.
Thompson has also impressed. He’s made five starts and pitched to a 2.25 ERA, stabilizing the backend of Miami’s rotation.
Up Next: vs Los Angeles Dodgers (53-31)
The Marlins series loss in Atlanta pushed them further back in the standings. They return home Monday to start a four-game series against the defending World Series Champs, the LA Dodgers. Los Angeles holds a 17-game lead on the Marlins in that Wild Card race.
If the Marlins are going to make things interesting ahead of the trade deadline, they’ll need to do better than the last time they faced the Dodgers, when LA took two-of-three.
The Dodgers enter having won their last nine games in a row. The defending champs seem to be rounding into form as the summer presses on. Over their last 10, LA sports a .227 batting average, a 1.88 team ERA and have outscored opponents by 25 runs.
Dominant pitching has carried the Dodgers. RHP Walker Buehler (8-1, 2.35 ERA) takes the first turn for LA, opposite the Marlins lone All-Star, LHP Trevor Rogers (7-5, 2.14 ERA).
— Bally Sports Florida: Marlins (@BallyMarlins) July 5, 2021
LA looks to start RHP Tony Gonsolin (1-0, 2.81 ERA), LHP Julio Urias (10-3, 3.81 ERA) and LHP Clayton Kershaw (9-7, 3.39 ERA) for the remainder of the series. The Marlins should counter with Lopez, who threw just one pitch Friday. The rest of the rotation remains up in the air. Alcantara could get the opportunity to rectify his disastrous, pitch-tipping performance in LA.
Marlins fans may also get their first look at the newly acquired RHP David Hess. The Pembroke Pines native sports 5.86 career ERA over two-plus seasons with the Baltimore Orioles. Miami sent minor league RHP Justin Sterner to the Rays in this trade. He could be someone to eat innings for this frayed pitching staff.
After this series, the Marlins will close out their pre-All-Star schedule with a home series against Atlanta.