ST. LOUIS -- Marlins pitcher Jacob Turner’s homecoming got off to a rough start.
Lack of offense and a controversial call spoiled chances to make it better.
Friday night was not the way the Marlins hoped to continue what has started as a successful road trip against two of the National League’s top teams.
Pitching at Busch Stadium — located roughly 15-20 minutes away from his hometown of St. Charles, Mo. — for the first time in his career, Turner was tagged by the Cardinals for four runs in the first three innings.
Turner didn’t give up a hit the next three innings, recovering much as he has recently following a dismal spring.
But unlike they did in their previous two games in Atlanta, the Marlins weren’t able to recover and lost 4-1 to the Cardinals in front of 46,177.
“We only had three hits and I’m sure [the double play in the fifth not happening] could have helped, but we didn’t help ourselves out,” Marlins manager Mike Redmond said. “Jacob played a nice game and gave us some nice work.”
Matt Holliday did the most damage early, connecting with doubles to right field in the first and third innings.
St. Louis scored three in the third as Holliday’s latter double got past Giancarlo Stanton, allowing Matt Carpenter to score and put the Cardinals ahead for good. Turner allowed another run on a sacrifice fly ball and on an opposite-field double off the left-field wall by Cardinals first baseman Matt Adams.
The Marlins erased deficits of two or more runs Wednesday and Thursday against the Braves to take two of three games in that series.
But Logan Morrison’s second-inning home run was one of only three hits the Marlins could muster against starter Jake Westbrook and the Cardinals bullpen.
Making things worse for the Marlins was confusion between the umpires on a double play in the fifth inning that shattered one of the Marlins’ best scoring chances.
Turner tried to lay down a bunt with runners on first and second and no outs. The ball dropped in front of home plate, and Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina reached out and tagged Turner quickly. Home-plate umpire Fieldin Culbreth called Turner out. Molina threw to third base. But third baseman David Freese stepped on the bag not knowing the force out on the advancing runner, Adeiny Hechavarria, was negated and threw to first to try to throw Turner out, not knowing he was already out.
Third-base umpire Brian O’Nora signaled Hechavarria was out. Hechavarria then walked to the dugout, thinking he was forced out at third.
Redmond argued that Turner’s bunt was a foul ball to no avail.
“Two things [I thought were wrong], one was that we didn’t get the bunt down,” Redmond said. “Clearly I thought the ball was foul and [Culbreth] called it fair. I think the whole defense thought it was foul. I saw guys out. Everybody was out. I thought it was a triple play. It was definitely confusing. As soon as he called it fair, I took off to argue.”
After the play was discussed, Hechavarria was ruled out for leaving the bag.
“Basically, it was a case of three of four things [including O’Nora’s view being blocked on the play] happening at the same time,’’ Culbreth told The Associated Press. “And it was an unfortunate set of circumstances.”
Culbreth was suspended for two games by Major League Baseball earlier this season when he incorrectly allowed Astros manager Bo Porter to improperly switch relievers in the middle of an inning. The same umpiring crew that officiated Friday night with him did that game and was subsequently fined.
Turner’s first loss broke a string of six solid starts this season since rejoining the team on May 31. Since then, Turner had gone 2-0 with a 1.76 ERA, allowing eight earned runs in 41 innings — something that hadn’t been done by a pitcher 22 years or younger since former Cubs ace Mark Prior in 2003.
“I don’t really know what the correct ruling would have been,” Turner said. “It seemed foul to me. But that was in the heat of the moment. I was confused as to whether to run or not. I looked at it on video and it was hard to tell. If I get the bunt down, we don’t have any problems.”
Turner’s success has been a welcome development following a spring in which he went 0-3 with a 9.69 ERA leading to his demotion to the minors.
Turner didn’t have a clean 1-2-3 inning until the fourth. His lone blemish following the first three innings was a walk to Adams that was quickly erased when he got Freese to ground into a 5-4-3 double play.
“I think they’re the best-hitting team in the league, and they showed that [Friday night],” Turner said. “I made too many mistakes with two strikes, and they capitalized on those mistakes.”
Morrison’s third home run of the season tied the score at 1 when he got a hold of a sinker from Westbrook and drove it an estimated 440 feet to straightaway center field.