April 7, 2013

Calls — from umps and phone — hard to get for Miami Marlins in loss to Mets

Not much went right for Miami, including a controversial ruling by the home plate umpire and a malfunctioning phone in the dugout.

The Marlins couldn’t get a call through from their dugout to their bullpen in Saturday’s sixth inning. Either the phone was off the hook or someone forgot to pay the bill, because it kept giving a busy signal as starting pitcher Ricky Nolasco was “running out of gas.”

Only by turning rookie backup catcher Kyle Skipworth into a messenger and having him sprint from the dugout to the visitor’s bullpen behind the outfield wall at Citi Field were the Marlins able to get word to Ryan Webb to begin warming up.

Maybe it wasn’t worth all the trouble.

Webb gave up three runs in the seventh and the Mets rallied for a 7-3 victory, continuing a shaky early season for the Marlins bullpen. Reliever Chad Qualls also gave up his second home run in two days as the Marlins failed to follow their first victory of the season Friday with an encore win.

“We’ve just got to keep plugging those guys in there, get them comfortable,” Marlins manager Mike Redmond said.

Although the Marlins’ starters have looked good so far, the bullpen, for the most part, has not. Nolasco gave up three runs Saturday in 5 1/3 innings, raising the cumulative ERA for the team’s starters to 2.60. On the flip side, the bullpen’s ERA now sits at 8.10, one of the worst in the majors.

“It’s early in the season and we’re re still working kinks out,” Webb said.

Mets catcher John Buck hurt his former team even worse than its own relievers did, driving in four runs Saturday and taking a crucial fall near the plate when Juan Pierre collided with him on a controversial scoring play in the seventh.

With the Marlins trailing 3-2 and Pierre at second, Greg Dobbs singled to right. The throw from Mets right fielder Mike Baxter was off target, forcing Buck to abandon the plate. But after Pierre crossed the plate with the tying run, he was unable to stop and ran into Buck as Dobbs was beginning to head toward second.

Home plate umpire Jim Joyce immediately ruled that Pierre interfered with Buck, preventing him from making a throw to second on Dobbs. Dobbs was ruled out, as a result, for the final out of the inning.

Redmond argued, but to no avail.

“I wasn’t sure how he was supposed to go 100 percent through home plate and then stop on a dime so he doesn’t run into John Buck,” Redmond said. “I’ve never seen that one before.”

Said Pierre: “It’s one of those things where you’re going full speed to try to score, and I saw him vacate home plate. You’re worried about scoring, I hit home plate and look up, and there he is. The umpire said you’ve got to try to do as much as possible to avoid ’em. You see something new every day and that was the first time I’ve ever seen that. Essentially, they’re getting awarded for making a bad throw. Tough break.”

That’s not to say Justin Ruggiano, who was standing on deck at the time, would have driven in Dobbs or kept the inning alive. But it stopped momentum in its tracks.

Adding injury to insult: Buck’s spikes caught the top of Pierre’s shoe, slicing it open and leaving a bloody gash on the outfielder’s toe.

“It was weird because I wasn’t even expecting to hit him,” Pierre said. “I think he was shocked, too.”

Pierre’s run tied the score, however.

But it didn’t remain that way for long. Webb ran into trouble in the seventh, and catcher Miguel Olivo compounded problems by throwing two balls into center field on stolen-base attempts.

Qualls gave up a home run in the eighth to Collin Cowgill after giving up a three-run blast Friday when the Marlins barely held on for a 7-5 victory after opening a seemingly comfortable 6-0 lead in the seventh.


•  Sunday: Marlins RHP Jose Fernandez (ML debut) at New York Mets LHP Aaron Laffey (4-6, 4.56 in 2012), 1:10 p.m., Citi Field.
•  Monday: Marlins RHP Kevin Slowey (0-1, 1.69) vs. Atlanta Braves LHP Paul Maholm (1-0, 0.00), 7:10 p.m., Marlins Park.
•  Scouting report: Jose Fernandez will be making his major league debut at the age of 20 years and 250 days, making him the youngest pitcher to appear in a game in Marlins history. He is the third-youngest player in Marlins history to make his MLB debut behind Miguel Cabrera (20.64) and Giancarlo Stanton (20.212). … The only player on a major league roster who is younger than Fernandez is Washington’s Bryce Harper (20.173).

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