Odds are that sooner or later Ricky Nolasco is going to get some run support.
But right now he and the Marlins are in a state of frustration.
Despite taking a one-hitter into the sixth inning and delivering his fourth quality start this month, Nolasco couldn't put an end to the Marlins' woes Thursday night as the Tampa Bay Rays extended Miami's losing streak to nine games -- tied for the third-longest in franchise history -- with a 5-2 win in front of an announced crowd of 23,199 at Marlins Park.
"It’s really coming down to the fact where guys have to get tired of getting beat,” said manager Mike Redmond.
“The effort is there. Guys are playing hard. They’re grinding. But at the end of the day, you got to get tired of taking that right-hand turn running down the baseline and figure out a way for somebody to step up whether it’s a pitcher or a position player and get a big hit or get somebody out. I’m sitting there watching the same thing night after night after night. I know the effort is there, I know guys are trying. But at the end of the day, we have to get the job done and somebody’s got to step up.”
Nolasco, who was coming off back-to-back starts in which he gave up just one earned run and pitched into the eighth, ended up going 6 2/3 innings and giving up just four hits.
But a couple costly walks and a two-run home run by Matt Joyce in the sixth followed by a solo shot from James Loney in the seventh proved to be the difference as the Rays (29-24) completed a four-game season sweep and upended the Marlins (13-41) for the 13th time in their last 14 meetings in the interstate Citrus Series.
Nolasco, who normally meets with reporters in the clubhouse after he pitches, raced out of the Marlins’ clubhouse before Redmond had even started talking to the media.
“I’m sure he’s frustrated. Everybody is frustrated. Nobody likes losing games,” Redmond said. “It all stems from guys trying to pitch perfect. He knows he can’t get down by too many runs because we just haven’t been able to pick him up and get the offense. You try to be perfect and you end up walking a guy then making a mistake.”
Rays rookie right-hander Alex Colome earned the win in his big-league debut, scattering five hits over 5 2/3 innings while walking two and striking out seven.
It was a long, 26-pitch first inning for Colome, but the Marlins couldn’t capitalize. After Chris Coghlan struckout looking to open the frame, the Marlins loaded the bases when Placido Polanco and Derek Dietrich walked and rookie Marcell Ozuna singled to center, extending his major-league leading hitting streak to 15 games and matching the Marlins' second longest hit streak by a rookie (Chuck Carr, 1993).
But as usual, the worst offensive team in baseball couldn't take advantage. Justin Ruggiano struckout swinging and Greg Dobbs grounded out to second to end the threat. The only reason the Marlins scored was because the ball Ruggiano swung and missed at in the dirt got away from catcher Jose Molina, allowing Polanco to race home from third on a passed ball.
The Marlins had a chance to add to their lead in the fifth after Nolasco doubled to right and Coghlan extended his own personal hitting streak to six games with an infield single with one out. But Colome quickly worked out of that mess by getting Polanco to bounce into an inning-ending 5-4-3 double play.
“That saved my life,” said Colome, who in Rays’ tradition was soaked in a cold water and beer bath after his win. “That play was very important.”
The next inning the Rays took the lead when Nolasco walked Zobrist on four pitches and Joyce followed by drilling a 1-0 fastball 381-feet over the wall in right field on a line drive. Nolasco finished with a season-high four walks and suffered his fourth loss this month, falling to 3-6 on the season.
The Marlins put runners on second in the sixth and seventh and loaded the bases with two outs in the eighth thanks to an error on a bad hop by Loney at first. But Miami was only able to scratch across one run when pinch-hitter Miguel Olivo drew a walk on reliever Josh Leuke. The inning ended when Rob Brantly struckout swinging moments later.
“We just have to keep working hard, keep our head up,” Olivo said. “We need to get batter for June or July and keep fighting.”
Ed Lucas, who spent 10 years in the minors, made his major league debut as a defensive replacement for Olivo in the ninth and retired Kelly Johnson on a groundout. He then grounded out to first in the ninth.
The Rays tacked on two big insurance runs that inning on a two-run Zobrist double down the right field line off Mike Dunn.
Despite his shoddy 1-4 record in May, Nolasco only gave up 16 earned runs over 40 1/3 innings month for a 3.57 ERA (10 of those earned runs came in two games against the Phillies and Reds).
The problem for Nolasco was the Marlins scored only six combined runs in his six May starts. He came into Thursday's game with the second-worst run support in the National League at 2.27 runs a game. The only pitcher who has received less support is the Brewers' Kyle Lohse (2.11).
With a loss Friday night against the visiting Mets, the Marlins will match their worst month in franchise history with only five wins and tie the second longest losing-streak in club history set back in 1999. The franchise record for most losses in a row is 11.
The loudest cheers of the night at Marlins Park Thursday happened midway through the bottom of the sixth inning. With Dobbs was up with a runner on second and two outs, the first half highlights from Game 5 of the Heat-Pacers' Eastern Conference Finals were flashed on the Jumbotron screen as reliever Jake McGee was warming up. When play resumed, the Heat game was pulled down from the big screen and the crowd booed for a few moments.