Pitching wasn’t the problem for the Marlins on Wednesday night against the Braves.
It was hitting. Again.
A night after being shut out by 36-year old veteran Tim Hudson, the Marlins produced just two hits and one run in six-plus innings off 22-year-old starter Randall Delgado before the Braves bullpen closed the door 2-1 in front of 22,619 at Marlins Park.
“With all my respect to all the people we’ve faced in the past, I thought this kid [Delgado] threw the best of anyone we’ve seen so far,’’ Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen said. “It’s not the best pitcher we’ve seen, but it was the best stuff we’ve seen.
“I think the good thing out of this was I love the way [Josh Johnson] threw the ball. That’s the first time I’ve seen him throw the ball like that in two, three months. He raised his pitching. We lost the game, but he did what he was supposed to do. He kept us in the game.”
The closest the Marlins got to pulling off their 22nd come-from-behind win this season came with one out in the eighth when John Buck drove a 3-1 pitch from reliever Eric O’Flaherty to the edge of the warning track in right field, a ball Jason Heyward easily reeled in for an out.
The back-to-back losses to Atlanta (31-25) clinched the first series loss for the Marlins (31-25) since they dropped three of four to the Diamondbacks at home in their final series in April.
Wasted in the defeat: arguably the best effort of the season from Johnson. He pitched a season-long 7 2/3 innings, threw a season-high 113 pitches (70 for strikes) and struck out nine to match a season high while walking three and scattering six hits.
“Good step in the right direction," said Johnson, who fell to 3-4 with the loss.
“It was being able to repeat my delivery. [Before] I got there, threw hard and didn’t know where it was going. Now, I’m getting to the point where I make that same delivery every time and I know where the ball is going.’’
Delgado a non-drafted free agent out of Panama making his first career start against the Marlins, hit mid-90s on the radar gun and struck out a career-high seven in 6 1/3 innings.
The Marlins didn’t get their first hit off Delgado until Giancarlo Stanton led off the fifth with a double down the third-base line. Bryan Petersen then ended the Marlins’ run of 152/3 consecutive scoreless innings when he slapped a 3-2 pitch from Delgado into left, scoring Stanton from third.
Jose Reyes’ 15-game hitting streak — which entering Wednesday was the longest active streak in the majors — ended when he struck out in the ninth.
Craig Kimbrel then picked up his NL-leading 17th save by retiring Omar Infante on a groundout to short and Hanley Ramirez on a groundout to second moments later.
The Braves scored both of their runs in the fourth, an inning that featured an unusual runner’s interference call.
After Brian McCann led the off inning with a double to right and Dan Uggla walked, Freddie Freeman drove McCann home with a single to right. With runners on the corners, Heyward sent a bouncer to Omar Infante at second that eventually was ruled a double play when Jose Reyes’ throw to first smacked Freeman, who was sliding into second, on his left hand. Freeman left the game with a bruised left index finger.
The runner’s interference call forced Uggla to return to third base and kept the score 1-0. But the Braves quickly put that run back on the board when Delgado stroked a single through the open left side of the Marlins infield — one vacated because Reyes had gone to cover second base after Andrelton Simmons took off for second on the pitch.
Since scoring three runs in the seventh inning on Sunday in Philadelphia, the Marlins have produced just one run and have gone 9 for 68 at the plate (.132) over their past 20 innings.
The Marlins haven’t lost three games in row since ending a six-game losing streak on April 28.