Sometimes, a big defensive play can jump-start a struggling team.
Sometimes, even a timely bunt can do the trick.
The Marlins got both from Justin Ruggiano on Saturday. Unfortunately, nothing he did, nor the seven solid innings of two-hit ball Josh Johnson tossed were enough to stop the Fish from continuing their nosedive in June.
A six-run ninth inning by Toronto offset all the good Ruggiano and Johnson provided, as the Blue Jays sent the Marlins tumbling to their sixth loss in a row — and the 15th in their past 17 games — with a 7-1 defeat in front of 24,448 at Marlins Park.
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“Did you see the two ladies sleeping upstairs? That’s the freaking way I feel,” an angry and frustrated Ozzie Guillen said afterward, referring to the video that was shown of two women passed out in the bleachers during the ninth inning.
“I don’t blame them a bit. Sometimes you second-guess talent, you second-guess managing, coaching staffs. You can second-guess everything you want. I second-guess myself. But I think right now we should be embarrassed. I think we play tight. I think we’re waiting for something bad to happen, and this game is about making things happen, not waiting for the bad things to happen. Every move we make, everything we execute on the field is a bad move.”
The Marlins, who were tied for first place in the National League East on June 3, had a players-only meeting after Saturday’s loss. Guillen said he let them meet by themselves because he didn’t want to say something he would regret.
The Marlins have had quite a few meetings lately. Owner Jeffrey Loria spoke to the team last week in Boston after a 15-5 loss. Guillen said he also called for a team meeting last week. On Friday, he spent an extra hour with the slumping Hanley Ramirez before a 12-5 loss to Toronto, trying to work on his swing.
“I look like [President] Obama, having a meeting every freaking day,” Guillen quipped. “I’m not that type of manager. They’ve never even see how I can get. That’s why I’ve tried to be patient, talking very normal here, but what I see is terrible. What I see is pathetic, including myself. I take the blame. I do take the blame, but in the meanwhile I have to see something different. There are a few people here that feel a little bit too comfortable, and that’s going to change. I’m getting paid to win games, and I’m not doing my job right now.
“I always believe in this quote; I don’t know who said it: ‘Bad teams have meetings, winning teams kick ass.’ ”
Through the first eight innings Saturday, the Marlins, who led the majors with 21 wins in May, appeared as though they might actually avoid another heartbreaking loss.
After giving up a run in the second on a pair of walks and a pair of sacrifice bunts to fall behind 1-0, Johnson kept the Marlins in it by surrendering just two hits, striking out seven and getting a few big catches in the outfield — including a couple from Logan Morrison and Giancarlo Stanton.
But it was Ruggiano who made the biggest catch. He saved two runs in the fifth when he ran straight back and made a leaping, circus grab in center field to rob Brett Lawrie of what surely would have been a double or triple.
Ruggiano then led off the seventh with a bunt single and came around to score the tying run on Omar Infante’s RBI double down the left-field line. But, as usual, the struggling Marlins, who have scored an NL-worst 56 runs this month, couldn’t deliver any more clutch hits.
After Morrison left the bases loaded in the third, Brett Hayes and pinch-hitter Greg Dobbs left Infante stranded at third with one out in the seventh when they each struck out against reliever Jason Frasor.
“I felt like we were in it, we were ready to win — and it just didn’t work out,” said Ruggiano, who had two of the Marlins’ five hits Saturday.
“It was disappointing, especially with JJ pitching the way he did. He deserved to win there. And I know all of us on the field wanted to give it to him.”
Instead, Edwin Encarnacion started the ninth with a 370-foot solo home run to left field off reliever Steve Cishek. The Blue Jays scored another run on a bunt that Cishek mishandled before Colby Rasmus delivered the dagger — a grand slam off Edward Mujica that bounced off the upper deck in right.
“Right now, we look like we’re dead,” said Jose Reyes, who finished 0 for 3 with a walk. “We ain’t got no energy. It’s embarrassing the way we’re playing right now.”
Said Johnson: “It just seems like we find different ways to lose. That’s pretty much what it boils down to. We have to go home mad tonight and be ready [Sunday] to play. We have to forget about everything, the past month, the whole season, and start fresh.”