The Marlins got another stellar effort from a starting pitcher Tuesday night — enough to keep them in the game yet again against the first-place Atlanta Braves.
And yet again, it just wasn’t enough.
A night after Kevin Slowey tossed seven innings of two-run ball against Atlanta, left-hander Wade LeBlanc dialed up six innings of two-run ball himself. But a lack of clutch hitting rendered it meaningless as the Braves held the Marlins to four hits and emerged with a 3-2 victory in front of an announced crowd of 14,222 at Marlins Park — more than 20,000 fewer than Monday for the home opener.
“The longer this thing goes like this, guys are getting frustrated,” said manager Mike Redmond, whose team has been held to six combined hits since returning home from a 1-5 road trip.
“They’re getting tired of getting out. They’re getting tired of losing ball games. They’ve just got to keep at it. We’re going to hit. Don’t panic. We just need that one big hit from one of these guys. Any of them, and get this thing turned around, and get that good feeling back.”
The punchless Marlins (1-7) are off to their worst start since they began 1-11 in 1998. That team, which finished 54-108 overall, scored 39 runs through its first eight games. These Marlins have scored 16 runs.
Tuesday it was Kris Medlen, who owns baseball’s lowest ERA since the All-Star Break last season (9-1, 1.08 ERA entering Tuesday’s game), who kept them in check with his sinker. Medlen, who failed to give up a run to the Marlins in a dozen innings here in South Florida last season, spun seven innings and got a two-run home run by rookie catcher Evan Gattis in the first inning to help guide the Braves (7-1) to victory.
Atlanta, which tacked on an important insurance run in the eighth on Justin Upton’s RBI double to make it 3-1, gave up a manufactured run to the Marlins in the eighth when Placido Polanco, who had two of the Marlins’ hits, stroked a two-out RBI single to right off reliever Eric O’Flaherty.
But there would be no comeback in the ninth. Craig Kimbrel shut the door, picking up his fourth save of the season and second in as many nights. After giving up a leadoff walk to Donovan Solano, catcher Rob Brantly attempted to lay down a bunt. But the ball was lined directly into the glove of third baseman and defensive replacement Ramiro Pena, who doubled up Solano at first.
“That’s just kind of the way it’s going,” Redmond said. “It seems like we try to get the bunt down, we try to avoid the double play and end up bunting into the double play.”
Entering Tuesday’s game the Marlins had registered the fourth-lowest ERA among all teams (2.50).
“The goal of the starting pitcher is to give the team a chance to win,” LeBlanc said. “Unfortunately, you run into a guy like Medlen, and you got to keep the game closer than that especially in the first inning. It’s similar to [my] last start in D.C. Got to get back at it and figure out how to put up zeroes in the first.”
The Marlins, shut out in their home opener and for the third time this season on Monday, capitalized on some shaky Atlanta defense in the second inning to score a run.
Braves center fielder B.J. Upton was charged with his first error of the season when he failed to reel in a long fly ball in the gap in left-center field off the bat of Greg Dobbs to open the frame. With Dobbs on second, the next hitter Solano sent a slow grounder toward third that was fielded cleanly by a charging Juan Francisco. But Francisco’s throw to first pulled Chris Johnson off the bag on a bang-bang play. Solano was credited with an infield single.
The Marlins scored moments later when Brantly lined out to left, plating Dobbs on a sacrifice fly.