The Atlanta Braves.
Even when they’re bad, they’re good.
Or so it must appear to the Marlins, who can’t seem to beat the Braves whether they’re reeling off 14 consecutive division titles or in a major rebuild, which is presently the case.
Atlanta invaded Miami in sole possession of last place.
Now the Braves have company.
The rapidly sinking Marlins joined them in a virtual tie at the bottom of the National League East heap after an 8-4 loss on Friday night at Marlins Park. The Marlins have now dropped 13 of their past 16 games.
Marlins manager Don Mattingly is trying to remain upbeat through these hard times.
“I’m not going to sit here and be discouraged about this club,” Mattingly said. “I still like this club. This is a tough time. It’s going to test us. Are we going to be tough or are we going cave in to it? It’s a real easy time to cave in and just say things are going to be bad. That’s not the way for us to approach it if we’re ever going to go anywhere.”
It was another eyesore of a performance for the Marlins (13-21), especially in one mess of a seventh inning in which the bullpen allowed a 2-1 deficit to erupt into an 8-1 canyon.
The Braves (12-20), who sent 11 men to the plate in the seventh, managed to score six runs on only three hits, all singles. That’s because three batters reached on walks (one of them intentionally), another was hit by a pitch and another reached on a fielding error by Derek Dietrich.
Brad Ziegler started the inning by hitting Tyler Flowers with a pitch.
Then Ziegler, a sinker-ball pitcher who induces ground balls, was burned by a couple of seeing-eye grounders that got through the infield for hits.
“Obviously, hitting Flowers wasn’t the way that I want to start the inning,” Ziegler said. “But the two ground balls I got after that, they feel like double plays when they’re going past me. They’re not super hard hit. Then I turn around and it’s like, ‘Oh.’ It’s just a new level of frustration that I haven’t felt in a long time.”
After Ziegler was taken out and Kyle Barraclough took over, matters didn’t improve.
Barraclough walked the first batter he faced to load the bases. One out later, he forced a run in with a balk. Third baseman Dietrich then added fuel to the fire when he booted a ground ball for an error.
Justin Bour, J.T. Realmuto and Dietrich each homered for the Marlins. And starter Jose Urena, though not nearly as sharp on Friday in his second start as he was in his first in New York on Sunday, managed to avoid serious damage and keep the Marlins in the game.
Otherwise, it was baseball as usual for the slumping Marlins.
The Braves hit town on a six-game losing streak and had lost 14 of their previous 19 games. But once again they got well at the expense of the Marlins. No surprise.
Last year, the Braves pulled up the rear in the NL East but still went 11-7 in their season series against the Marlins. They’ve come out on top in two of the first three meetings this season.
All-time, the Braves have gone 231-167 against the Marlins.
Mattingly said if it’s not one thing it’s another, that there’s not one single explanation for why the Marlins have gone into a tailspin.
One night it’s starting pitching.
The next it might be the lineup.
Of late, the bullpen has struggled.
“There’s been a number of areas that haven’t worked at one time,” Mattingly said. “So we haven’t been able to get it all clicking.”