With two outs in the bottom of the ninth, the Marlins had the man they wanted at the plate. Giancarlo Stanton represented the tying run, and one swing of his bat would do exactly that.
“That’s definitely the situation you want,” said manager Mike Redmond.
But after seeing four consecutive changeups from Tampa Bay Rays reliever Brad Boxberger, Stanton looked at a 93-mph fastball for a called third strike, and the Marlins lost 2-0.
“Didn’t do what I should have,” Stanton said. “Put the ball in play, at least.”
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Stanton was hardly the main culprit in the Marlins’ latest loss, which left them with a 1-4 record out of the chute. The Marlins managed only two hits all day Saturday against Rays starter Chris Archer and two relievers.
Aside from Friday’s walk-off win in 10 innings, they’ve done very little offensively, scoring only three runs total in their four losses, which includes a pair of shutouts.
“It’s not an ideal start,” Stanton said.
A Christian Yelich double in the fourth and Marcell Ozuna single in the eighth represented the sum total of the Marlins’ hitting attack Saturday. They have yet to homer this season.
The anemic offensive showing wasted yet another solid outing by a Marlins starting pitcher. This time it was Jarred Cosart who came up on the short end of a loss in which he pitched exceptionally, save for the sixth inning in which the Rays brought an end to a scoreless pitching battle.
With two outs in the sixth inning, Asdrubal Cabrera tripled past a diving Ozuna in center, and Evan Longoria followed with an RBI double to put the Rays on top. Tim Beckham culminated a 10-pitch at-bat against Mike Dunn in the seventh with his first major-league home run to account for the rest of the scoring.
“Just got beat by a really good pitcher tonight,” Cosart said. “Archer was on his game, and pretty much every run counted.”
Cosart said he “got fastball happy” in the sixth, which ended up costing him.
“I threw a lot of good pitches and made two bad ones,” Cosart said of the Rays’ two extra-base hits in the sixth. “If I could have one pitch back, it’s really the pitch to Longoria. I was pitching him the same all day. He’s an All-Star, and when you start to pitch in a pattern, he notices that. He went out there and put a good swing on it. That was pretty much all she wrote for me.”
What is particularly frustrating to the Marlins in their slow start is that, aside from Mat Latos’ outing on Tuesday, the rest of the rotation has done its job. Combined, the other four starters have given up only six runs in 25 innings (2.16 ERA), and none has a win to show for it.
“We’re still feeling our way through it right now,” Redmond said of the team’s hitting woes. “I was hoping after last night’s walk-off that we’d come out [hot on Saturday]. But we ran up against a good pitcher, and he shut us down.”
With a win Sunday, the Marlins would still end up taking two out of three from the Rays. But not if they continue to produce so little at the plate. The bottom of the order has been one large black hole. The seventh and eighth spots in the order — Adeiny Hechavarria and the two catchers — have gone a combined 2 for 33.
Hechavarria made a spectacular, run-saving catch on a soft liner in the ninth. But he also went 0 for 3 at the plate and is now just 1 for 18 on the season.
He’s far from the only member of the lineup slow to get going.
“We’ve gotten shut down a couple of times on this homestand,” Redmond said. “And we did [Saturday]. We really didn’t get anything going all day.”
Cosart said he’s confident things will turn around.
“There’s no need to push the panic button,” he said. “It’s going to take a little time.”