The Marlins had Jose Fernandez on the mound.
And they had Christian Yelich record his first major-league home run while continuing his prolific hitting.
Yet they still couldn’t break out of their latest skid.
On Thursday, the Marlins let a third consecutive multiple-run lead slip away against the Pirates and watched the National League’s best team earn another walk-off win, 5-4 in 10 innings at PNC Park.
Catcher Russell Martin pinch-hit in the bottom of the 10th with runners on first and second and two outs. He lined a ball down the third-base line and into left field off reliever Steve Ames to hand the Marlins (43-70) their fifth consecutive loss in front of a crowd of 33,646.
“I wish I could say something different than what I’ve said a lot over the past four months,” Marlins manager Mike Redmond said. “We just didn’t get the big hit. But I know these guys are battling and the effort is there. We’re playing good teams. Next is Atlanta, a hot team and then Kansas City, another hot team. We have to turn the page and keep fighting.”
The game, which lasted 3 hours 45 minutes, was anticipated for its starting-pitching rematch of Fernandez and Gerrit Cole, two of baseball’s top young pitchers.
But neither pitcher factored in the decision nor had anywhere near strong performances.
Fernandez lasted only five innings — his shortest outing since June 25 against the Twins. He threw 101 pitches and struck out five, walking four. Fernandez, the National League’s Pitcher of the Month in July, had 13 or more strikeouts in each of his past two starts (one of which came against the Pirates) and had lasted at least seven innings in his past three starts. He entered the game with a major-league best 1.67 ERA since June 1.
Fernandez had a blister on the tip his right middle finger but said after the game he had it since before the start and that it did not affect his performance.
“It was a tough one [Thursday], no doubt,” Fernandez said. “I know I’m not going to be perfect every time, even though I try to be. I don’t think I was good at all [Thursday]. It hurts as a team.”
The Marlins tagged Cole for two runs in the first inning and later added two more in the fifth when Yelich, who went 3 for 4 with a walk, went opposite field with a two-run home run.
“It felt good to get that first one,” said Yelich, who was able to obtain his home run ball. “I had been waiting for it to come, but you can’t force it. It would have felt better if we could have come up with that win.”
Yelich walked to lead off the game and scored on Giancarlo Stanton’s bloop double two batters later.
“[Yelich] continues to go out and get comfortable,” Redmond said. “We haven’t seen the best of him yet, and that’s good. When you see a guy that is still getting comfortable and is contributing, that’s a good sign. Every time he’s up there, I feel like he has a chance to do something.”
Fernandez gave up two runs in the fifth on a walk and three singles. A good throw from right field by Stanton was on target to Jeff Mathis, who blocked the plate to get Neil Walker out and prevent a third run in the inning.
“I was nervous really from the second inning on because I knew [Fernandez] didn’t have his great stuff,” Redmond said. “He had to throw a lot of pitches to finish guys, and they did a good job battling him.”
But the Pirates chipped away against the Marlins bullpen, tying the score in the seventh after Chad Qualls loaded the bases to open the frame. Walker cut the lead to 4-3 with a sacrifice fly off Mike Dunn, and Pedro Alvarez drew a walk.
Former Marlins first baseman Gaby Sanchez then tied it at 4 with a pinch-hit sacrifice fly to right off Ryan Webb, who replaced Dunn.
The Marlins fell to 4-11 in extra-inning games this season and lost despite scoring more than three runs in a game for the first time during the losing streak. The Marlins have scored more than three runs only twice in their past nine games.
“I still felt good even with a 4-2 lead because our bullpen has been so good,” Redmond said. “We tried everything to keep it a one-run or two-run game. We needed some big outs, but we didn’t get them.”