A hot shot back to the mound off Jonathan Lucroy’s bat in the fifth inning Friday night produced one of the finest defensive moments of Tom Koehler’s career.
Still in midst of his follow-through, Koehler blindly whipped his glove hand around like a whirling dervish, knocked the ball down and then fired to first base for the out.
But that was about as good as it got for the 27-year-old Marlins right-hander.
On a night the retractable roof was open and the ball was flying out of Marlins Park at a record pace, the Brewers pounded Koehler for seven runs and nine hits over five innings. That was half of the earned runs Koehler allowed in his first nine starts combined, and too much for the Marlins to overcome in a 9-5 loss to Milwaukee.
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“I just didn’t throw enough quality pitches,” said Koehler, who was 3-0 with a 0.64 ERA in his first three home starts before Friday.
“They were aggressive early. They seemed to hit every mistake that was made pretty hard.”
Mark Reynolds hit a pair of towering two-run homers off Koehler to left in the fourth and fifth innings, two of the seven long balls the teams combined to hit in setting a new Marlins Park record for a single game.
The Marlins, who fell to 25-24 but still have the best home record in baseball at 19-7, hit four of those homers. The problem was Giancarlo Stanton’s 13th and 14th home runs of the season, and Garrett Jones’ seventh and eighth, were each hit with no Marlins on base.
Stanton’s first home run rocketed off his bat at 107.8 mph, bounced off the batter’s eye in center field and tied the score at 1 in the bottom of the first.
Jones delivered his first bomb into the upper deck in right field. But by then it was the fifth inning, and the Brewers were already up 7-2.
“He’s had some really good outings and [Friday night] just had a tough time executing his pitches, made a lot of mistakes out over the middle of the plate,” manager Mike Redmond said of Koehler.
Six pitches in, the Central Division-leading Brewers (29-20) had a 1-0 lead.
Jean Segura singled to center, stole second and reached third on catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s errant throw on the steal. He then scored on Scooter Gennett’s fly ball to left. The throwing error was Saltalamacchia’s sixth this season, second-most among catchers in baseball. He had six errors all of last year with the Red Sox.
It hardly mattered in the end.
After Stanton’s first-inning rocket shot, Brewers starter Marco Estrada retired 10 in a row and his teammates built him a cushy six-run lead off Koehler.
Brad Hand pitched the sixth and seventh innings but hardly provided any relief. His second pitch was crushed by Khris Davis, a towering solo home run to left. The Brewers then tacked on another run off the left-hander on a Carlos Gomez RBI double in the seventh, raising Hand’s ERA to 6.38.
Stanton’s leadoff home run in the seventh, which bounced into the concourse level near the Budweiser Bar in left field, did make Marlins history. It was Stanton’s 12th game with multiple home runs, tying him with Hanley Ramirez for the franchise record.
Through 26 games, there have been 48 home runs hit at Marlins Park. Last year, 84 home runs were hit there.
Redmond said he believes when the roof is open the ball does carry more. But …
“Those balls were hit,” Koehler said. “They were out no matter what. Like I said, it was just more of catching too much of the plate, making too many mistakes. That’s why they’re in first place. Good clubs are going to capitalize on that.”