After completing the eighth inning, Nathan Eovaldi still felt strong — so strong, he said, that he felt like he could have returned to the mound for the ninth.
“I was feeling good,” said Eovaldi, who had thrown 98 pitches.
But with the score tied 2-2, manager Mike Redmond decided to bring in his best reliever, Steve Cishek, to face the Braves. The move backfired. Cishek gave up a two-run homer to Evan Gattis, giving Atlanta a 4-2 victory and a series sweep.
“It’s always a tough decision when it doesn’t work,” Redmond said afterward. “It’s easy sitting there after the fact, saying, ‘Man, I should have let [Eovaldi] go out there and pitch.”
Never miss a local story.
It was that kind of series for the Marlins. Nothing went right.
“We didn’t play our best,” Redmond acknowledged. “We didn’t play great defense. We didn’t run the bases well. There are a lot of areas where we need to get better. We have some work to do. Believe me, it’s a sour taste in all of our mouths.”
The Marlins were tied with the Braves in first place at the start of the series. Now, just like that, they’re three games behind Atlanta in the National League East. And exactly one month after the Marlins swept the Braves in their home park, the Braves returned the favor.
“We really needed to get this one [Sunday], try to limit the damage,” Eovaldi said.
The Marlins jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the second on Marcell Ozuna’s 10th home run. But the Braves struck back in the top of the third with two runs to tie it.
After Jason Heyward drove in the first of the runs with an RBI single, the second scored on a botched double play by second baseman Derek Dietrich, who continues to struggle in the field.
Dietrich, whose seven errors are tied for most in the majors among second basemen with the Braves’ Dan Uggla, was spared two more errors on Sunday.
The first came when he made a poor, one-hop throw to first after fielding a ground ball. Garrett Jones saved him by stretching to his right and making the pick.
And he wasn’t charged with an error on the muffed double play ball in the third, one in which he again bounced a throw to first that Jones couldn’t come up with.
Redmond is clearly frustrated with Dietrich’s defensive play.
“We’ve got to make that play,” Redmond said. “Instead of a 2-1 game, it’s 2-2. It’s definitely a big concern. It’s something we’ve got to improve. If it comes to playing guys that can play defense, and pick up the ball and throw it, then that’s what we’ll have to do.”
The score remained tied until the ninth. Eovaldi was sharp, and the Marlins hitters didn’t have any success with Braves starter Aaron Harang.
“I felt this was the best I’ve located my fastball, probably all season,” Eovaldi said.
“I felt like my slider was pretty consistent as well. I was able to attack the batters [Sunday].”
Because he said his bullpen was “beat up” from recent use, Redmond said he didn’t pinch-hit for Eovaldi with one out in the seventh. He needed him to give him eight innings, if possible.
“If I felt like we had a couple of fresh arms to cover those innings, that would have been the right situation [to pinch-hit],” Redmond said. “But, right now, in that situation, Eovaldi is our best guy to pitch the eighth.”
Eovaldi said he felt like he could have pitched the ninth, too.
“I understand the situation, though,” he said.
Said Redmond: “He did his job. He gave us eight innings. And then we had Cishek in there — our best guy, our freshest guy — in for the ninth, and it didn’t work.”
Cishek gave up a leadoff single to Freddie Freeman before Gattis blasted a 2-0 fastball into the base of the home run sculpture in center.
“I just fell behind,” Cishek said “[Gattis is] a dead-red fastball hitter. I was just trying to stick one down and away, and it came back over [the plate].”
Gattis did the rest.