Andrew Heaney was in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where he complained on his Twitter feed that the hotel where he was staying didn’t offer free Internet. This was about the time Randy Wolf was preparing to throw his first pitch at Marlins Park, and it is possible Heaney was hoping to catch a bit of the action.
And if he was successful, it probably didn’t take long for Heaney to conclude that his time is near, that one day soon the Marlins will summon their top pitching prospect from the minors and insert him into their rotation.
It’s hard to imagine the front office can weather many more outings like the one Wolf turned in Saturday — or the one Jacob Turner delivered in Texas three days earlier — before deciding it’s time to pick up the phone and call down for help, and for Heaney in particular.
For the third time in his four starts with the Marlins, Wolf was knocked around in an 8-6 loss to Pittsburgh that wasn’t really that close. The Marlins came up with four runs in the ninth, just as they did Friday. By then, though, it was too little, too late.
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The 37-year-old veteran called his performance, one in which he gave up five runs on nine hits in only four innings, “embarrassingly bad.”
Manager Mike Redmond wasn’t quite as pointed. But Redmond said the Marlins can’t afford many more outings from their starters like Saturday’s, and like others similar to it over the past week.
“We needed a deep start there, and we just didn’t get it,” Redmond said. “We’re not going to survive out there with four or five innings out of our pitchers. Our bullpen can’t sustain five or six innings every single night. Nor can our morale.”
Wolf fed the Pirates a steady diet of off-speed pitches, and Andrew McCutchen deposited one of them, a 69 mile-per-hour curve, into The Clevelander club for a three-run home run in the fourth. That put the Marlins in a 5-0 hole, and they never recovered.
The Marlins signed Wolf within days after Jose Fernandez underwent season-ending Tommy John surgery, hoping he could help fill the void. But so far, it hasn’t worked. In his four starts, Wolf has gone 1-3 while giving up 16 earned runs in 25 innings for a 5.76 ERA.
In addition to McCutchen, the National League’s reigning Most Valuable Player, Jordy Mercer also homered off Wolf.
“When you’re not able to command your pitches, there’s no way it’s going to be good,” Wolf said. “It’s really frustrating to physically feel good and just not execute out there. It’s embarrassing when you go out there and you don’t have the command that you should.”
Matters didn’t improve any for the Marlins after Wolf came out, as the Pirates tore into Kevin Slowey for three more runs in the fifth, all but putting the game out of reach.
For the second day in a row, the Marlins scored four runs in the ninth. But, unlike Friday when the four runs sent the game into extra innings, Saturday’s late-inning outburst left them short in the end.
With Wolf and Turner struggling, many are wondering when the Marlins will bring up Heaney. The lefty was scratched from his start for the New Orleans Zephyrs, and it was announced he would pitch next on Thursday. The Marlins are trying to space out Heaney’s starts in order to limit his innings and keep him available for September.
Thursday is also when Wolf would be scheduled to pitch again.
Up until the ninth, it was a largely unproductive day at the plate for the Marlins, who managed to put runners aboard early against Pirates starter Charlie Morton but failed to capitalize.
Double plays wiped out scoring opportunities in the first and second innings. The Marlins scored twice in the fourth on a Marcell Ozuna RBI triple and a J.T. Realmuto groundball out.
In the ninth, Ozuna and Jeff Baker each hit two-run homers to narrow the gap. But it wasn’t enough.
Wolf wasn’t entirely at fault for Saturday’s messy loss. Rafael Furcal failed to cover first on Morton’s would-be sacrifice bunt in the second, and the pitcher reached to load the bases. Gregory Polanco drove in a run with a fielder’s-choice grounder, one of his two RBI on Saturday.