A ball became rooted in the webbing of pitcher Mat Latos’ glove.
Another became entombed in the pocket of catcher J.T. Realmuto’s mitt.
“Plays like that,” Realmuto said of two game-changing moments in the slumping Marlins’ seventh consecutive loss, “are kind of what our problem is right now.”
As players sat silent and stone-faced in the clubhouse following a 7-6 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks on Thursday, the only sound came from a reporter’s cellphone ringtone, the song We Are The Champions.
At the moment, they are far from that.
The last-place Marlins (16-26) sank to 10 games below .500 with a fourth consecutive loss under new manager Dan Jennings, whose task when he inherited the job was to instill a spark in the floundering team.
It hasn’t happened.
Although their bats finally showed some life Thursday, the pitching didn’t hold up its end. The Diamondbacks chased Mat Latos with four runs in the sixth, and the bullpen budged just enough for Arizona to prevail and capture a sweep of the four-game series.
“Pitched great and then pitched like [garbage] in the sixth,” Latos said. “I mean, let’s just go straight to it, why not? All hell broke loose. The story of my life so far.”
For the first time in six days, the Marlins actually snatched a lead when they scored three runs in the first.
But it didn’t last after the ball became tough to grasp.
After the Diamondbacks put two aboard in the sixth, Latos came off the mound to field a bunt by Chris Owings. But when he reached into his glove to pull the ball out, it refused to give.
“I don’t know what the hell happened,” Latos said. “It just got stuck, like it was glued in my glove. I couldn’t get it out.”
Everyone was safe, filling the bases, and the Diamondbacks took advantage by coming up with four runs to claim a 6-4 lead.
“I’ve got to pick up the slack,” said Latos, who was expected to be one of the mainstays of the rotation but now finds himself with a record of 1-4 and an ERA of 6.12. “I’ve got to do something. This is getting tiring.”
But the sticky-ball issues for the Marlins didn’t end there.
After scoring two runs in the bottom of the sixth to tie it, another bunted ball became lost in the mitt of Realmuto in the eighth, and it proved costly.
With a runner on first for the Diamondbacks, Realmuto fielded Cliff Pennington’s bunt cleanly. But when he reached inside his mitt to pluck it out, it refused to leave.
“My pocket’s getting a little deep; it was stiff before,” Realmuto said. “I fielded the ball, wanted to go to second with it, saw I wasn’t going to get him out, went back in to get the ball, and it just got stuck in there and didn’t get it out in time.”
Again, everyone was safe. The Diamondbacks would end up loading the bases with no outs on an infield hit by Aaron Hill. But Giancarlo Stanton almost bailed reliever Sam Dyson out of the jam when, after making a catch on a fly ball to right, he fired home to nail the tagging runner.
Alas, Dyson and the Marlins couldn’t get the final out to escape any damage. A.J. Pollock beat out an infield hit to score the go-ahead run from third, and there was no more comeback life in the Marlins.
“It’s like a snowball,” Jennings said of the losing streak. “We have to stop that. A couple of plays there we had, where we got balls stuck in gloves, couldn’t get the ball out, ended up costing us each time.”
It’s the way it’s going for the Marlins.
Asked to describe the mood of the players, Latos was quick to reply sarcastically: “We’re happy as can be.”
7: Overall losing streak
8: Home losing streak
1-9: Record in past 10 games
0-4: Record under new manager Dan Jennings
10: Games under .500
3 for 25: Dee Gordon over his past six games, dropping his average from .433 to .386.