The doors to the Marlins’ clubhouse were closed before batting practice Friday as manager Dan Jennings delivered a pep talk to pump a little fire into the bellies of his beleaguered troops.
Like most everything else with the Marlins these days, the ploy didn’t work. The fire didn’t catch.
Rookie pitcher Justin Nicolino’s second big-league start was nowhere near as crisp as his first, the lineup remained limp, and the Dodgers sent the Marlins to their fifth loss in a row with a 7-1 victory. Even more concerning: Giancarlo Stanton felt soreness in his left wrist and hand while swinging and will have it X-rayed Saturday.
“It wasn’t a good day for us,” Stanton said.
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The Marlins struck out a season-high 16 times. The last 10 outs recorded by the Dodgers were strikeouts, with the ninth of those belonging to Stanton.
“On the swing, my bat dug into my hand a little bit, and it didn’t feel the greatest,” Stanton said. “We’ll just get it checked out and know for sure what’s going on.”
Stanton said he he felt discomfort in the hand in one of his earlier at-bats and it became “worse and worse” as the game continued. Stanton struck out swinging in each of his final three at-bats.
“It’s just pain,” he said. “It’s on my hand, where I grip the bat.”
The Marlins lost for the eighth time in their past nine games to fall 15 games below .500. With every new loss, the Marlins (30-45) inch closer to the point of no return — if they aren’t there already.
At one point on Friday, the scoreboard and televisions inside Marlins Park went dead, which kind of sums it up in a nutshell these days for the host team. It’s not a pretty picture.
Nicolino, who was outstanding last Saturday night in Cincinnati when he made his major-league debut, came nowhere close to delivering an encore that was as stellar.
He lasted just four innings after giving up five runs, including a two-run homer to Scott Van Slyke. Jennings brought in Jarred Cosart, who was making his return from the disabled list, and the results weren’t much better.
“I made more mistakes,” Nicolino said. “You can’t do that up here.”
In what was his first major-league relief appearance, Cosart had difficulty throwing the ball in the strike zone initially, and the Dodgers took advantage of it by scoring a run in the fifth.
It was Cosart’s first outing for the Marlins since May 13, and the rust showed. He walked three (one of them intentionally), uncorked two wild pitches and toiled over the course of his four innings.
“I just felt a little off, and that’s probably expected the first time,” Cosart said.
Not that it would have made much difference given how poorly the Marlins are looking at the plate and on the base paths.
The Marlins manufactured a run in the first following an infield single by Dee Gordon, who stole second and advanced one base at a time on a pair of ground-ball outs. But it was yet another night of futility for the Marlins the few times they managed to put runners in scoring position. They went 0 for 5 in those situations and are now 2 for their past 33 with runners in scoring position.
Then there was the base running. The Marlins sent three men to the plate in the third inning, and two — J.T. Realmuto and Gordon — reached on infield hits. But both were erased by Dodgers starter Brett Anderson on pickoff throws because of their overeagerness.
Against Anderson, the Marlins could do little more than pound the ball into the ground — when they were able to make contact. Anderson struck out 10 in seven innings, during which only three balls left the infield. All five of their hits off Anderson were singles, and three were of the infield variety.
And it doesn’t get any easier for the Marlins the next two days, when they face Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke.