The Marlins and Braves aren’t going anywhere but down, counting off the days to game No. 162. But stick them on the same field together, and you receive entertainment like you’d never imagine.
On a drizzly night at Turner Field on Thursday, two of three has-beens in the top-heavy National League East played like the outcome somehow mattered in the big picture, turning in a back-and-forth affair that ended in a 9-8 win for the Braves.
Despite mounting an eighth-inning comeback in which they tied the score after trailing by three runs, the Marlins succumbed when the Braves came up with the go-ahead run on Eury Perez’s two-out single in their half of the inning.
And so now the Marlins have lost 15 of their 20 games since the All-Star break, the losses piling up almost as fast as they can be counted.
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“Tough game to lose because you score eight runs,” said manager Dan Jennings. “Usually when you see eight runs, 13 hits, you feel very good about your chances.”
It all started on a bright note for the Marlins, who scored twice in the first.
But their lead quickly evaporated.
Marlins starter Jose Urena was hit — and hit hard — by the Braves.
And not just in the conventional sense of ripping red-hot doubles, singles and that sort of thing, which there were plenty enough of to give him a migraine, at the very least.
But also in the manner of hitting him where it stung.
Urena took a line shot off the side of his left knee, causing him to writhe in pain. He continued to pitch, but said he had to alter his delivery due to the pain.
Urena lasted all of two innings, quickly giving back the two runs his teammates had scored for him in the first and then allowing three more in a rough second inning in which he took a hard shot to his leg.
Urena didn’t return to see the third.
That’s how it’s going for the Marlins, who have gone 5-15 since the All-Star break and are clinging to a one-game lead over last-place Philadelphia. The loser of that little mini-war will receive the No. 1 overall draft pick next year as a booby prize.
Based on each team’s overall play thus far, it’s anyone’s battle to win.
The Marlins were hoping Urena, one of their top pitching prospects, would help fill the void left by traded pitchers Mat Latos and Dan Haren without much of a drop-off.
So far, though, drop-off is an understatement.
In his two starts since the July 31 trade deadline, Urena has given up nine earned runs in seven innings, allowing 14 hits in the process. He gave up so many runs Thursday that it was more than the Marlins could equal, even though they tried.
Down 5-2, they battled back to tie the score with two runs int he third and one more in the fifth. But Adam Conley, who took over Urena, gave up three runs in the fifth, two on Adonis Garcia’s home run.
The Marlins were trailing 8-5 in the eighth when again they rallied for three runs, two coming on Dee Gordon’s single and the other on Christian Yelich’s ground ball out.
But the good cheer didn’t last long.
With Bryan Morris on the mound for the Marlins, Daniel Castro reached on an infield hit and advanced to second on the pitcher’s throwing error.
Two outs later, Perez dropped a line single in front of diving left-fielder Derek Dietrich, and the Braves made that lead stick.
“I made a pretty good pitch down and away with a slider,” Morris said. “And he got enough of the bat on it to get it out to the outfield, but not enough barrel to get it out there for Dietrich to catch it.”