They won in April. They won in May. They won in June. They won in July. The Marlins had a winning record for four months straight to start the season.
But August isn’t going so hot for them.
With Wednesday night’s 3-2 loss to the last-place Reds, the Marlins fell to 5-10 in the month and settled into fourth place in the wild-card race.
A calculated decision by manager Don Mattingly to put the go-ahead run aboard by intentionally walking Joey Votto in the seventh ended up backfiring, as Brandon Phillips made him pay with a two-out, two-run double that turned a 2-1 deficit into a 3-2 Reds lead.
“Joey’s been on fire since the [All-Star] break, and we’ve got [right-hander Nick Wittgren] in there,” Mattingly explained. “It was just a matter of going after the righty [Phillips] instead of the lefty [Votto].”
It’s kind of how August has been going. Not much of anything has gone well.
The Marlins received their first decent outing from Andrew Cashner, the starting pitcher they obtained at the trade deadline to solidify their shaky rotation. But the lineup was quiet and the bullpen was unable to protect a tenuous, late-inning lead.
After two subpar starts, Cashner turned in the kind of outing the Marlins hoped for when they landed him in their trade with San Diego. Cashner, who had gone 0-2 with a 6.61 ERA in his first two starts with the Marlins, held the Reds to one run over five innings.
“I take some positives from it,” Cashner said. “But I definitely wished I could have worked deeper into the game.”
Marcell Ozuna opened the scoring with his 21st home run, a solo shot in the fourth off Reds starter Homer Bailey.
The Reds tied it in their half of the fourth on back-to-back doubles by Phillips and Eugenio Suarez. But Cashner worked out of a first-and-third jam in that same inning, retiring two straight to finish the frame.
The Marlins took a 2-1 lead in the fifth when Christian Yelich reached on a two-out single, stole second and scored on Suarez’s fielding error on a hot smash to third by Ozuna.
It remained that way until the seventh when speedy Billy Hamilton legged out an infield hit to start the inning. He advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt, and after Wittgren retired Zack Cozart on an infield pop, Mattingly chose to walk Votto and go after Phillips, even though Phillips has a .333 average with runners in scoring position.
The move backfired when Phillips ripped a double into the gap, just out of the reach of Ichiro Suzuki, scoring both the tying and go-ahead runs.
“Just didn’t make pitches to him,” Wittgren said. “I got behind in the count, and he knew a 3-1 fastball was coming, so he got good wood on it.”
The Marlins will send out ace Jose Fernandez on Thursday in a bid to salvage a split of the four-game series.
“Little of everything,” Mattingly replied when asked what has ailed the Marlins in August. “We haven’t been able to put enough wins on the board lately. But nothing changes as far as our belief in this club. Even though every game is big and every moment is big, you know you’ve got a lot of baseball left.”