Carlos Zambrano’s aim was poor on Friday, and it ended up haunting him — again.
For the fourth time this season, Zambrano issued a bases-loaded walk that forced in a run, and it went downhill from there as the Marlins lost 7-2 to the San Diego Padres. It was the eighth loss for the Marlins in their past nine games, and it left them barely ahead of the last-place Phillies in the National League East.
At the rate they’re going, it might not be long before the Marlins inherit the cellar.
Even before the Marlins traded off two of their starting infielders, one of their starting pitchers, and one of their best bullpen arms, they were plummeting rapidly. But after giving up four front-line players earlier in the week, they were left with a lineup so thin that manager Ozzie Guillen resorted to moving Jose Reyes into the No. 3 spot.
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That decision provided a quick return when Reyes tripled with a man aboard in the fourth to put the Marlins on top, and scored to make it 2-0 on Carlos Lee’s infield hit. But as is often the case nowadays, two runs is about par for the course for the Marlins, and it turned out to be their final output Friday.
Zambrano couldn’t make it hold, and the result was his sixth loss out of his past seven decisions. There are reports the Marlins are trying hard to trade him before Tuesday’s deadline. But it is hard to imagine, with his consistent lack of control, that suitors are lining up.
“When you start throwing balls and balls and balls, things will happen, and it happened today,” Zambrano said.
Zambrano began the evening having issued the second-most walks in the National League, trailing only San Diego’s Edinson Volquez. But when it comes to issuing them at the absolute worst possible time — with the bases loaded — there is no pitcher in the majors who has done it as much.
“Maybe he’s scared to throw the ball [over the plate] and somebody will hit a grand slam,” manager Ozzie Guillen said sarcastically. “We’ve tried to figure it out. We don’t know if it’s his mechanics.”
The veteran right-hander took a shutout into the sixth after giving up only one hit and a pair of walks through five innings.
But trouble started for Zambrano in the sixth when he gave up a leadoff double to Logan Forsythe and continued when Emilio Bonifacio, who has taken over at second base after the trade of sure-handed Omar Infante, couldn’t come up with Jesus Guzman’s ground ball and was charged with an error.
Zambrano next walked Chase Headley to load the bases, and then lost Carlos Quentin in the same manner to produce San Diego’s first run. One of the six walks Zambrano allowed in his previous start was also of the bases-loaded variety.
Former University of Miami star Yasmani Grandal cleared the bases with a triple over the head of center fielder Justin Ruggiano, who appeared to make a poor read on the ball.
And that was it for Zambrano, who fell to 5-9.
“I’m sure I will finish strong and things will turn around, not only for me, but for this team,” Zambrano said. “I guarantee you that.”
Since the All-Star break, the Marlins are 4-10 and have managed to score only 32 runs — or barely more than two per game. But if the 14 total runs they scored in back-to-back wins on July 16 and 17 are discounted, they have scored just 18 runs in the other 12 games — 10 of them defeats.
Despite spending $190 million on free agents during the offseason, hiring a new manager, and moving into a new ballpark, the Marlins own a worse record at the 99-game mark now (45-54) than they did at the same point a year ago (47-52).