Kevin Slowey took the mound for the Marlins on Sunday hoping to break free of an obscure losing streak. Slowey was the first pitcher in 25 years to lose 10 consecutive starts.
Slowey managed to avoid an 11th loss in a row.
But the losing continued for the punchless Marlins, who absorbed a 2-1 setback to the Philadelphia Phillies on Laynce Nix’s pinch-hit home run off Jon Rauch in the ninth. It was the second game-deciding home run given up by Rauch in the series.
“I guess it’s the same old story that I [messed] up again,” Rauch said. “I come in and don’t do my job two times in the homestand. It’s [expletive] terrible. Our pitching has been outstanding with the exception of me. I’m making mistakes that I know I shouldn’t make.”
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Nix belted a 1-1 fastball into the third row of the upper deck in right.
“Was that a quality pitch if he hits it 500 feet?” Rauch answered in response to a reporter’s question.
While Rauch blamed himself for the loss, the fact is the Marlins are losing because they’re not scoring. Slowey turned in yet another strong performance — his third in as many starts — but the run support for him didn’t exist.
The Marlins didn’t get on the board with their only run until the seventh, after he was gone from the game. Lack of run support is the uppercase footnote to Slowey’s long drought since his last previous major-league win in 2010. No pitcher with as many as 10 starts since the beginning of the 2011 season has received less support.
In Slowey’s three starts this season, the Marlins have not scored a single run for him during his 17 2/3 total innings on the mound.
“He needs a win. We need to get this guy a win,” said manager Mike Redmond.
Redmond said he can’t remember a time when Slowey has looked better, and he should know. Redmond caught Slowey’s first big-league game in 2007 when they were with the Twins and was behind the plate for many of his outings in Minnesota.
“This might be the best I’ve ever seen him pitch,” Redmond said of Slowey, who gave up nine hits and walked a pair during his 5 1/3 innings Sunday but held the Phillies scoreless until the sixth and gave up just one run on the afternoon.
But one run seems like a mountain to the Marlins.
Phillies starter Roy Halladay brought an 0-2 record, 14.73 ERA and an increasing number of doubters into Sunday’s game but, aside from a noticeable decline in velocity, managed to hold the Marlins to just one run over eight innings — that coming in the seventh on Chris Valaika’s game-tying single. It was Halladay’s 200th career victory.
The Marlins might have done more damage in the seventh off Halladay if not for a base running blunder by Rob Brantly, who took off from second with a full head of steam on Adeiny Hechavarria’s routine fly ball to center and couldn’t get back to the back in time when the throw came back in. Brantly, apparently, took off running thinking there were already two outs.
“We make a base running mistake later in the game and it cost us,” Redmond said of Brantly’s goof. “Right now, our mistakes are big, and they’re costing us. If we’re not going to hit home runs [the Marlins have not homered in their past eight games], then we’ve got to be able to put some at-bats together and get some hits, and keep the line moving. And we’re just not able to do that. We can’t make the mental mistakes where we forget the outs. Those things can’t happen.”
The Marlins finished with only five hits Sunday and scored only four total runs in the three-game series.
“Same story,” Redmond said. “We just can’t continue to go out there and ask those guys [pitchers] to do anymore than they’re doing. With the way we’re going, runs are such a premium.”
After Greg Dobbs doubled to lead off the second, Justin Ruggiano made the questionable decision to move Dobbs over to third with a bunt. Ruggiano hit a solid .270 with runners in scoring position last season. Ruggiano’s bunt advanced Dobbs to third, but it went for naught as Halladay retired the next two batters on fly balls.
Asked if seeing Ruggiano bunt in that situation, with a runner already in scoring position, was the smart thing to be doing, Redmond replied: “Ideally, no. He bunted on his own. But we’re trying to move guys along. We’re trying to scrap for every run we can get. We need every run we can get.”
Slowey and the Marlins aren’t getting nearly enough of them.