Three times A.J. Ramos was one strike from ending it.
But every two-strike pitch that Ramos delivered in his calamitous ninth inning at Marlins Park on Friday night breathed new life into the Dodgers, and the outcome was a deflating 6-4 loss.
The Marlins were one out away from a 4-3 victory when Ramos came unraveled, giving up a two-out single to Joc Pederson, a two-out walk to Yasmani Grandal and a two-out homer to Yasiel Puig.
“I just didn’t make the pitch,” Ramos said. “The pitch to get the last out.”
Had he done that, the Marlins (41-47) would have improved to four games under .500 for the first time since May 7, extended their winning streak to four and kicked off the second half on a cheerful note.
Instead, the ninth inning erased all that.
To that point, the Marlins relievers had done no wrong. Junichi Tazawa, Kyle Barraclough and David Phelps did not allow a hit in three scoreless innings after taking over in relief for Dan Straily.
But Ramos failed to extend the hitless streak, which ended with Pederson’s table-setting single in the ninth and was capped by Puig’s second home run of the game.
“He just wasn’t able to put those guys away,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. “He just wasn’t able to make the pitch to get out of it there.”
On what was the first game inside Marlins Park since Tuesday’s All-Star Game, the Marlins battled back from two early deficits and managed to take a 4-3 lead in the fifth.
And it was two of the Marlins’ All-Star figures who were behind the rally.
Giancarlo Stanton’s RBI double off Dodgers starter Brandon McCarthy pulled the Marlins within a run at 3-2. Then came Justin Bour, who captivated the crowd Monday with his theatrics in the Home Run Derby.
On Friday, Bour generated more cheers.
Only this time he did it not with an exhibition home run but with a clutch hit, a two-run double with two outs that gave the Marlins that 4-3 lead in the fifth. And it all came on Justin Bour T-shirt night.
But it wasn’t enough to carry the Marlins to victory against the first-place Dodgers (62-29).
Ramos retired Cody Bellinger on a ground ball to start the ninth before striking out Logan Forsythe, leaving him one out away from his ninth consecutive save and 18th overall.
But Pederson laced a 2-2 slider into right field for a single.
Ramos then walked Grandal on a 3-2 fastball that was out of the zone.
But it was a 1-2 fastball to Puig that hurt Ramos the most. Puig belted it into the Home Run Sculpture, a three-run shot and the knockout blow.
“I threw it where he could hit it out,” Ramos said.
Mattingly said Ramos has “got some weapons. It’s just a matter of executing a pitch.”
▪ Mattingly said that an MRI performed on right-hander Edinson Volquez on Friday revealed patellar tendinitis in his left knee, making it highly unlikely he’ll be able to make his scheduled start on Sunday.
“We’re just going to have to wait until this thing calms down and get him rolling again,” Mattingly said of Volquez, who landed on the 10-day disabled list after failing to make it past the fourth inning in his previous start on July 5.
Mattingly said the injury appears to be “more short-term than long.”