As homecomings go, the one experienced by Mat Latos on Tuesday was hardly heartwarming. Humbling was more like it for the pitcher in what was his debut outing for the Marlins.
The graduate of Coconut Creek High School, only 40 minutes up the road from Marlins Park, failed to survive a rocky first inning after giving up seven runs to the Atlanta Braves in a 12-2 loss.
Latos was removed after managing to record just two outs.
“Pitched like [garbage],” Latos said. “Embarrassed the hell out of myself.”
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It hasn’t been a pleasant first couple of games for the Marlins, from Monday’s rain delay and various other on-field mistakes to Tuesday’s blowout at the opening bell.
It marked only the second time a Marlins pitcher surrendered as many as seven runs without making it through the first inning. Ryan Dempster, on Oct. 5, 2001, also gave up seven runs in an outing that lasted two-thirds inning.
For Latos, one of the Marlins’ major offseason acquisitions, it was the briefest outing of a big-league career encompassing 153 previous starts. A start in which he went just 11/3 innings with San Diego in 2010 was his previous low.
“It’s the worst start I’ve had in six years,” Latos said.
The Marlins acquired the 27-year-old hurler in a Dec. 11 trade with Cincinnati. Injuries limited Latos to 16 starts with the Reds last season, and his first spring-training start with the Marlins was pushed back in order to work out some kinks.
Latos said he is fine physically.
“Bruised ego,” he said. “Everything [else] feels good.”
But Latos’ poor performance had to be disconcerting to a Marlins front office that was banking on better when they traded for him in December. And it has to be troubling for Latos, as well, given that he can become a free agent after the season and needs a strong year to improve his stock.
Latos was out of whack from the get-go on Tuesday, walking the first batter he faced before allowing six hits, including three run-producing doubles. The only two batters he retired came on a hard liner to left and a sacrifice bunt.
He threw 38 pitches before Brad Hand took over in a 28-minute half-inning in which the Braves sent 12 men to the plate.
“It’s ridiculous to put the team through that and cost the ballgame,” Latos said. “Just throwing the ball down the middle of the plate. That was outright embarrassing.”
Latos said he felt “a little bit of the jitters” pitching for the Marlins for the first time, and in friends and family.
“But there’s no excuse for putting my team in a seven-run hole and embarrassing myself,” he said.
It was another unproductive night at the plate for the Marlins, who lost Monday’s opener 2-1. For the second day in a row, they loaded the bases with no outs, yet failed to score.
On Tuesday, it happened in the first inning, just after the Braves put up seven. But after the first three Marlins hitters all reached, Michael Morse struck out and Martin Prado bounced into an inning-ending double play.
The Marlins didn’t get on the board until the fifth when Donovan Solano delivered a pinch-hit RBI triple and then scored on Dee Gordon’s ground out to second.
Defensively, the Marlins came up with a couple of highlight-reel fielding plays.
Prado dove to his left to come up with a high-hopper before throwing out Christian Bethancourt at first, and Adeiny Hechavarria went deep into the hole to glove a grounder and make a long cross-diamond throw to get Chris Johnson.
Otherwise, the Marlins haven’t shined in many areas their first two games, both resulting in defeats to an Atlanta team that is in a rare rebuilding mode. And Latos wasn’t the only pitcher who struggled Tuesday.
Closer Steve Cishek entered in the ninth just to get some work in and was worked over by the Braves to the tune of four runs in only a third of an inning.