In a year of growing pains, the Marlins have had some losses that have stung more than others.
Sunday afternoon's defeat could end up being the worst.
On a day that Lewis Brinson hit his first career grand slam and Miguel Rojas recorded his first career multi-homer game, the Marlins’ bullpen collapsed late and the Braves snatched away a 10-9 victory at SunTrust Park.
Brad Ziegler and Tayron Guerrero allowed a combined six runs in the bottom of the ninth inning as the Braves plated six runs in the bottom of the ninth ending with Dansby Swanson - who struck out to open the frame - hitting a walk-off single down the left field line.
All six runs in the ninth were scored with two outs and the Marlins (17-29) squandered a season-high nine-run output.
"You don’t really get much tougher than this," Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. "You have a game in hand. You have your closer on the mound, a chance to get outs. We’re going to have to, but right now it feels really hollow to talk about getting ready to go play tomorrow but that’s what’s going to have to happen. This one is going to sink in a little bit and hopefully we find some way to learn from it whatever situation guys are in hope that it’s something that we have a chance to grow from. For myself, getting guys in the right position and for all of us."
Ziegler gave up four runs on three hits with one walk and one strikeout. After recording the first out of the inning, Ziegler walked Ryan Flaherty, who scored on a sacrifice fly by Ronald Acuna, Jr. after Ozzie Albies singled to move him into scoring position. Freddie Freeman and Nick Markakis each followed with run-scoring singles prompting Mattingly to take out Ziegler.
On Freeman's single, Ziegler was late to the bag to cover first and couldn't haul in a rushed throw by Rojas.
"Frustrating," Ziegler said. "I walked the guy with one out, which is obviously not good in a five-run game. After that, I got some ground balls, and they just weren't at guys. The play at first, I didn't get a quick start over there. Once I got there, I was so focused on hitting the base, I missed the ball. Obviously, the game is over at that point if we get that out."
Guerrero couldn’t record his first career save, walking Tyler Flowers, giving up a single to Kurt Suzuki, walking Johan Camargo and then giving up the game-winner to Swanson.
I felt good out there. I came to do my job, and today wasn't a good day to do that. I'll take this experience into the next outing and opportunity they give to me.
"I think he was late with my fastball," Guerrero said. "I just was throwing fastballs to the outside corner and he got a couple of foul balls. I made a mistake on the inside part and he got the hit."
Drew Steckenrider also continued to struggle against the Braves as he gave up a pair of runs in the bottom half of the seventh.
In 1 2/3 innings this season against the Braves, Steckenrider has allowed 10 earned runs on five hits and seven walks and allowed two home runs while recording only one strikeout for a 53.89 ERA.
Against all other teams, Steckenrider has pitched 18 1/3 innings, allowing three earned runs on 12 hits, three walks and has 27 strikeouts.
The meltdown cost the Marlins a chance to take two of three games from the Braves – an outcome that seemed virtually secure after Rojas hit the second of two home runs in the top of the ninth to give Miami a 9-4 edge.
Rojas had not hit more than one home run in a season before 2018 and had only five in his career. The two on Sunday brought his season total to seven.
The Marlins busted out in the fourth inning with six runs highlighted by Brinson’s slam as they hit for a cycle as a team in the inning with Justin Bour hitting his second career triple as well.