Full of disgust, Kyle Barraclough tossed his cap through the narrow opening of the trash bin inside the Marlins clubhouse, followed by his spikes.
Barraclough, for the first time all day, had found his aim.
By then, though, it was too late.
After laboring through the most arduous inning of his pitching career, a 40-pitch relief outing in which he managed to record only two outs, Barraclough gave up a game-winning grand slam to Daniel Robertson.
The result was a deflating 6-4 loss to the Rays that cost the Marlins their first series sweep of the season and a chance to extend their winning streak to five straight, which would have been their longest in more than two years.
“My fault,” Barraclough said. “I had plenty of chances to put them away and didn’t.”
The Marlins barely managed to escape with wins the first two games of the series after nearly blowing ninth-inning leads. They had a 6-1 lead going into the ninth on Friday and won 6-5. They took a 3-1 lead into Saturday’s ninth and held on for a 3-2 win.
They were unable to do it a third straight day.
Leading 4-1 heading into the ninth on Sunday, manager Don Mattingly sent in Barraclough to close it out.
But it was clear from the outset that Barraclough didn’t have it. He was behind in counts, unable to throw his fastball for strikes. He gave up a leadoff double to Jake Bauers, which was followed by back-to-back singles to C.J Cron and Ji-Man Choi.
After striking out Carlos Gomez, Mallex Smith battled Barraclough through an 11-pitch at bat before finally grounding into a fielder’s choice that caused some complaint by the Marlins. They felt that pinch-runner Hunter Wood was guilty of an illegal slide into second.
Had the umpires concurred, it would have been the third out. Game over.
But they didn’t.
“He went past the base and he had his feet up,” Mattingly said. “But they were saying because you don’t attempt to make the throw in their judgment, it doesn’t matter.”
Next up was Willy Adames, who drew a walk to load the bases.
By then, Barraclough was up to 38 pitches, matching the most he had ever thrown in a single inning.
Two pitches later, Robertson belted a 1-0 fastball into the seats.
“(I was) just working behind in the counts the whole time,” Barraclough said. “It’s hard to get back into counts when you’re behind. When you work behind and get in bad counts, they’re sitting dead-red and hitting fastballs. What are you going to do?”
The question was why Mattingly left the tiring Barraclough on the mound to face Robertson in the first place? He had Javy Guerra warm and ready to go in the bullpen, and the ineffective Barraclough’s pitch count was high.
“I thought he was still okay,” Mattingly said. “That was (going to be) his last hitter. I mean, it ended up being his last hitter. But I’m going to give a chance to get out of it right there.”
Did Mattingly have any concerns at that point?
“You don’t want him to get hurt,” Mattingly said. “He had one (outing) a couple of times ago that was in the 30s, so he’s been there. So it’s not a situation where I feel like he’s going to get hurt right there.”
Barraclough claimed he wasn’t fatigued, either, despite the high pitch count and stressful inning.
“I felt all right,” Barraclough said. “I didn’t feel any different than the 10th pitch, the 20th pitch.”
The meltdown culminated an odd day for the Marlins, one in which their hitters struck out 14 times (Rays starter Chris Archer whiffed 13 batters in only six innings of work) and Cameron Maybin was ejected for arguing a called third strike that he was still stewing over afterward.
“I don’t feel like I said anything that warranted me getting thrown out of the game, knowing that we only had one real center fielder,” Maybin said. “My last words were ‘That’s brutal.’ I don’t feel like ‘That’s brutal’ warrants you getting thrown out of the game. He (home plate umpire Andy Fletcher) clearly missed two balls.”
Maybin said he’s had issues with Fletcher in the past.
“It seems like he’s always calling pitches on me that are clearly not strikes,” Maybin said. “Earlier this year, I had the same thing. I don’t know what his issue is with me.”
Sunday’s ninth-inning blowup wasted a solid outing by Marlins starter Trevor Richards, who held the Rays to a run on three hits over 6 2/3 innings.