Miami Marlins

The Marlins’ ‘humbling’ season series against the Braves ends with a walk-off loss

The Miami Marlins’ Sandy Alcantara pitches against the Atlanta Braves on Thursday, Aug. 22, 2019, at SunTrust Park in Atlanta.
The Miami Marlins’ Sandy Alcantara pitches against the Atlanta Braves on Thursday, Aug. 22, 2019, at SunTrust Park in Atlanta. Getty Images

One dark chapter of the Miami Marlins’ season has come to an end.

With Thursday’s 3-2, walk-off loss, the Marlins have finished their season series with the National League East-leading Atlanta Braves.

And it was mostly a season series to forget.

Just how bad was the Marlins’ 19-game slate with the Braves this year?

The 4-15 mark, just a .211 winning percentage, is the Marlins’ lowest against an NL East opponent since divisional play expanded in 2001.

The Braves (77-52) walked off on the Marlins three times in nine games at SunTrust Park, with Ronald Acuna Jr.’s walk off single against Ryne Stanek that scored former Marlin Adeiny Hechavarria on Thursday serving as Atlanta’s final dagger against the Marlins. Stanek also gave up a game-tying home run to Freddie Freeman in the eighth.

The Braves shut out the Marlins four times, including Wednesday’s 5-0 defeat. Miami scored just one run in the final series — a third-inning home run by Jon Berti in the series opener on Tuesday — and were shut out for 21 consecutive innings before Starlin Castro’s two-run double in the seventh on Thursday.

Two Braves starting pitchers posted sub-1.00 ERAs against the Marlins: Julio Teheran (0.28) and Mike Soroka (0.93).

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“They let you know where you’re at,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said pregame, “where you stand in this moment and how much better we have to get.”

Just like the Los Angeles Dodgers, who took five of six against the Marlins and outscored them 52-22.

Just like the New York Mets and Washington Nationals, who both already claimed the season series against the Marlins with games left to play (four for the Mets; six for the Nationals).

Just like the Tampa Bay Rays, who swept the Marlins in their four games.

And even just like the Colorado Rockies, a sub-.500 team that made quick work of the Marlins to start this road trip after splitting a four-game set to open the season.

The organization has made strides in building depth across the minor leagues, but the big-league club is still feeling the pains of the rebuild.

The Marlins (45-81) have lost 12 consecutive road games — the longest streak in MLB this season — and 16 of their last 19 overall. They are just the second team in the Modern Era (since 1900) to go 0-6 on back-to-back road trips in the same season.

Miami would need to win all 36 of its remaining games to finish with a .500 record.

“It’s something that’s humbling as a coaching staff, as players and as an organization,” Mattingly said. “You’re feeling the strides and the big gains, but you still see where we’re at and what we have to do to get to the next level. There’s a lot more wins that we have to put on the board.”

The road isn’t getting much easier. Seven of the Marlins’ final 11 series of the season — including four of six on the road — come against teams that entered Thursday within five games of the NL’s second wild-card spot.

First up: A three-game series with the Philadelphia Phillies to start a seven-game homestand.

Alcantara’s improvement

Starting pitcher Sandy Alcantara was one of the few bright spots from Thursday’s walk-off loss. The 23-year-old righty threw seven strong innings, holding a hearty Braves lineup to three hits and an unearned run while striking out seven.

“That’s what I want,” Alcantara said. “That’s what my team wants.”

Alcantara has thrown at least seven innings over his past three starts. He has given up just five earned runs over that 21 2/3 inning span — which puts him at a 2.08 ERA.

“Really good tonight again,” Mattingly added. “That’s three in a row where he’s been on the attack. Really overpowering. Really happy with the way Sandy’s throwing the ball. It gives you a lot of encouragement with him moving forward.”

Freeman and Acuna’s domination

Freeman and Acuna’s success against the Marlins went far beyond what they did on Thursday.

In 19 games against Miami this year, Freeman had a .329 batting average (24 for 73) with six home runs, 17 RBI and 14 runs scored.

Acuna hit .319 (23 for 72) with nine home runs, 18 RBI and 15 runs scored.

The streak continues

Marlins pitching has now given up home runs in 23 consecutive games, extending the franchise record and now the fourth-longest streak in MLB history. The overall record is 26, held by three teams and last set by the Baltimore Orioles from June 1-28, 2017.

Jordan McPherson covers the Miami Marlins and high school sports for the Miami Herald. He attended the University of Florida and covered the Gators athletic program for five years before joining the Herald staff in December 2017.