Ryne Stanek searched for answers Friday after another messy, disappointing outing.
He stood inside the visitor’s clubhouse at Nationals Park after a miniature meltdown in the ninth inning cost the Miami Marlins against the Washington Nationals. He came in for the bottom of the inning after the Marlins staged a thrilling rally in the top of the frame and Miami asked him to convert his second save as a Marlin.
Three hits, a walk and a passed ball later, Stanek could only lament what had gone wrong yet again.
“It’s been frustrating. Today is just another—it sucked,” Stanek said. “I’m not going out there trying to mess things up. I’m just trying to make good pitches. I made a good pitch. I got beat. It just happens. It’s unfortunate and it’s not what I want to have happen, and it sucks feeling like you let the whole team down.”
The brief Stanek era in Miami has not gone according to plan for anyone. The Marlins (48-86) hoped he could be a viable — and potentially great — back-end option when they acquired him from the Tampa Bay Rays at the trade deadline. Stanek hoped he would find a stable role with an organization willing to be patient. Nine outings into his time with Miami, Stanek isn’t delivering the promise both parties hoped for.
“We’ll work through the year and see what it looks like,” manager Don Mattingly said, “and then go from there.”
In theory, Stanek has all the tools teams look for in a closer or set-up man. His four-seam fastball averages nearly 98 mph. His slider and splitter are both devastating put-away pitches, with a whiff rate better than 40 percent on the slider and a strikeout rate better than 50 percent on the splitter. It all made him one of the more exciting rookie pitchers in MLB last season when he started 29 games as an opener for the Rays and finished 10 more as a late-inning option.
On Friday in Washington, Miami entrusted him with the ninth inning in a save situation for the third time. The pitcher has only converted one of those opportunities and only one of his nine outings so far with the Marlins has been perfectly clean. All but once, he has either given up a hit or walked a batter.
He did both against the Nationals (75-58) in the opener of a three-game series, which continues at 7:05 p.m. on Saturday. Utilityman Howie Kendrick led off with a single, which Stanek could live with. He was still thinking about the walk to star shortstop Trea Turner after the game, though. It quickly pushed the tying run into scoring position and Turner, the winning run, moved in to scoring position shortly after following a passed ball by catcher Jorge Alfaro. Superstar third baseman Anthony Rendon then delivered the game winning hit against the right-handed pitcher.
The only out Stanek got in the inning came when slugger Gerardo Parra popped up a bunt.
The plan in Miami was to eliminate the opener component, just like the Marlins did when they brought in pitcher Sergio Romo, who spent 2018 with the Rays, to be their closer throughout the first half of the season. Stanek, Miami hoped, could help lock down the late innings and maybe even be a long-term option as a closer.
Things haven’t gone according to plan. The Marlins turned to the 28-year-old to try to close out a win against the Washington Nationals on Friday and he failed again. Stanek gave up two hits, issued a walk and only got one out on a flubbed bunt attempt. He ultimately served up a walk-off hit to Anthony Rendon, who sent the Nationals to a 7-6 win in Washington.
Stanek is not yet at the point where he’s worrying about his ability, even with his ERA now sitting at 4.04 and as many walks as strikeouts since he came to Miami. He still feels his track record speaks for itself and a small sample size with the Marlins could be the explanation for his issues.
“Every time I go out there I feel like I’m going to get the job done, just lately it hasn’t gone my way,” Stanek said. “It’ll turn around. I’ve shown that I can pitch in the big leagues and have a lot of success, so some bumps in the road are happening now. And I’ll get over it and get back to throwing the ball like I know I’m capable of.”