Miami Marlins

Marlins’ Caleb Smith dominated the Royals. The relievers after him? Not so much

Miami Marlins’ Caleb Smith pitches during the first inning of the team’s baseball game against the Kansas City Royals, Saturday, Sept. 7, 2019, in Miami.
Miami Marlins’ Caleb Smith pitches during the first inning of the team’s baseball game against the Kansas City Royals, Saturday, Sept. 7, 2019, in Miami. AP

Oh how quickly a game can change. The Miami Marlins learned that once again on Saturday.

Caleb Smith’s six shutout innings quickly went to waste as the Marlins’ bullpen immediately imploded in the seventh inning of their 7-2 loss to the Kansas City Royals. The Marlins (50-91) dropped the series against the Royals after losing the series opener 3-0 on Friday and are guaranteed a losing record against American League teams this year.

And the loss can be pointed to that seventh inning, when the Marlins used three relief pitchers to get three outs. The Royals (53-90) had seven of their 10 batters reach base.

Here’s how it unfolded:

Adam Conley started the inning on the mound.

Bubba Starling leads off with an infield single to the right side, aided by the fact that Garrett Cooper with a bit too far away from the first-base bag. Cooper’s throw to Conley, covering the base, was low.

Chester Cuthbert walked after a seven-pitch plate appearance. Conley was ahead in the count 0-2. Two fastballs — one high, one inside — evened the count. A foul ball and two high sliders allowed Cuthbert to take his base.

Whit Merrifield, the MLB leader in hits entering Saturday, hit a bloop single into shallow left field that loaded the bases. However, Marlins left fielder Austin Dean failed to scoop up the ball, allowing Starling to score on the play. 1-1.

Conley exits. Ryne Stanek enters with runners on first and second with no outs.

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Stanek strikes out Adalberto Mondesi with a 98.1 mph four-seam fastball for the first out of the inning.

A wild pitch and fielding error at third base allow Merrifield and Cuthbert to move up to second and third base. Jorge Soler is intentionally walked to re-load the bases.

A Hunter Dozier single to right scores Cuthbert. 2-1 Royals. The bases are still loaded.

Alex Gordon walks on four pitches. 3-1 Royals. The bases still loaded.

Ryan McBroom sends a fastball to right field for a bases-clearing double. 6-1 Royals.

Stanek exits. Brian Moran enters, needing five pitches to get a strikeout and flyout to mercifully end the inning.

The Royals added a final run in the ninth when Jorge Soler homered off Hector Noesi.

The Marlins added a consolation run in the eighth when Harold Ramirez’s single to right field scored Garrett Cooper, who doubled and reached third on a wild pitch.

And by that point, though, Smith’s stellar start had already become a distant memory.

The lefty, sporting a mustache and soul patch combo instead of his regular thick beard, struck out eight over his six innings against the Royals. It was a needed outing for Smith, who had given up at least five earned runs in each of his past three starts.

Even more: Smith drove in the Marlins’ first run of the game when Royals starter Danny Duffy grazed Smith’s arm with the bases loaded in the second inning.

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.