The Marlins were hoping the return of Jose Fernandez next week would be the final push needed as they made a run at .500 before the All-Star break.
The idea being it would set the stage for a great comeback story in the second half. But by the time Fernandez finally gets on the mound for the final game of this nine-game homestand on July 2, the Marlins could already be looking ahead to 2016.
On Thursday night, behind the right arm of Lance Lynn, the Cardinals completed a three-game sweep of the Fish, dropping the Marlins (30-44) a season-low 14 games under .500 with a 5-1 victory in front of 20,733 fans at Marlins Park.
Adeiny Hechavarria’s solo home run with two outs in the ninth helped the Marlins avoid the shutout. But it was still another horrible night for the offense.
“Obviously, it’s pretty much dead silent in here now,” said Dan Haren, who started the game and gave the Marlins six quality innings of one-run ball before the Marlins’ defense started to unravel in the seventh handling bunts.
“It’s hard, especially at my age, at this stage of my career, it’s hard to deal with,” Haren added. “I feel for the other 24 guys in here. We’re trying to push and win a game, but we can’t. There’s no way out except just digging ourselves out and trying to win the next game. The Dodgers aren’t going to care that we got swept. They’re going to come out here and want to win.”
Since their 12-run explosion against the Yankees on June 16, the Marlins have scored 17 runs total over their past eight games. They scored only five times in this series against St. Louis (48-24) and three were the product of Giancarlo Stanton home runs.
Miami’s All-Star slugger, who leads baseball in home runs (27) and RBI (67), had one of Miami’s four hits Thursday. It was a one-out, ground-ball single to center in the fourth. Hechavarria and Dee Gordon had the others. Both were singles, before Hechavarria added his home run.
Hechavarria reached on a leadoff bunt single in the third inning and advanced to second on the play when an errant throw by catcher Yadier Molina rolled into right field. But Hechavarria was stranded there when Lynn got J.T. Realmuto to ground out to third, walked Haren and then got Gordon and Derek Dietrich to pop out.
Later, Gordon struck out with a runner on second to end the fifth. Marcell Ozuna then whiffed with runners on first and second to end the sixth.
The Marlins, losers of seven of their past eight, finished 1 for 17 with runners in scoring position in the series, including 0 for 9 combined over the past two games.
“I think we’re 2 for 28 our last two series with runners in scoring position, and that’s not going to get it done,” manager Dan Jennings said.
“I think it goes back to what I said last night. When a team is in a little bit of a funk and we're in that, guys tend to press, try to do too much. Instead of slowing the game down, staying within their approach, we're trying to do a little more than we need to rather than trusting our ability. Hopefully we can get back on track and have some productive at-bats, especially with runners in scoring position."
St. Louis, meanwhile, used a two-out RBI double by Kolten Wong — after Haren plunked a batter — to take the lead in the third. The Cardinals then plated three more in the seventh, knocking Haren out of the game after back-to-back singles and a bunt single-turned-error led to the game’s second run.
It was a rough way for Haren to end the night. He had held the Cardinals in check until the seventh and was charged with seven hits and four earned runs (the bullpen allowed two inherited runners to score).
Since giving up a season-high six runs to the Dodgers on May 12, Haren has been dominant for the Marlins. Before Thursday, he had not allowed more than three runs in his previous seven starts. With the four runs allowed Thursday he's posted a 3.11 ERA over his last eight starts. But he's gone 2-3 over that stretch because the Marlins have averaged less than three runs of offense in each of Haren’s starts and they gave him nothing to work with Thursday.
“We have to stay positive,” Jennings said. “We signed up for 162 [games]. So we’re going to play them all.”