Before taking the mound at Nationals Park, Marlins starter Tom Koehler was philosophical about facing one of the game’s best players in Bryce Harper, who blasted three home runs off the pitcher on May 6 and entered Saturday hitting .625 with four homers and seven RBI against Koehler this season.
“It’s not like I’m coming into the game looking specifically at that matchup,” Koehler said. “There’s eight other guys in the lineup. He’s had very good success against me, but it’s going to be just like any other three-hitter in the lineup.”
Koehler would win his personal battle against Harper, holding the slugger hitless in three at-bats, but wind up taking the loss in a 5-1 setback to the Nationals in an action-packed night for the young pitcher.
Koehler (8-13) lost his seventh consecutive start and is now 1-9 in his past 10 outings, erasing a promising early season that had him at 7-4 on June 3.
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“No one’s feeling bad for me,” Koehler said.
“I’m not going to quit. I’m going to give these guys everything I got with every pitch I throw and something’s got to change.”
For the second night in a row, a Marlins starter wilted in the sixth inning.
And while Adam Conley was able to escape with a win thanks to the bullpen, Koehler wasn’t as fortunate, as he allowed back-to-back home runs — a two-run shot by Clint Robinson and a deep solo blast to center by Ian Desmond, to turn a 2-0 deficit into a 5-0 hole.
“It was just two pitches that stayed up — a changeup and a breaking ball — and they punished the ball,” Marlins manager Dan Jennings said.
“That created a little bit of a hole for us to crawl out of, and it proved to be too much.”
Koehler was active on all fronts Saturday, going 2 for 2 at the plate for his first career multi-hit game after collecting two hits in 27 at-bats the entire season.
He also was thrown out at the plate in the third inning while attempting to score on a wild pitch that would have tied the score at 1.
“I’m slow,” Koehler said. “I probably shouldn’t have gone.”
Justin Bour provided the Marlins’ lone highlight in the seventh inning with a home run into the second deck in right-center field, his 13th homer of the year.
Marlins rookie reliever Kyle Barraclough hasn’t been fazed by being in the majors thus far, allowing just four hits in 102/3 innings in his nine appearances since being promoted from Double A on Aug.7.
“He has no fear,” Jennings said. “He has ice water. We put this kid in some tough spots, and he’s responded well. To see him trust his stuff the way he has, has been really remarkable.”
There was no way Martin Prado was going to get away with his third at-bat Friday, when he fell just one step out of the batter’s box. And sure enough, there was a chalk outline of the sprawled veteran by his locker in the clubhouse Saturday along with a picture of his stumble.
“That’s good,” Jennings said. “You gotta have a little fun. You gotta laugh in this game.”