The Marlins gave 36,911 fans their money’s worth on Opening Day.
They just didn’t give them a win.
After staging a dramatic comeback in the ninth to send the game into extra innings, the Marlins lost in the 11th to Detroit, 8 7.
Trailing 5 0 after the fifth and 7 4 after the eighth, the Marlins chipped away at the deficit before rallying for three runs in the ninth off Tigers closer Francisco Rodriguez and sending it into extra innings.
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But it went for naught when the Tigers came up with a run in the 11th off Craig Breslow and held on for the Opening Day victory at Marlins Park.
“It didn’t start off very well, and it didn’t end very well,” said Don Mattingly after his first game as Marlins manager. “But there was a lot of good mixed in there.”
It was only the second extra inning Opening Day game in Marlins history. They lost in 13 innings to Philadelphia in the 2001 season opener.
The rally helped erase a poor debut by new Marlins pitcher Wei Yin Chen, some sloppy fielding by gifted shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria, and a bad outing by reliever Bryan Morris and the rest of the Marlins bullpen.
But it could have been worse. Much worse.
For the longest time, it looked as if the Marlins would be lucky to squeeze out so much as a hit off Tigers starter Justin Verlander. Verlander carried a no hitter into the sixth before Dee Gordon broke it up with a one out double, later scoring the Marlins’ first run. It was the first of three extra base hits for the reigning batting champion, and all three of them turned out big.
While Verlander was dealing, Chen was not.
Chen, the Marlins’ biggest off season pickup, received the Opening Day start over Jose Fernandez, and he quickly proved he’s no Fernandez.
The Tigers touched Chen for a run in the first, then caused some serious hurt literally and figuratively in the second. Anthony Gose’s liner struck Chen in his left (pitching) arm, and though the southpaw remained on
the mound, the damage didn’t end there.
Ian Kinsler smacked a 3 run homer off Chen, who has an unsettling habit of giving them up.
“He got hit pretty good,” Mattingly said of the line drive that struck Chen. “It looks like we’ve dodged a bullet as far as anything in the future. It hit him right on the elbow. It’s on that muscle right below. Luckily, it didn’t
hit any bone or anything.”
Said Chen: “After getting hit, I was just thinking I could keep going. I could still pitch. Right now I feel fine. I feel fortunate I was hit on the muscle. With a couple days of rest, I think I will be fine.”
Last year, the fly ball pitcher coughed up 28 home runs for Baltimore, but the Marlins signed him anyway for five years, $80 million, believing spacious Marlins Park, even with the fences lowered and brought in, would
work in Chen’s favor.
Not so on Tuesday.
Not only did Chen give up the homer to Kinsler, but had a couple of long fly balls caught on the warning track. When he came out after five and giving up nine hits, the Marlins trailed.
“I didn’t pitch as well as I hoped I would,” Chen said.
The Marlins managed only two base runners walks for Stanton and Martin Prado in the first five innings, before reaching on contact when Gordon doubled to right and scooted to third on an error.
Marcell Ozuna followed with a soft single to center to make it 5 1. Two batters later, Giancarlo Stanton did his thing, lofting a Verlander pitch into the upper stratosphere and trimming the Detroit lead two 5 3.
Statcast recorded the shot at 401 feet with an exit speed off Stanton’s bat of 111 mph.
The Marlins cut it to 5 4 in the eighth after Gordon tripled to start the inning and scored on Christian Yelich’s sacrifice fly. In the ninth, Morris gave up back to back homers to Gose and Victor Martinez to put the Tigers back in control, 7 4.
But the Marlins struck again in the ninth, this time off Rodriguez.
Derek Dietrich delivered a key pinch hit RBI double to trim the lead to one run and Gordon tied it with his second double of the game.
“We didn’t get any hits for a while,” Gordon said. “For us to battle back, it showed a little bit of the resilience we have.”
In the 11th, though, Kinsler singled off Breslow to drive in the go ahead run, and the Tigers held on for the victory.