Miami Marlins

Miami Marlins implode late, fall to lowly Atlanta Braves 4-2

Atlanta Braves' Ender Inciarte, left, is forced out at home plate by Miami Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto (11) while trying to score on Tyler Flowers' ground ball in the eighth inning of a baseball game Fri., May 27, 2016, in Atlanta. Atlanta won 4-2.
Atlanta Braves' Ender Inciarte, left, is forced out at home plate by Miami Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto (11) while trying to score on Tyler Flowers' ground ball in the eighth inning of a baseball game Fri., May 27, 2016, in Atlanta. Atlanta won 4-2. AP

The Marlins are making the worst team in the National League look like a playoff contender.

The bumbling Atlanta Braves humbled them 4-2 on Friday night and have now won all four games this season between the teams.

“They’ve won four games so far,” said Marlins reliever David Phelps, who took the loss but was victimized by the poor fielding behind him in the pivotal eighth inning. “We play them 14 more times this year. I don’t think an 0-4 start against them is going to be the end of the world for us.”

Just how bad are the rebuilding Braves?

They have just 13 wins (against 34 losses), and four of their victories have come against the Marlins. Going into Friday, they had won more games at Marlins Park (three) than they had at their Turner Field home, where they were 2-20.

“There was a lot of talk about their record, and their record at home,” Phelps said. “But guys are in the big leagues for a reason. You can’t take anyone lightly, and it’s not a bad ball club.”

The worst scoring team in the league out-hit the Marlins 14-8.

And yet it was a 2-2 game heading into the eighth.

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The first sign of trouble came when pinch-hitter Kelly Johnson started the inning with a shallow fly ball that either shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria or left fielder Cole Gillespie should have caught. But neither player took charge on the ball, and it dropped in for a double.

“Either guy can catch it,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. “Somebody’s got to take charge, that’s all.”

After Ender Inciarte was walked intentionally, Gordon Beckham dropped down a bunt to advance the runners. Catcher J.T. Realmuto made a nice play on it, though, coming up with the ball and throwing to Martin Prado at third for the force out.

But Freddie Freeman followed with a single, loading the bases. Tyler Flowers then hit a dribbler that Phelps bare-handed and threw to the plate for the force for one out. Realmuto turned and fired to first for an inning-ending double play. Phelps jumped and pumped his fist.

But the Braves challenged the ruling at first and the play was overturned.

Next up was Nick Markakis, who hit a liner toward third. It was a ball that Prado should have caught for the third out. But the ball glanced off his glove and two runs scored.

“I don’t know if I just misjudged the ball,” Prado said. “I thought it was hit harder than that. But that’s a ball that I’ve got to catch every day.”

Prado was initially charged with an error. But the call was changed to a double for Markakis.

“You can’t give that a hit,” Prado said.

Prado said he might call Saturday to have the call changed to an error so that Phelps won’t be charged with two earned runs.

It was a poor night all around for the Marlins.

Adam Conley toiled throughout most of his abbreviated outing, which concluded with one out in the fifth when it became apparent to Mattingly that the left-hander didn’t have it.

Conley gave up eight hits, walked a batter and hit three batters with pitches, equaling a franchise record. It was Conley’s second poor start in a row, as he once again was forced to deal with a lot of base runners.

But there’s a reason why the Braves have scored the fewest runs in the league, and their repeated failure to produce with runners in scoring position was all that allowed Conley to last as long as he did.

The Braves left two on in each of the first three innings without scoring.

But the dam finally broke in the fifth when they reeled off four consecutive hits against Conley, resulting in a pair of runs that tied the score.

The Marlins had jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the third, with the streaking Marcell Ozuna coming through again. Ozuna’s RBI double off Williams Perez made it 1-0, and an RBI ground ball by Justin Bour pushed the lead to 2-0.

Ozuna, who went 3 for 4, has now reached base in 34 consecutive games — the seventh-longest such stretch in Marlins history.

But outside of their hottest hitter, the Marlins did little else offensively.

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