The injury-ravaged Marlins are in such battered shape that offers of kindness wouldn’t be refused. But none were forthcoming from the Cardinals, who showed no sympathy by handing the wounded Marlins a 7-5 defeat on Wednesday night at Marlins Park to sweep the three-game series.
Fielding a makeshift lineup that looked like misplaced pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, the Marlins limped to their 12th loss in their past 15 games, one that bore a striking resemblance to some of the others.
They built a big lead.
But they couldn’t hold it, with the bullpen once again playing a role.
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“It’s not easy going through this,” manager Don Mattingly said. “It’s not fun losing games.”
With four infielders sidelined by injuries, Mattingly was forced to get imaginative, starting Dee Gordon at shortstop for the first time since 2013 and Steve Lombardozzi — who last played in the majors in 2015 — at second base.
The new look failed to provide different results.
The Marlins (13-20) jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the first on a solo homer by Christian Yelich and a three-run shot into the upper deck by Justin Bour.
But St. Louis (19-14) came back with three runs in the third off Marlins starter Tom Koehler, who gave up a pair of walks and hit a batter before a pair of run-scoring singles by Matt Carpenter and Jedd Gyorko.
The bullpen’s struggles continued in the sixth.
After Koehler gave up a one-out single, Mattingly went to his bullpen, bringing in rookie lefty Jarlin Garcia, who instantly gave up a single to Magneuris Sierra and a two-run triple to Dexter Fowler to give the Cardinals a 5-4 lead.
“It just seems the offense gives us a lead, [but] we give it back,” Koehler said.
St. Louis made it 6-4 on Kolten Wong’s sacrifice fly.
The Marlins picked up a run in the bottom of the sixth on Derek Dietrich’s RBI single.
But the Cardinals got it back in the seventh off Junichi Tazawa.
It was a rough day from beginning to end for the Marlins, who placed shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria on the disabled list with an oblique injury, then had to scratch his replacement — rookie J.T. Riddle — with a finger injury.
Riddle injured his finger while taking ground balls during early infield practice. X-rays were negative. But Mattingly said Riddle could be out three to five days.
“They should put caution tape out there,” Riddle said.
The Marlins have lost four infielders to injuries since Sunday.
“We’ve lost three shortstops in a 72-hour stretch,” Koehler said. “It’s unheard of.”
Mattingly, desperate to find a winning formula, even got creative with his jerry-rigged lineup, installing Dietrich in the leadoff spot, moving Marcell Ozuna into the cleanup position and dropping Giancarlo Stanton into the No. 5 hole.
That configuration didn’t produce a win on Wednesday night.
But Mattingly said it’s too early to panic.
“It’s still relatively early,” Mattingly said. “We’re in early May. We’ve been hit with some injuries. But it’s a good day [Thursday] for an off day. Get away from it for a day, come back ready to play and start to get this ship turned in the right direction.”
Said Koehler: “It’s got to turn.”