For four innings, the Houston Astros couldn’t touch Dan Straily.
He hadn’t allowed a hit, and he was pitching like he might keep it up for who knows how long. Five innings? Six innings? Seven?
He was in complete charge.
But everything changed when Evan Gattis ripped a 108-mph liner up the middle to start the fifth. It struck Straily’s pitching arm, and nothing was the same after that for the Marlins.
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Straily came out after the fifth, Junichi Tazawa took over, and the Astros went to town, with Yuli Gurriel cranking a grand slam to spark a 7-2 Houston win over the Marlins.
“It caught me right on some muscle on the forearm,” Straily said of the direct hit off Gattis’ bat. “I’m very fortunate that it wasn’t at my face and didn’t hit any bones in my arm. So I got pretty lucky in that regard.”
One day after ending a five-game losing streak with a victory over Atlanta, the Marlins fell back to earth. They’ve now lost 15 of their past 19 games, including eight of their past nine at home.
Whether they also lost Straily for any length of time was unclear, though the initial prognosis was positive. No X-rays were taken, and some of the swelling had already subsided by the time Straily talked to reporters.
“There’s no pain around it,” Straily said. “It got pretty swollen. It looked like a baseball was inside my arm. and then everything started going down. I’ll pitch in five days. I’ll be fine.”
Straily has quickly emerged as the most effective starter in the rotation, becoming the first pitcher in Marlins history to give up four hits or less in seven straight starts. After getting drilled by the Gattis line drive, he continued pitching and managed to get through the inning despite allowing his first hit, an Alex Bregman double.
He even came out to bunt in the fifth, and dropped down a beauty.
But he was wearing a black compression sleeve to alleviate swelling, had engaged in a dugout chat with manager Don Mattingly, and didn’t return for the sixth.
“The fact they were able to get the ice on it quickly and keep the swelling down, we feel like it gives us a fighting chance to make his next start,” Mattingly said.
In came Tazawa, who promptly struck out George Springer to start things. Following a Josh Reddick double, he retired Jose Altuve on a fly ball. Then it all came unraveled for Tazawa, one of the Marlins’ offseason free agent signings. He walked Carlos Correa, plunked Gattis to load the bases, and got his head rocked by Gurriel’s grand slam.
It hasn’t been a good season so far for Tazawa.
“Obviously it’s probably not what he would want,” Mattingly said. “Probably not as good as we were expecting at this point. But that doesn’t mean the next time out he isn’t good and builds on that.”
The Astros didn’t stop after Tazawa came out, scoring two more runs in the seventh off Brad Ziegler.
Offensively, the Marlins had chances to score but failed to deliver. They went 1 for 10 with runners in scoring position, with Christian Yelich’s RBI single in the fifth providing the lone hit in those situations.
Over the past four games, all but one of their 10 total runs have been produced by home runs. Justin Bour hit one out in the eighth, his third homer in the past four games.