MILWAUKEE It was 50 pitches of hell for Tom Koehler.
That’s how many pitches it took Koehler to record just two outs in an eyesore of a second inning on Saturday afternoon at Miller Park, where the Marlins dropped an 8-4 decision to the Brewers.
Making his first start for the Marlins since his demotion to the minors in May, Koehler labored through one of the most exhausting innings in team history, one that compares with Dave Davidson’s 52-pitch inning in 2009 and Heath Bell’s 46-pitch tongue-hanger in 2012.
“You never want want to throw 50 pitches,” Koehler said. “That’s three innings worth. It’s not fun. Nothing that happened in today’s game was fun.”
While poor defense contributed to Koehler’s second-inning demise (only three of the Brewers’ seven runs were earned), it was an unpleasant comeback for the veteran right-hander.
“The thing that gets me is you want to come up and you want to have that quality outing and kind of show the guys that, ‘Hey, I’m back,’ ” Koehler said. “It doesn’t happen, [and] you don’t want to start creating doubt like, oh, this is going to continue to happen.”
And it all began so well for him. Koehler dusted off the Brewers with a nine-pitch first inning.
Then it all fell apart.
Koehler walked the leadoff hitter in the second, and it went downhill from there. Giancarlo Stanton nearly robbed Domingo Santana of a home run, reaching above the fence to make the grab. But the ball squirted out of his webbing and into the seats for a two-run shot.
“I had it,” Stanton said. “Then I didn’t have it. Then the fans had it. You catch it and the game’s clearly different, and we probably have a chance to win that game.”
A pickoff throw to second by Koehler — even though it was on the mark — sailed into the outfield when Dee Gordon couldn’t get his glove on it. Gordon was charged with the error. And a poor throw to the plate by first baseman Justin Bour allowed another run to score. Five of the six hits allowed by Koehler in the second came on two-strike counts. He also walked two batters and threw a wild pitch in the pivotal inning.
“That much 0-2 contact is never a good thing,” Koehler said. “[You’ve] got to be able to put guys away.”
In all, Koehler faced 11 of the 13 batters the Brewers sent to the plate in the second, with Vance Worley taking over in relief when Koehler — taxed to the point of his jersey being completely soaked through with sweat — couldn’t get through the frame.
“The results were terrible, but I felt closer to myself than I did [previously],” Koehler said. “It’s really an odd thing to say after a game like that, but [there’s] still work that needs to be done.”
THIS AND THAT
▪ Marcell Ozuna will learn Sunday whether he’ll start the July 11 All-Star Game at Marlins Park. If he does, the outfielder said it would mean more to him than starting last year’s game in San Diego, when he made it into the lineup as an injury replacement.
“It would mean a lot,” Ozuna said of being voted in. “That would mean everybody gives me some love and respect for what I do.”
Ozuna was third among National League outfielders in the last voting update, behind Washington’s Bryce Harper and Colorado’s Charlie Blackmon. With 1,270,464 votes, Ozuna narrowly led the Cubs’ Jason Heyward (1,241,194) and Ben Zobrist (1,122,946) for the third outfield spot.
Voting ended Thursday, and full All-Star rosters (starters and reserves) will be announced at 7 p.m. Sunday on ESPN.
▪ The Marlins’ front office might have to decide at some point whether left-hander Justin Nicolino’s future lies in the rotation or the bullpen. But any such decision probably wouldn’t be made until the offseason.
For now, he’ll continue as a starter — at Triple A New Orleans.
Nicolino was optioned late Friday to make room for Koehler, who was recalled from New Orleans in time to make Saturday’s start.
“At the end of the day, it was just a matter of we’ve got to exhaust the starting [role] before we move on to anything,” manager Don Mattingly said of Nicolino. “I think it would be more of an organizational thing at the end [of the season], where you’re like what direction are we going with this guy? Where are we going with Nico?”
Nicolino has struggled as a starter at the big-league level, going 7-11 with a 4.76 ERA in 30 career starts. Mattingly said Nicolino, unlike Jose Urena, has yet to prove he belongs in a major-league rotation.
“When you pitch, you’ve got to pitch well, whatever that situation is, and create your own opportunity — in a sense, what Urena’s been able to do,” Mattingly said. “He started out in the bullpen. He got the ball as a starter. He’s basically forced us to leave him there. He’s telling us, ‘I’m ready.’
“Even though Nico hasn’t had the routine you’d like as a player, he also hasn’t knocked the door down that says ‘I belong there.’ ”
▪ Sunday: Marlins RHP Dan Straily (5-4, 3.44 ERA) at Milwaukee Brewers RHP Junior Guerra (1-2, 4.54), 2:10 p.m., Miller Park.
▪ Monday: Marlins LHP Jeff Locke (0-4, 5.52) at St. Louis Cardinals RHP Adam Wainwright (8-5, 5.17), 7:15 p.m., Busch Stadium.