Tom Koehler’s season was going so miserably that his ERA worsened a few days ago without him throwing so much as one pitch. An official scorer’s change had caused it to climb to 8.33, the highest in the majors.
“When things are going bad and they kind of just seem to get worse, even when you haven’t put your cleats on,” Koehler said of a scoring change that added four earned runs onto his pitching line from his previous start in Milwaukee.
Even though the final outcome wasn’t to his liking, a 4-3 loss to the Cardinals on Thursday afternoon, Koehler provided indication that perhaps the worst is over when he allowed three runs over five innings.
“Five innings. Three runs. That’s not what we’re striving for,” Koehler said after the Marlins had to settle for a four-game series split with the Cardinals. “We’re striving to get back to the pitcher I was and know I’m capable of being again. We’re getting closer to that.”
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Miami Herald
It wasn’t all rosy for Koehler. He failed to protect a couple of early leads.
But it was a far cry from his previous two starts — one that led to his demotion to the minors and the other his first outing back — in which he gave up 15 earned runs in just 4 2/3 innings.
“It was hard to get worse,” Koehler said. “I still don’t consider it a great outing. However, there were some positives to come out of this game. I’m feeling closer and closer to pitching like the pitcher I know I’m capable of — with the exception of maybe one or two mistakes to the same guy.”
That player was Cardinals rookie first baseman Luke Voit, who drove in three runs with a solo home run and two-run double off Koehler. The latter, which came in the third, put St. Louis on top for good.
Marcell Ozuna had three RBI singles, driving in Dee Gordon each time.
But, offensively, it was a game of missed scoring opportunities and questionable managing decisions for the Marlins, who came up empty in the eighth and ninth innings despite having the tying run on second each time.
In the eighth, after back-to-back singles by Ichiro Suzuki and JT Riddle to start the inning, manager Don Mattingly decided to pinch-hit with backup catcher A.J. Ellis with an order to bunt the runners over.
It didn’t work. Ellis’ bunt was turned into a double play.
“The only thing I think I regret is being too predictable there,” Mattingly said. “Once we put him in there, it was pretty predictable what we wanted to do, instead of hitting [Tyler Moore] there. Didn’t work.”
The Marlins had two runners on in the ninth, too. But Martin Prado struck out swinging to end the game.
Despite the loss, Koehler showed he’s capable of maintaining a hold on his rotation spot.
“It’s been probably the hardest year of not just the major leagues but professional baseball that I’ve ever had,” Koehler said. “It’s been mentally tough. It’s been emotionally taxing. But I’ve competed my whole life. That’s kind of what got me to this place. So I’m not going to stop now.”