'We're human': Marlins fight to find groove again

May 24th, 2023

DENVER -- As the smoky haze from Canadian wildfires hung stubbornly over Coors Field on Tuesday night, the Marlins were unable to find a way out of their own haze at the plate, particularly with runners in scoring position.

Miami’s lineup went 0-for-7 in such situations Tuesday, leading to a 5-4 loss to the Rockies for the club’s third straight defeat and its fourth in five games so far on a season-high 10-game road trip.

After the Marlins went 2-for-11 with runners in scoring position during Monday’s series-opening loss, the timely hitting that helped them set an MLB record with a 12-0 mark in one-run games to start the season seems to have evaporated.

Yes, there was a 456-foot home run by in the first inning, and a two-run shot in the sixth by , who sorely needed something to potentially jolt him out of a 5-for-31 May slump entering the game. And there was an 11th-hour attempt in the ninth, when Soler doubled home to make it a one-run game.

But too little, too late leaves no room for moral victories.

“The guys always come back and fight,” manager Skip Schumaker said. “I think we’re just disappointed that we weren’t able to push through. I just felt like we had traffic all game and [were] just waiting for that one big hit, and it just didn’t happen.”

“Pushing through” has been particularly difficult for the Marlins with men on base this month. After going 15-12 with a ninth-ranked .259 batting average with runners in scoring position through April 30, the Marlins are 8-12 in May while hitting a 26th-ranked .208 in those situations.

Tuesday’s starter, 20-year-old rookie and MLB Pipeline’s No. 1 pitching prospect, , used the same word his rotation mate Edward Cabrera used after Monday’s loss to describe his feeling while pitching at Coors Field: “Suffocated.”

That word would apply to the lineup as well, with the thick smoke an ever-present, symbolic reminder of what the Marlins are trying to fight through right now.

“After the fourth inning, I felt a little suffocation … mostly because of the altitude,” Pérez said via a translator. “Once you get tired, it becomes a little more difficult to breathe. I never felt like that before.”

It showed in the results. After navigating some traffic on the basepaths through each of the first four innings, but only giving up one run, Pérez was charged with two runs in a four-run Rockies fifth. Overall, the 6-foot-8 right-hander went 4 1/3 innings in his third MLB start, giving up four runs (three earned) on four hits while walking three and striking out three.

There was little margin for error for Pérez, as even Miami’s -- and the Majors’ -- batting average leader struggled. entered the contest hitting .383, but went hitless Tuesday for just the ninth time in 45 games this season and the first time in a game in which he had five at-bats.

For Arraez, though, it remains simple: The game is hard and you’ve got to turn the page.

“Baseballs are hard to hit,” he said. “Everybody says that Colorado is good for hitting, but I don’t think so -- you’re still facing big league pitchers, and you’re trying to do the job, but you don’t do it every time -- especially me. We’re human. We’ve just got to continue to play hard.”

Cooper was Miami’s last hope in the ninth with Soler representing the tying run at second. He flied out to right field, missing a chance to be the hero and perhaps up his chances of breaking out of his slump. But Cooper was on the same page as Arraez -- there’s no panic there.

“That last at-bat, [reliever Pierce Johnson] is a good pitcher, and I missed a slider that maybe I should’ve put a better swing on,” Cooper said. “But you go through the slumps, you go through the highs. It’s an every-year thing, and you try to get out of it as soon as possible.”

Just as the Denver region hopes the blanket of smoke that has blotted out the sun for nearly a week will dissipate as soon as possible, the Marlins look to escape their own fog of futility at the plate and salvage the final two games of the series. 

They’ll take the approach of their leading hitter into Wednesday.

“If I don’t get a hit today,” Arraez said, “I’ve got another chance tomorrow.”