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Miami unable to recover from Chen's rough 1st

Right-hander, bullpen would allow 4 hits, no runs over final 8 innings
Special to MLB.com

CINCINNATI -- Wei-Yin Chen's second start of the season didn't get off on the right foot, as the left-hander surrendered back-to-back home runs in the first inning. But Chen was able to settle in after the first frame and fire three straight scoreless innings.

Unfortunately for Chen, his offense could not pick him up, and the Marlins dropped the series opener against the Reds, 4-1, at Great American Ball Park on Friday.

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CINCINNATI -- Wei-Yin Chen's second start of the season didn't get off on the right foot, as the left-hander surrendered back-to-back home runs in the first inning. But Chen was able to settle in after the first frame and fire three straight scoreless innings.

Unfortunately for Chen, his offense could not pick him up, and the Marlins dropped the series opener against the Reds, 4-1, at Great American Ball Park on Friday.

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After missing most of the first month of the season with a left elbow strain, Chen impressed with 5 1/3 innings of one-run ball against the Rockies last Saturday. But Friday's outing didn't go as smoothly.

"He really wasn't locating the ball the way he did [in his first start back]," Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. "He wasn't getting ahead of hitters, and it seemed like he was behind. He didn't seem to have the same finish, and he didn't seem as sharp."

Chen gave up a leadoff double to Jose Peraza and walked Alex Blandino on seven pitches. After striking out Joey Votto, he threw a 1-2 slider that broke right over the heart of the plate, and Eugenio Suarez crushed it 414 feet into the second deck in left field. Three pitches later, he left a fastball belt-high on the outer half that Adam Duvall shot over the right-field fence.

From that point on, Chen became a different pitcher. He missed bats with 10 swinging strikes on the night and limited hard contact: The five balls in play in the first inning averaged a 97.1 mph exit velocity, while the nine balls in play in the last three innings averaged 78.5 mph exit velocity, with only two -- a double and flyout -- eclipsing 90 mph off the bat.

"In the first inning I wasn't able to control the game as I wanted to," Chen said. "My rhythm and timing wasn't perfect there. So there's some problems going on there. And then sometimes even my good pitch got hit, so maybe the life on my fastball wasn't as good as usual. Still, I'm trying to adjust to what I'm facing."

Video: MIA@CIN: Chen escapes a bases-loaded jam in the 3rdt

The Marlins' bullpen would pickup where Chen left off, as Merandy Gonzalez fired two scoreless innings and Nick Wittgren added another scoreless frame. After Joey Votto's leadoff double in the third, the Reds didn't pick up another hit until they connected for two off Junichi Tazawa in the eighth inning.

But the Reds' big first inning would prove to be enough offense, as Cincinnati starter Sal Romano and four relievers combined to hold the Marlins to one run on five hits. Rookie center fielder Lewis Brinson provided Miami's only offense with a home run in the fifth -- his fourth of the season.

MOMENT THAT MATTERED
The Marlins' best opportunity to start a big inning came in the sixth with the top of the order up. Derek Dietrich was hit by a pitch, and J.T. Realmuto reached on an infield single, which extended his career-high hitting streak to 12 games. After Starlin Castro lined out, Justin Bour walked to load the bases, but the Marlins couldn't get any runs across. Brian Anderson and Martin Prado both lined out to left field, continuing the bases-loaded woes for the Marlins, who came into the game ranked 25th in baseball with a .167 average with the bags juiced.

Video: MIA@CIN: Realmuto extends hitting streak to 12 games

"I thought a few times we had something going, and it seemed like we would fizzle [out] and really couldn't put anything truly together," Mattingly said. "The chance we had with the bases loaded, that's where this ballpark will really hurt you. He flips that ball into left, and usually that's a hit right there because you're playing a little more shallow here. We couldn't get anything going."

HE SAID IT
"When he catches it, it goes a long way. We've seen two of those now. He hit one in Milwaukee like that, which is a good hitting ballpark, but both of those balls he hit seem to carry, and the guy looks like he has a beat on it, and then it just keeps carrying. I do think there's something to him when he catches them, they take off." -- Mattingly, on Brinson

Video: MIA@CIN: Brinson crushes a solo homer to center field

UP NEXT
Left-hander Caleb Smith (1-3, 4.40 ERA) gets the call in the second game of the series tonight against the Reds at 7:10 ET. Smith is coming off his best start of the season -- seven scoreless innings against the Rockies with two hits allowed -- and has 19 strikeouts and one walk in his last two outings. Tyler Mahle will take the mound for the Reds at Great American Ball Park.

Ben Weinrib is a contributor to MLB.com based in Cincinnati.

Miami Marlins, Wei-Yin Chen