MIAMI -- Brandon McCarthy has earned the chance to overcome what might be just one of those short, frustrating stretches most starting pitchers inevitably encounter at some point. But if there's eventually a need to alter the rotation, the Braves have the quality depth necessary to make improvements.McCarthy was frustrated
MIAMI -- Brandon McCarthy has earned the chance to overcome what might be just one of those short, frustrating stretches most starting pitchers inevitably encounter at some point. But if there's eventually a need to alter the rotation, the Braves have the quality depth necessary to make improvements.
McCarthy was frustrated and confused after enduring another tough start in Friday night's 6-3 loss to the Marlins. The Braves bid adieu to their eight-game road winning streak with a reminder that the consistency of the pitching staff will be a huge factor in how this season plays out.
"I felt the pitch quality was better tonight than the last [start]," McCarthy said. "On the whole, it's a similar feeling, where I'm just confused why it keeps happening or, at the end of the game, why it looks the way it does. There's some mystery in there I've got to solve that brings it back to a good place."
When McCarthy surrendered a career-high eight runs and 12 hits over just 3 1/3 innings against the Giants last weekend, he seemed to be more frustrated with himself. He exited this outing against the Marlins feeling better about his pitch quality, but every bit as baffled by the fact he allowed six earned runs and 11 hits over five innings.
"I really don't know how it turned into 11 hits and six runs," McCarthy said. "I didn't feel like I threw that poorly. I didn't think the quality of pitches would lead to those kind of results. I'm pretty confused right now."
Atlanta got its usual contributions from Ozzie Albies, who moved into a tie atop the NL leaderboard with his 12th homer, and the rejuvenated Nick Markakis, whose latest two-hit performance further strengthened his bid for his first All-Star selection at 34 years old.
But Albies' third-inning solo homer and Markakis' fifth-inning RBI double off Marlins starter Dan Straily were far from enough to overcome the damage against McCarthy, who had allowed as many as 11 hits in just four of the 196 career starts made before these past two.
Marlins leadoff hitter J.T. Realmuto doubled and scored in the first inning, homered to begin the third inning and hit an RBI single that capped Miami's two-run fourth inning. McCarthy surrendered hits to eight of the final 12 batters he faced, as he struggled to find the command with his sinker and cutter.
"As a movement pitcher, you're relying on that to get some weak contact," McCarthy said. "The last two starts, a lot of it is falling in and a lot of it is finding holes. When they do hit a ball hard, it's doing some damage. I've got to find a way to mitigate all of this."
McCarthy posted a respectable 3.09 ERA through his first six starts and will certainly remain in the rotation for now. But if the Braves make a change at some point, they could turn to Luiz Gohara, who completed three strong relief innings in his season debut on Thursday.
Highly regarded prospect Kolby Allard might be just a few weeks away from being deemed ready to join his good friend Mike Soroka in Atlanta's rotation, as well. The Braves also could turn to Anibal Sanchez, an insurance option who is nearing a return from the disabled list.
But for now, the Braves are simply hoping McCarthy re-acquaints himself with the success he had before these past two outings.
"McCarthy was so good for so many [starts] before," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "You go through some stretches where things just aren't clicking. You feel good and nothing is wrong. But it's just not happening for you. You've just got to keep grinding and fighting through it."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Minimizing damage: Holding a 4-2 lead entering the fifth, Straily hit trouble when Albies walked, stole second and advanced to third base on Realmuto's throwing error. Ronald Acuna Jr. followed with a strikeout and Freddie Freeman was robbed of a hit when first baseman Justin Bour snared a liner that had a 102-mph exit velocity. The only damage came courtesy of the two-out RBI double by Markakis, who has hit .405 with a 1.130 OPS over his past 21 games.
"We had a couple chances and couldn't get a big hit," Snitker said. "You have those games."
Albies' third-inning solo shot was his 12th homer of the season, tying Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper for the NL lead and moving him within one of Red Sox outfielder Mookie Betts' MLB-best total.
Albies now stands with Eddie Mathews (1953), Orlando Cepeda (1958) and Jose Pujols (2018) as the only players 21 years or younger to tally at least 12 homers through their team's first 37 games.
HE SAID IT
"To me, he's one of the toughest outs in the league. He's a really good player." -- Kurt Suzuki, on Realmuto, who has hit .467 (14-for-30) in his past seven games against the Braves
Soroka will attempt to get back on track when the Braves and Marlins resume their four-game series Saturday at 7:10 p.m. ET. Making his third career start, Soroka will be facing a lineup less experienced than the patient Giants, who tagged him for four runs in four innings on Sunday. Miami southpaw Jarlin Garcia will be challenged by Albies and Markakis, who both rank among the league leaders in batting average against left-handed pitchers.
Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.