Marlins can't offset rare Nolasco miscues
Miami held to early run in ninth straight loss; walks, dingers hurt righty
MIAMI -- A couple of things Ricky Nolasco doesn't do is walk batters and surrender home runs at Marlins Park.
On Thursday night, the trend changed.
Nolasco uncharacteristically issued home runs to Matt Joyce and James Loney, and he walked four in the Marlins' 5-2 loss to the Rays in front of 23,199 at Marlins Park.
With the Marlins struggling to manufacture much offense, they are relying on their pitchers to be nearly perfect. Nolasco was solid over 6 2/3 innings, but his mistakes were costly.
"I'm sure he's frustrated," Marlins manager Mike Redmond said. "Everybody is frustrated. Nobody likes losing games."
The problem wasn't the pitching on Thursday, it was again a lack of timely hitting. In the brief two-game set with Tampa Bay at Marlins Park, Miami scored a total of three runs, which were all unearned.
The string of losses is testing the patience of everyone around the team. Nolasco exited the clubhouse quickly after the loss and didn't speak with reporters.
Redmond understands what his veteran starter is going through.
"It all stems from guys trying to pitch perfect," Redmond said. "He knows he can't get down by too many runs. We just haven't been able to pick him up and get the offense. That's what happens. You try to be perfect and you end up walking a guy and then making a mistake."
The right-hander had allowed just one home run in his first five starts at Marlins Park before being taken deep twice by Tampa Bay. And one of his walks set up Joyce's go-ahead two-run shot.
"Nolasco was really good," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "Mixing speeds, he threw really well. That's probably one of the best games I've seen him throw in person. He was very good. But Matty's ball really helped, and Loney's was pretty important."
After dropping four straight games to the Rays -- two at Tampa Bay and a pair in Miami -- the Marlins have now lost nine straight.
The slide is two shy of the franchise record. Three times the club has sustained 11-game skids, with the most recent being May 26-June 11, 2011.
To snap out of it, Redmond says, players have to produce. On Thursday, nine runners were stranded, and Miami was 2-for-9 with runners in scoring position.
"It really is coming down to the fact that guys have to get tired of getting beat," Redmond said. "We're going out there and the effort is there. Guys are playing hard and they're grinding. We know they are grinding, but at the end of the day, you've got to get tired of taking that right-hand turn [back toward the dugout]."
The urgency in Redmond's voice was as strong as the first-year manager has shown regarding his young club.
"Figure out a way for somebody to step up -- whether it's a pitcher or a position player," he said. "Get a big hit, or get somebody out."
Joyce's two-run homer in the sixth inning put the Rays in front, 2-1.
Nolasco, who had allowed one hit through five innings, issued a one-out walk to Ben Zobrist. Joyce made the Marlins pay for the free pass by lacing Nolasco's 1-0 offering over the wall in right.
Tampa Bay capitalized after Miami failed to score with runners on first and third in the fifth inning.
Nolasco doubled and moved to third on Chris Coghlan's infield single, which gave the outfielder a six-game hitting streak. But the threat ended on Placido Polanco's 5-4-3 double play.
Tampa Bay gained a two-run edge on Loney's homer to right leading off the seventh inning.
Marcell Ozuna continued to make a name for himself. The 22-year-old singled in the first inning to extend his hitting streak to 15 games, which is tied for the second longest by a rookie in Marlins history. Edgar Renteria holds the franchise rookie mark with 22 games, set in 1996. Ozuna matched Chuck Carr, who hit safely in 15 straight as a rookie in 1993.
Ozuna's single also helped account for Miami's run in the first inning. Rays right-hander Alex Colome, making his MLB debut, was hurt by early wildness. With one out in the first, Polanco and Derek Dietrich walked. Ozuna's single filled the bases with one out.
A slider that Justin Ruggiano swung through for strike three eluded catcher Jose Molina. Polanco raced home on the passed ball.
But Colome worked 5 2/3 innings without allowing any further runs, striking out seven and collecting the win.
The Marlins did threaten in the eighth inning, and pinch-hitter Miguel Olivo picked up an RBI by walking with the bases loaded. But Josh Lueke struck out Rob Brantly to keep the Rays ahead, 3-2.
In the ninth inning, Ben Zobrist widened the lead with a two-run double off Mike Dunn.
"We need to keep working hard and keep our heads up," Olivo said. "This is part of baseball. It's only two months. We need to get better for June and July and keep fighting. It's tough, but we can't give up."