Pitch counts, double plays damage Marlins' attempt at series win

June 1st, 2023

MIAMI -- It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish that counts. And in Thursday’s series finale against the Padres, the Marlins struggled to get things done.

Hitless through five innings of Miami’s 10-1 loss at loanDepot park, the club loaded the bases on singles to start the bottom of the sixth. Then, the Marlins did what they unfortunately do a lot: ground into a double play. A strikeout ended the inning and stranded two on the bases, as Miami was unable to muster a response to the Padres’ seven-run top half of the inning.

It marked the 63rd double play the Marlins have hit into this season. They ground into another in the eighth, and lead the league by 14 on the year. It was also their seventh GIDP of the three-game series vs. San Diego and their 23rd in the past 13 games -- since the beginning of Miami’s road trip on May 19.

Twenty-three GIDPs is the most by any team in a 13-game stretch since the 2018 Astros (June 5-18). The Marlins are 6-7 over that span. (The Astros, remarkably, went 12-1 over their own stretch.)

"What am I going to say?” manager Skip Schumaker said after the series opener on Tuesday. “Am I going to tell them not to hit into double plays? It's just what's happening right now. Guys are hitting ground balls and there's some guys that are making good pitches at the right time. … The guys know. They don't want to hit into double plays. It's just what's happening right now. We've just got to stay inside the strike zone and good things will happen."

It wasn’t just that the lineup’s struggles continued. After all, the Marlins did score the first run, stringing together some small ball to take a 1-0 lead in the third. But the pitching also seemed to fall apart as the game progressed.

retired nine straight batters, five via strikeout, to begin the finale. He was cruising as he took the mound for the fourth. Then he gave up a pair of doubles, hit Juan Soto with a pitch and allowed a sac fly, giving the Padres a lead they never relinquished.

“[He] looked really good the first four innings,” Schumaker said. “But the 3-2 counts kind of hurt him, as far as the pitch count kind of went up and behind the count. The first three, four innings were really good, [getting] first-pitch strikes. … Maybe a couple pitches that he wants back, but other than that, it was a pretty good outing, you know, for the most part.”

“It's super frustrating,” Luzardo said. “We had such a big game yesterday [where] we come back. And you know, we have a game today to win the series and I feel like [I] let the team down. You go out there -- that's an unacceptable performance, stuff like that. And I feel like we showed a lot of fight yesterday. So it's definitely frustrating for me.”

Part of the issue for Luzardo was in his approach. Luzardo used his changeup for three of his first five strikeouts and threw a first-pitch strike in four of those at-bats. He also got four of those five strikeouts after falling to a 3-2 count. (He fell behind in counts to 14 of the 22 batters he faced.)

“I wouldn't say command issues, but more of just falling behind trying to be too fine maybe,” Luzardo said. “Trying to go for the edges when I probably should use more of the plate early in the count, what we've talked about for a long time now. Definitely frustrating to get so deep into counts and get the pitch count a little high, but I felt like the pitch count probably wasn't my biggest factor today. It was more of maybe chasing the counts and then having to throw a fastball in a fastball count.”

Luzardo finished the day with 93 pitches -- 56 strikes -- having allowed five runs on four hits, a walk and a hit-by-pitch over 5 1/3 innings. It wasn’t until after Luzardo exited that the real damage started, though, as the Padres maintained their momentum against reliever Matt Barnes, who allowed five runs on four hits, one walk and a fielder’s choice.

“I think it was a combination of him struggling with his command [and] a couple seeing-eye singles that got through with the infield,” Schumaker said. “A combination of him being a little bit behind the counts and some balls that just got through because of how the defense was positioned.

“How do you learn from [that sixth inning]? I mean, that's a pretty good offense over there. They hit the ball pretty good. It wasn't like we made errors. Walks always hurt, obviously, but I don't think that's -- they know that, they're big leaguers. … I don't know if it's a learning thing. It's just -- you walk guys and they get in hitters' counts. Typically some good things happen on the other side, and [we] just kind of had one of those unfortunate innings.”