'Overall tough inning' halts Marlins' strong 'pen performance

May 6th, 2023

CHICAGO -- After the Marlins’ close loss to the Cubs on Friday, one in which they were undone by several miscues, manager Skip Schumaker’s message was clear.

“We do feel really good when it’s close,” Schumaker said. “But we have to play cleaner baseball if we want to win big league games.”

And for seven innings on Saturday, they did -- until things turned upside down during a sloppy eighth inning in a 4-2 loss to Chicago at Wrigley Field.

Miami took a 2-1 lead into the eighth, which so far this season has been a recipe for success. They entered the day 11-1 when leading after seven innings, and although the Cubs had some timely hitting late, a few Marlins mishaps aided Chicago’s rally.

“We just didn't play catch,” Schumaker said after Saturday’s loss. “When you give extra outs to big league teams, and it doesn't matter what team you're facing, those usually score. Just a tough inning overall. Yeah, that was a tough loss.”

Those extra outs went as follows:

• After nearly snagging a Cody Bellinger liner to lead off the eighth, reliever corralled the ball and threw it low to first base, on the inside half of the bag.  dropped it.

• Trey Mancini followed Bellinger and lofted what appeared to be a routine fly ball to right field.  lost it in the sun, and when it came down, it deflected off his leg.

Burdick said he lost the ball as he was closing in on it.

“There's just no excuse,” Burdick said. “You’ve got to catch that ball.”

• Nick Madrigal came up two batters after Mancini and hit a go-ahead two-run single to right field. Burdick’s throw home sailed over catcher Nick Fortes’ head, allowing Madrigal to advance to second.

“You work on those for all Spring Training, and there’s sun balls,” Schumaker said of the ball Burdick lost. “It’s a tough one because you're coming in and you see it as you're running in. It's tough to get around those ones on the sun balls. The throw was an overthrow. Always through the cutoff man, that's what we talked about. Just an overall tough inning.”

• Madrigal scored moments later on a groundball single by Miguel Amaya that got under second baseman ’ glove and through shortstop . The single had a 67.4 mph exit velocity.

The Marlins were limited to two runs despite collecting 10 hits, but they’ve had a knack for winning close games this season. This was just their second loss when limiting opponents to four or fewer runs. Friday was their first.

And they couldn’t have scripted a better afternoon for their pitching staff Saturday, on a bullpen day starting with opener . Barnes, , , and held the Cubs to seven hits and three walks through the first seven innings.

Brazoban worked out of a bases-loaded, two-out chance in the seventh, striking out Seiya Suzuki, and turned the ball to Puk in the eighth. Schumaker said the plan was to go with  in the ninth.

“They did exactly what they were supposed to do,” Schumaker said of the bullpen. 

It’s been a tough week for the Marlins, who dropped their fifth straight game following a three-game sweep to the Braves. They’ve been in both games in Chicago, but saw things slip away late each time.

“That’s what makes baseball as a whole a frustrating game,” Barnes said of Saturday’s eighth inning. “You get a series of unfortunate events that kind of collectively snowball into runs scoring, right? It’s a tough inning, especially as a pitcher. It's probably easier to [instead] go out there and not have great stuff and you kind of get hit around. But unfortunately, you lose a ball in the sun, or one ball squeaks through here and there, and next thing you know, some runs score.”

Sunday, with ace  on the mound, is a chance to bounce back, but the Marlins know it starts with cleaning up their mistakes.

“Go out there, get rolling, put up some zeros and the offense will score some runs for us,” Barnes said. “But I think we’ve just got to go play some consistent baseball and just clean. And honestly, I don't know if we'll win tomorrow if we do that. But that puts us in the best position possible.”