When the Marlins began their third consecutive three-city trip on May 28, they were two games below .500 and three back of the Mets in the National League East.
On Monday night, as the Marlins flew home to South Florida following a 5-3 loss in a makeup matchup against the Red Sox at Fenway Park, they were nine games below .500 and 7 1/2 back in the division.
“I feel like we are staying loose out there,” said Jazz Chisholm Jr., who went 1-for-4 against Boston. “We're going out there, we're having fun. It's just like, things don't go your way. This is a very hard game to play, and when things aren't going your way and it's hard, it gets even more frustrating. It's tough to go through this right now, because it's just super frustrating, and I guess everybody can see it now.
"It's getting to us. We're going to keep pushing. We're never going to give up. We're going to go out there and play every day at 100%, keep giving our all. That's what we've got to do. That's just what we have to do.”
During Miami’s 1-8 road trip, the following facets of the game were trending down:
• 5.97 bullpen ERA (seventh-highest in MLB during that span)
• .133 average (10-for-75) with RISP, including 3-for-16 on Monday (28th in MLB)
• 10 errors, including two on Monday (tied for second-most in MLB)
But the most pressing matter is the big-picture handling of the pitching staff. Right-hander Pablo López was scheduled to start Monday, but the Marlins elected to push him back a day and go with Zach Thompson for his Major League debut. Miami has used its off-days to give its three main starters -- Sandy Alcantara, López and rookie Trevor Rogers -- an extra day of rest.
Over the weekend, pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre Jr. mentioned monitoring López's workload over the course of a 162-game season. López's season high for innings (111 1/3) came in 2019, and he threw just 62 1/3 innings in 2020, including the postseason. López has an injury history, missing time in '18 and '19 with a right shoulder strain.
In López’s stead, Thompson kept the Red Sox to two runs through three innings, but he twisted his right ankle fielding an inning-ending grounder in the third. Though Thompson warmed up for the fourth, manager Don Mattingly turned to the bullpen as a precautionary measure before the righty could throw another pitch.
“My fastballs were playing, my sinker was playing, my cutter was really good tonight,” said Thompson, who had family in attendance. “Couldn't really get the curveball over. It's just one of those things I kind of have to work around it.”
The Marlins lost Elieser Hernandez and Cody Poteet over the weekend in Pittsburgh, just when the ballclub thought it would have a five-man rotation for the first time in 2021. Other starting-pitching options sidelined include Nick Neidert, Jordan Holloway, Sixto Sánchez, Edward Cabrera and Jorge Guzman.
Rookie lefty Daniel Castano, who was recalled on Monday, felt something in his shoulder playing catch and was unavailable after Thompson’s short outing. That eliminates another arm from the mix. Thompson’s ankle is fine, and his performance was enough to warrant another opportunity.
Despite dropping nine of the last 10, Mattingly was pleased with his club’s effort, especially considering the circumstances. The Marlins gave up Monday’s off-day -- they won’t have another until June 17 -- and flew back to Boston after stops in Buffalo and Pittsburgh.
“If we play like that every night, with that kind of intensity, we're going to be fine,” Mattingly said. “We'll get the pitching settled out. Our big three have been pretty steady. We'll get the rest of it fixed and kind of on a better path. But if we play like that, we're going to end up being right in the middle of this thing.”