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Steckenrider, Marlins stumble in Braves' big 6th

Steady outing by Smith shortened due to pitch count
MLB.com @JoeFrisaro

MIAMI -- In his brief big league career, Drew Steckenrider has been the model of consistency. The 27-year-old came into Thursday night having allowed just two runs in 16 2/3 innings, with 23 strikeouts and three walks this season.

Against the Braves, Steckenrider saw how quickly things can turn. The steady right-hander was tagged for six runs on four hits, with two walks (one intentional) in a 9-2 loss to the Braves at Marlins Park.

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MIAMI -- In his brief big league career, Drew Steckenrider has been the model of consistency. The 27-year-old came into Thursday night having allowed just two runs in 16 2/3 innings, with 23 strikeouts and three walks this season.

Against the Braves, Steckenrider saw how quickly things can turn. The steady right-hander was tagged for six runs on four hits, with two walks (one intentional) in a 9-2 loss to the Braves at Marlins Park.

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One positive takeaway was Lewis Brinson's home run in the ninth inning, his fifth of the season and first at Marlins Park.

Video: ATL@MIA: Brinson smashes a solo home run in the 9th

Ozzie Albies belted a grand slam off Steckenrider in a seven-run sixth inning, where all the runs were scored with two outs. Freddie Freeman, who had a career-high five hits, added a two-run homer in the inning. Atlanta had eight straight batters reach off Steckenrider and Nick Wittgren after the second out was recorded.

"It happened fast, obviously," said Marlins bench coach Tim Wallach, filling in as manager for Don Mattingly, who was away from the club for a day due to a death in the family. "Albies was the big blow. Once that happened, it kept happening faster."

Before the Braves' breakthrough, Steckenrider had never allowed more than two earned runs in 54 MLB appearances, dating back to 2017. His worst previous appearance came last Aug. 19 at the Mets, when he gave up five runs, but only two were earned.

This season, Steckenrider had gone seven straight appearances without surrendering a run. His unwavering demeanor and reliability is why the Marlins have regularly turned to him in any high-leverage situation.

"[Steckenrider] didn't have the command that he normally has," Wallach said. "You just don't see him walk guys very often, and leave balls in the zone. He couldn't hit his spots. He's been so good that you trust him in those spots every time."

On Thursday, Steckenrider's number was called in the sixth inning, after Caleb Smith allowed a one-out single to Ender Inciarte. Smith was at a season-high 101 pitches in a tie game.

Smith gave up two runs on seven hits in 5 1/3 innings, striking out five. Atlanta's Mike Foltynewicz yielded one unearned run in five innings, along with three hits. Martin Prado pulled Miami even at 1 in the fifth inning with a two-out single.

"I felt fine," Smith said. "I know they have their reasons for pulling me, but I want the ball. I want to stay out there."

Video: ATL@MIA: Smith freezes Acuna for a K in the 1st

Wallach said the reasons for pulling Smith were the pitch count and the matchups at that point in the game.

"Just felt like [Smith] had to work a couple of times in some tough situations," Wallach said. "We wanted to get Steck in there. We were going to send [Steckenrider] back out there, figuring he's getting through there. It didn't work out. Just felt the better matchup there, and where Smitty was, pitch-wise, just felt like Steck was the right guy there."

The Marlins have now dropped four straight after they had won four straight series.

SOUND SMART
Smith has recorded five or more strikeouts in four straight starts, and he now has 53 on the season. He entered the game pacing all MLB rookies in strikeouts.

YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Smith received some defensive help in the third inning, when Brinson made a sprinting, diving catch on Nick Markakis' sinking line drive. Atlanta led by a run at the time, and Freeman was on first after collecting a two-out single.

Video: ATL@MIA: Brinson dives for a tumbling catch in center

HE SAID IT
"We just need some stuff to go our way. We're going to pull for each other. We've pulled for each other and fought for each other all year. We just need some stuff to go our way. We've got to execute a little bit better." -- Brinson, on how Miami needs to snap out of its slide

UP NEXT
After a DL stint to start the season, Dan Straily (0-0, 6.75 ERA) will be making his third start of 2018 Friday night at 7:10 ET against the Braves, who are sending Brandon McCarthy (4-1, 4.84 ERA) to the mound at Marlins Park. Straily is still building back up, as he's thrown eight innings this year, allowing three home runs and eight walks with three strikeouts.

Joe Frisaro has covered the Marlins for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro and listen to his podcast.

Miami Marlins, Caleb Smith, Drew Steckenrider