Relievers can't hold Mets after Nolasco's uneven start
NEW YORK -- So much for the seventh-inning stretch. Right now, the Marlins are going through their share of seventh-inning struggles.
Former Marlin John Buck drove in four runs, including a sacrifice fly in a three-run seventh inning that lifted the Mets to a 7-3 victory on Saturday afternoon in front of 28,474 at Citi Field.
Marlins starter Ricky Nolasco threw 5 1/3 innings, giving up three runs on six hits. He exited with the team trailing by a run, but the Marlins tied it in the seventh, the game-changing inning.
A pattern has developed early where the Marlins run into trouble in the seventh inning. In their last three games, the relievers have allowed nine runs in that frame.
The late-inning woe on Saturday led to the Marlins dropping four of their first five.
"We've just got to keep plugging guys in there and getting them comfortable," manager Mike Redmond said. "We've got some young guys. The weather has been cold. At the same time, guys have to go out there and step up and do their jobs.
"Last night, we had a big lead. We're having to extend guys out further than we really wanted to. We were a little shorthanded today. We'll go back out there tomorrow, keep at it. It's still early."
Ryan Webb gave up an RBI triple to Daniel Murphy, a run-scoring single to David Wright and Buck's sacrifice fly in the seventh. Only two of the runs were earned because catcher Miguel Olivo was charged with two throwing errors on stolen base attempts.
"I think you're trying to get comfortable. It's early in the season," Webb said. "You're still trying to get the kinks out. Not the best pitching conditions, but it's also not the best hitting conditions, either. It's an even playing field. You've got to work through it."
The elements have not been ideal either on the road trip. Saturday was sunny but a chilly 46 degrees, and the Marlins aren't creating any breaks for themselves.
Even the stadium devices aren't going Miami's way, as there was a telephone mishap Saturday.
In the sixth inning, when Nolasco was laboring, there was a glitch with the phone from the visiting dugout to the bullpen. At one point, Redmond called time out, allowing backup catcher Kyle Skipworth to sprint from the dugout to the bullpen to notify Webb to get warmed up. The phone issue eventually was resolved.
"I don't know what happened with that," Webb said. "I just saw Skipworth come running out, saying, 'Get ready!' We knew something was going to get going soon with Ricky at 100 pitches. We got it sorted out, fixed the phone."
Nolasco, the franchise leader in wins with 76, was lifted after 103 pitches. Webb picked him up in the sixth, retiring two batters and stranding two runners.
"I was going pretty well there, and then in that sixth, I made some good pitches and some balls found holes," Nolasco said. "That's what big league hitters do, they find the holes. I wasn't able to get out of that inning at all. I was a little disappointed with the way I finished. But overall, I felt I made the right pitches in the right spots in that inning. The balls just got through there.
After winning 7-5 on Friday night, the Marlins were in position on Saturday to take the series. But they were unable to shut the Mets down in the late innings.
New York padded its lead to four runs in the eighth inning on Collin Cowgill's homer.
Miami is still in a position to win the series, which concludes on Sunday afternoon. Jose Fernandez, a 20-year-old phenom, will be making his MLB debut.
Greg Dobbs had two RBIs for the Marlins, and Juan Pierre added two singles and scored twice.
In the seventh inning, Dobbs' RBI single off lefty reliever Josh Edgin scored Pierre from second to tie the game at 3. The hit also created a bizarre play at the plate.
When Pierre crossed home plate, he collided with Buck, who drifted into foul territory to receive Mike Baxter's off-line throw. Dobbs was ruled out on interference because Pierre made contact with Buck.
"To get the hit and get us tied was the momentum," Redmond said. "With two outs, it was a big hit. I don't think it changed the momentum of the game. We've got to come out. Defensively, we made a couple of mistakes and gave them some extra chances."
Wiping out their chance to prolong the inning underscored the tough stretch the Marlins are going through.
Rather than have a runner on second and two outs and Justin Ruggiano up against a left-hander, the teams were switching sides. And the Mets countered with their big three-run seventh.
"We really put our backs against the wall, having to be perfect, defensive-wise," Redmond said. "We weren't able to execute. Like we talked about, we have to play almost perfect on the defensive end, and we've got to execute our pitches. If we don't do that, they're going to put up some crooked numbers, which they did."
The Mets have been riding the hot hitting of Buck, who spent the past two seasons with the Marlins. The veteran catcher had a two-run double off Nolasco in the sixth inning, which gave New York a 3-2 lead.
"Last year, if something could go wrong, it did go wrong," Buck said of his rough campaign with the Marlins. "Then I tried harder to fix it."