CHICAGO -- Starting pitching, the strength of the Marlins in the first half, has suddenly hit a road bump. On Monday night, it was Trevor Richards who was roughed up in the Interleague series opener against the White Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field.
The right-hander was tagged for seven runs in five innings, yielding a two-run homer to Jose Abreu and a three-run shot to Yoan Moncada, in the Marlins’ 9-1 loss.
“There's plenty of concern,” manager Don Mattingly said of Richards. “Obviously, when a guy is not pitching well for extended periods, you worry about that. Obviously, there's been things along this route, trying to be able to help him, making sure the fastball command [is there], and different things he's working on.”
Jorge Alfaro blasted a second-inning home run off White Sox starter Ivan Nova, but the Marlins managed little after that and they have dropped all four games on this road trip.
It’s been especially bumpy for Richards in recent months. In his last eight starts, he’s 0-7 with a 6.33 ERA.
In his second big league season, Richards has been drawing Trade Deadline inquires, and there were plenty of scouts on hand on Monday, evaluating pitchers on both starts. Many scouts also are looking at Nova, and Marlins closer Sergio Romo, who tossed a scoreless eighth.
“Trevor is always a fine line,” Mattingly said. “He's not an overpowering guy. It's going to be location. His changeup is going to have to be good. When he doesn't have that, then it puts him in a pretty tough spot.”
Nova logged his ninth career complete game, and his first since April 29, 2017 at Miami, against a lineup that included Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna.
“We've had trouble with him, to be quite honest with you,” Mattingly said. “That's when we had a stack of hitters in here that didn't handle him well. We have consistently not been able to do anything with him.”
Since the All-Star break, Miami’s starters are 3-7 with a 5.96 ERA. No starter has worked deeper than 5 1/3 innings in the past seven games.
"It's been rough lately,” Richards said. “It's baseball, you've just got to keep grinding through. Figure it out and keep going.”
The substantial drop off comes after the Marlins’ rotation entered the break with a 4.03 ERA, which ranked eighth in the Majors.
With the starters struggling to go deep into games, the bullpen has been asked to carry a heavier load. Rookie Jose Quijada gave up back-to-back homers to James McCann and Ryan Goins in the sixth inning, and then he worked a scoreless seventh.
“It's been OK, so far,” Mattingly said. “It seems like we've kind of weathered it pretty good. We've been able to mix and match out there. Obviously, if you get that over a period of time, it starts putting wear and tear on those guys. I think our starters will be better. We just haven't pitched that well.”
Richards has five years of club control left and he features one of the best changeups in the game. But his lack of a consistent breaking pitch has hurt him. That, coupled with some spotty fastball command.
Moncada now has 18 home runs, and he is starting to live up to expectations when he was a top prospect.
“Nothing that he does surprises me because I know all the talent he has,” Abreu said through an interpreter. “I know that he still can do more. He has been working hard. He’s a great baseball player with a lot of talent and I still think he can do more.”
Of the 99 pitches Richards threw, 51 were four-seam fastballs, and 32 changeups. He did get 10 swinging strikes on the changeup, and struck out seven on the night. But Richards threw 11 curveballs and five cut-fastballs.
Abreu’s home run came on a curveball, and Moncada’s homer was off a changeup. Entering the night, opponents were hitting .202 off the changeup.
“Just leaving pitches up,” Richards said. “I got beat with offspeed today, which hasn't necessarily been the case. I located fastball well, and build from there.”