Marsh seeks 'consistency' after shortest start of '24

June 19th, 2024

OAKLAND -- The last time took the ball, he was facing a much different lineup in a much different situation than Tuesday night at the Oakland Coliseum.

The results were vastly different, too.

Five days after holding a juggernaut Yankees offense scoreless across seven innings, Marsh turned in his shortest start this season by allowing seven runs in three-plus innings in the Royals’ 7-5 loss to the A’s in Tuesday’s series opener.

Marsh felt his pitch execution was off from the start, when he walked leadoff hitter Max Schuemann and allowed the first of three doubles JJ Bleday would hit Tuesday night. In both plate appearances, Marsh threw a first-pitch called strike but then quickly got behind the hitter, spraying fastballs and sliders to Schuemann and getting behind 2-1 to Bleday before throwing a sinker in the middle of the plate.

“We’re going to look at it tomorrow and evaluate what I could have done better, especially because you’re going to get behind guys,” Marsh said. “So it's learning to pitch when you're behind, too, and not letting it get out of hand like it did today.”

Marsh bounced back with a 14-pitch second inning but then allowed two more runs in the third. He had runners on first and third with no outs when he struck out the middle of the A’s lineup to get out of the inning without further damage.

The difference in those at-bats: Marsh got to two strikes quicker. He was in a 2-2 count to Brent Rooker, got to a full count and struck Rooker out swinging on a 96 mph fastball. Shea Langeliers was in a 1-2 count when he also struck out on a 96 mph fastball. Tyler Soderstrom struck out on three pitches.

“I was ahead in counts, or at least 2-2 counts, where we’re in the driver’s seat,” Marsh said. “So just put them on their heels, and it just happened we got three strikeouts. If it was like that the whole game, it probably would have been a better situation, different game.”

Getting ahead and throwing first-pitch strikes is when Marsh is at his best. He feels his fastball and breaking balls play better. It’s why he dominated the Yankees last Thursday.

“First-pitch strikes, getting back to that, and hammering that, has been the name of the game this whole season,” Marsh said. “For me, when that stuff’s good, everything else is really good.”

Royals manager Matt Quatraro had reliever Sam Long warming up in the third inning, and in hindsight said he should have let Long take over for the fourth because of how hard Marsh worked to get out of the previous inning.

“Almost should have treated that like a reliever that got out of a high-leverage spot,” Quatraro said. “Probably used everything up right there in the third. … In hindsight, just the way it worked out and how hard he worked to get out of the third, probably would have been the smart thing to do.”

Marsh needed 28 pitches to navigate the third. But at 63 pitches entering the fourth, Marsh went back out. He walked the leadoff batter before allowing a double and three-run homer without recording an out.

Five Royals relievers threw five scoreless innings, and the offense nearly made Marsh’s start a footnote when they almost mustered a comeback. Nick Loftin made the A’s pay for a two-out error in the second inning when he hit his first career home run, a two-run blast that was placed perfectly over the left-center-field fence without hitting the rising wall to bounce back onto the field. And the Royals scored one run in the fifth and two in the eighth.

But Kansas City left six on base and went 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position.

“[A’s starter Hogan Harris] executed his pitches, and that’s the name of the game,” Loftin said. “And their bullpen did really well to shut us down in big situations when we had men in scoring positions.”

Marsh was ready to move on from Tuesday’s game by the final out, and part of his work the rest of the week will focus on consistency -- pitch to pitch, start to start.

“That’s the name of the game, consistency,” Marsh said. “Going to try to not beat myself up over it because I don't want to be labeled a wild card. … It would have been better if I even just gave up four runs in five innings. We win that game. Really not letting it get out of hand like it did tonight, is pretty ridiculous on my end.”