DENVER — This isn’t how the Miami Marlins envisioned beginning their three-city, nine-game trip — losing two of three to the National League’s worst club, the Colorado Rockies, with All-Stars Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez out for the season.
And yet that’s what happened after Sunday afternoon’s 7-4 loss at Coors Field.
To the same club — personnel aside — the Marlins began this season’s surprising run by opening with three wins in a four-game set. Miami had won its previous three series of more than two games.
When asked about to explain the past two games, third baseman Casey McGehee struggled for an answer. It was a tough one to find.
"I don’t know," McGehee said. "Obviously it didn’t go the way we were hoping for it to go, but coming into this ballpark you can’t take anything for granted. All things considered I thought we pitched pretty decent. Just couple things here and there got away from us. We’ve still got a little over a month to go and we’re still in position if we can get it going and sustain something and make something happen. We’ve just got to keep plugging away."
Miami collected just two runs off rookie Christian Bergman until the sixth, tacking on two and chasing him. Bergman was making just his fourth big-league start and first since June 20. He went a career-high 6 1/3 innings fresh off the 60-day disabled list.
Great defense — and perhaps a bit of luck — went against the Marlins on Sunday.
Pinch-hitter Ed Lucas worked a leadoff single in the eighth, but last year’s Gold Glove winner Nolan Arenado turned a spectacular double play. In the ninth, shortstop Josh Rutledge and first baseman Matt McBridge robbed Miami of back-to-back hits to open the ninth. On the first play, Christian Yelich slowly walked back to the dugout in disbelief.
Shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria saw an odd hop go off his glove and into center. Two insurance runs would be scored in the seventh.
"We had some opportunities to add on some runs and it just didn’t happen," manager Mike Redmond said. "We didn’t get any breaks either. They made some great plays and a bad hop on that ball to Hech, which would’ve been a double-play ball."
Charlie Blackmon turned a routine two-out single to right into a double by deking Giancarlo Stanton, whose throw was cut off before reaching second. He would score on Drew Stubbs’ RBI double.
Starter Brad Hand, given the fifth spot in the rotation over veteran Brad Penny, couldn’t close out the fifth inning when he lost command. Because of a 13-inning marathon, Redmond was forced to have Penny hit with just nine outs remaining in a two-run game.
When the Marlins pulled within a run later in the frame, Penny surrendered two on a one-out double to the eighth hitter — DJ LeMahieu — with the bases loaded.
As luck would have it, however, the clubs in front of the Marlins in the National League wild-card race also lost, so they didn’t fall further behind in the standings. They remain four games back.
Is it tough knowing ground could’ve been made up? What could’ve been?
"I guess, but at the same time it’s a blessing if you dropped one that everybody else did too," McGehee said. "You can’t get wrapped up in what everybody else does. If you don’t play good baseball you don’t win games. We’ve just got to take care of what we can take care of and push through it."
The loss also put the Marlins back below .500 after going 2-3 against the NL and American League’s worst teams — the Rockies and Texas Rangers, respectively — this week.
It’s only going to get tougher with visits to Los Angeles to face the AL’s top team in the Angels and the Atlanta Braves, ahead of the Marlins in the NL wild-card race.
Still, this club has shown its resiliency all season long. Who’s to say the same won’t take place?
"Every game’s big," Redmond said. "This is new territory for us. A lot of guys on this team playing meaningful games for us in August after losing 100 games last year. That’s part of the process and it’s good for us and our ballclub. We’re still right there. OK, we lost a series, whatever. We’ve got to move on. Turn the page and got a tough series against the Angels starting tomorrow. This is a resilient group that has been the whole entire season. I know we’ll regroup and come back tomorrow night and go try to win a ballgame. That’s what we do."