MIAMI (AP) — The smallest crowd yet to watch a game in Marlins Park waited in vain for a run to cheer about.
Reeling Miami was shut out for the fourth time this season, and its losing streak reached five games with an 8-0 loss Wednesday night to the Atlanta Braves.
The home team could be grateful there were few witnesses. For the second night in a row, the Marlins drew the smallest crowd since their park opened a year ago. Announced attendance was 13,810.
Only three series into the season, the Marlins trail NL East leader Atlanta by seven games, and they have the worst record in the big leagues at 1-8. They’ve scored just 16 runs, and they’re off to their worst start since the 1998 team began the season 1-11.
“It’s snowballing a little bit,” said first-year manager Mike Redmond, a rookie catcher on that `98 team. “We’re pressing. They need to relax.”
Easier said than done.
“Nothing’s going right,” said left fielder Juan Pierre, one of four starters Wednesday who ended the night batting .200 or worse. “Everybody says be relaxed. The only thing that relaxes you as a whole is if you win games.”
Evan Gattis hit a three-run homer to help Atlanta complete its second consecutive three-game sweep. Mike Minor pitched 5 2-3 innings for the Braves, whose 8-1 record leads the majors.
They’re off to their best start since 1994, when they began the season 13-1. Atlanta takes a six-game winning streak into a three-game series at Washington beginning Friday.
“It’s good momentum,” manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “Winning is always good. It’s a good feeling. It’s early, but you want to be the guy in front all the time.”
Miami went 0 for 9 with runners in scoring position and is batting .153 in those situations. One bright spot: Giancarlo Stanton singled in the eighth to hike his average to .167.
“Hopefully, that will be the start of him getting back on track,” Redmond said. “We need him to get going.”
Alex Sanabia (1-1) pitched 10 scoreless innings to open the season, then gave up six runs in the fifth, his final inning.
“It’s tough to pitch and be perfect, especially when you’re playing teams like the Braves and the Phillies,” Redmond said. “We’ve got to do our part offensively to take some of the pressure off the pitchers. We can’t ask those guys to go out and throw a shutout every single night.”
The Marlins open a three-game series against the Philadelphia Phillies on Friday.
“The off day will be very important to refresh the minds and forget everything that has happened,” third baseman Placido Polanco said.
Their latest loss became a blowout in the fifth, when Gattis hit his third homer in a six-run inning. The line drive landed in the nightclub swimming pool beyond left field.
“I thought it was going to decapitate somebody,” Gonzalez said.
“I never hit a home run into a pool before,” Gattis said. “Notch that one.”
The rookie also singled and is batting .391 with a slugging percentage of .826.
Gattis hit six home runs in spring training as a non-roster invitee to earn a spot on the team. The surprising success of the 26-year-old catcher gives the Braves considerable depth at the position, with Brian McCann expected to return from shoulder surgery by the end of April.
Juan Francisco hit a two-run homer off the facade of the upper deck in center field, Andrelton Simmons drove in two runs, and Jordan Schafer had four of Atlanta’s 13 hits.
Minor (2-0) pitched around a leadoff double in the second and another in the third. Two relievers completed a seven-hitter.
The Braves came into the game with the best ERA in the majors at 2.13, and they’ve allowed only three runs in the past four games.
NOTES: Marlins C Kyle Skipworth made his big league debut as a pinch hitter in the seventh. He grounded into a double play. … Slumping Braves CF B.J. Upton (.103) was given the night off. … Braves RF Jason Heyward went 0 for 4, dropping his average to .071. … Marlins rookie Chris Valaika, who started at 1B, said he never played the position before, not even in Little League. He mishandled his first chance for an error.