Another ninth-inning failure by Heath Bell sent the Miami Marlins stumbling into the All-Star break. Saddled with a 6.75 ERA, he’s hanging on to his job by a thread.
Bell blew his sixth save in 25 chances in Sunday’s 5-4 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals, surrendering three hits, two walks and a sacrifice fly after striking out Carlos Beltran to open the ninth. Rafael Furcal’s two-run single with the bases loaded was the game-winner.
All those good feelings built the first eight innings, with the Marlins on the verge of taking two of three, evaporated.
”We’re a better ballclub than we showed out there,” manager Ozzie Guillen said. ”We’re doing everything we can to get better but the results are very bad. Very, very bad.
”I’m very confused and very sad to see a team like this go through this day in and day out with the same stuff. It’s hard to watch. but you can’t do much about it.
Coming off three consecutive 40-save seasons, Bell is in the first year of a three-year, $27 million free agent deal. The Marlins are 41-44 and nine games back in the NL East, and Bell (2-5) said it’s mostly his fault.
He’s struggled with control, walking 20 in 34 2/3 innings.
”I’ve had the worst first half that I’ve ever had,” Bell said. ”I’ve just got to figure it out and shove it to the other team. I’m working my tail off, I’m working hard. It’s just not good enough right now.”
From 2009-11, the right-hander was 15-9 with 132 saves in 146 chances with a 2.23 ERA. Now, he can’t get anybody out.
Bell gave up an RBI single by Furcal and the Cardinals had the winning run on base before he earned his 19th save in the series opener Friday. Ryan Webb was warming up when Sunday’s game ended.
”We’ll have to wait until after the All-Star break and then I will pick whoever is better out there to close the game,” Guillen said. ”I mean, that’s the bottom line.
”If you can’t do the job, then we’ll find somebody who can do the job.”
Steve Cishek is probably the leading contender. Cishek and Randy Choate have one save apiece.
Hanley Ramirez is in the doghouse, too, with a self-inflicted wound. Ramirez left the game with a lacerated right finger that needed stitches from punching a cooling fan in the dugout after grounding out in the sixth.
Guillen called it a ”very stupid injury” and ”very immature,” and said he hadn’t consulted Ramirez.
”To be honest with you, I didn’t even ask him,” Guillen said. ”I am so disappointed with that one.”
General manager Mike Hill thought Ramirez would be ready on Friday when they begin a four-game series at home against the Nationals. Ramirez, batting .248 with 12 homers and 44 RBI, was embarrassed and vowed he’d die on the field.
”I just got mad. I just got mad,” Ramirez said. ”I haven’t been doing it all year. It hurts everybody. It hurts me.”
Mitchell Boggs (2-1) struck out Donovan Solano with the bases loaded to end the ninth after Marc Rzepczynski left with heat-related woes in a game that began with the temperature at 94 degrees. Rzepczynski said he was having trouble focusing on the catcher’s glove.
Furcal also had an RBI single in the fifth and has 36 RBI overall, most among National League leadoff men. He singled to left on a 1-2 pitch and David Freese barely beat catcher John Buck’s tag for the winning run.
Buck had the ball ahead of the slide and the Marlins briefly argued the call. After watching a replay, Buck said home plate umpire Phil Cuzzi had gotten it right.
”I came in here and checked it, and I think he got it,” Buck said.
The Cardinals took two of three from Miami and headed into the All-Star break on a 6-2 streak after taking two of three from Miami.
The Marlins were minus another star most of the series. Giancarlo Stanton, the team’s lone All-Star, underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right knee Sunday after playing just two innings a day earlier.
Hill said the surgery was a success and that the team was hopeful Stanton would be back in four to six weeks.
Omar Infante added three hits and Logan Morrison and Greg Dobbs extended their hitting streaks to 11 games for Miami, which despite the loss has won seven of 11.
Tony Cruz cut the deficit to a run with a bases-loaded sacrifice fly with one out in the ninth and Daniel Descalso coaxed an 11-pitch walk to load the bases again ahead of Furcal’s winning hit. Furcal, who had been 0 for 4 with the bases loaded and 0 for 10 the last two seasons, is 5 for 14 against Bell with four RBI and four walks.
The top three in the Marlins’ order, Jose Reyes, Ramirez and Carlos Lee, were a collective 1 for 31 with five walks, an RBI and two runs. Florida pitchers held Cardinals All-Star Carlos Beltran to a single in 13 at-bats.
Rookie Joe Kelly allowed an unearned run in six innings for the Cardinals. But manager Mike Matheny’s attempt to finesse the seventh with three relievers flopped when Mikael Cleto gave up a double and a walk with one out to the only batters he faced and Kearns greeted Victor Marte with his third career pinch homer on a 2-0 fastball that landed an estimated 409 feet in the visitor’s bullpen in left-center.
Furcal’s RBI single in the fifth had put the Cardinals ahead 2-1. Skip Schumaker had an RBI single in the second and Matt Holliday extended his hitting streak to 11 games.
Florida starter Anibal Sanchez gave up two runs in six innings and walked none for just the second time this season. He entered Sunday’s start 2-6 with a 5.64 ERA over 10 starts, but also was stingy against the Cardinals on June 27 at home when he allowed three runs in seven innings and got the win in a 5-3 victory.
Mike Dunn didn’t allow a hit in 1 2/3 innings and Cishek struck out Holliday with a man on third to end the eighth. St. Louis hitters are 1 for 19 against Cishek, who worked 1 2/3 hitless innings on Friday in a 3-2 victory.
The Marlins took the lead without a hit in the first, fueled by one-out walks to Ramirez and Carlos Lee. Ramirez stole second on the first pitch to Lee, the pair pulled off a double steal as Logan Morrison struck out on a full count and Ramirez scored without a play after catcher Tony Cruz threw wildly into left field.
Kelly struck out five and walked five, but kept his pitch count manageable by allowing just two hits and getting two double plays — one that he started himself after snaring a liner by John Buck in the second. Pitching coach Derek Lilliquist visited after 10 of Kelly’s first 18 pitches were balls.
NOTES: Cardinals 1B Lance Berkman will work out with the team Thursday in Cincinnati and then leave for a rehab assignment. He’s been out since arthroscopic knee surgery in late May. ”I think everybody knows when you go this long, you need to see live pitching,” manager Mike Matheny said. … Furcal got his first bases-loaded RBI since walking against Cardinals closer Jason Motte on July 16, 2010. … Lee got his first stolen base on his first attempt of the year, on the back end of a double steal with Hanley Ramirez in the first. Lee had eight seasons of double-digit steals through 2007 but totaled 16 steals the previous four years. … The Marlins entered the day with three 10-game hitting streaks by Justin Ruggiano, Logan Morrison and Greg Dobbs. It’s the first time that’s happened for the franchise since Luis Castillo, Kevin Millar and Andy Fox had double-digit streaks on June 5, 2002 according to STATS LLC. Ruggiano was 0 for 4 with three strikeouts.