MIAMI — The Miami Marlins starting rotation needs to regain its mojo, and soon.
A Marlins starter has not won since June 5 when righty Jacob Turner allowed five runs in 5 1/3 innings of an 11-6 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays.
Over the past seven games, starters have averaged just 5 1/3 innings and 4.3 runs. In six of the contests, they failed to complete the sixth.
"The last week to 10 days has been a little bit shaky with our starting pitching," manager Mike Redmond said. "We haven’t been able to get really deep into games which has extended our bullpen a lot."
Last season, the Marlins staff set a franchise record for lowest ERA and became the club’s perceived strength entering 2014. This year, the starters rank 18th in the majors — 10th in the National League — with a 3.93 ERA. They hold a 20-20 record.
"You go in some ruts like this with the starting pitching, but those guys are the key," Redmond said. "We’ve got to attack the zone and get deeper into games, give our offense a chance to score some runs."
Unlike 2013, the offense has been able to produce and mount rallies. It did so Friday, but still fell short in extras. It’s tough to erase early deficits game in and game out.
For the first time in eight home starts this season, right-hander Nathan Eovaldi didn’t go at least six innings and give up three earned runs or less.
The 10 hits and six runs matched season highs. The 4 2/3 innings was his shortest outing since a mid-May matchup with the Giants in San Francisco. Since becoming the club’s de facto ace with Jose Fernandez out, Eovaldi’s ERA has gone from 2.86 to 3.71. The club dropped to 6-8 in his 14 starts.
"I think I gave up six hits when I was ahead in the count, 1-2 or when I had two strikes on them and I wasn’t putting them away," Eovaldi said following Friday’s game. "My fastball command wasn’t really there, my slider was flat tonight. They hit the ball well, they made me pay and capitalized on my mistakes."
Down by four entering the ninth and 0-28 when trailing after eight doesn’t bode well for a club’s chances.
But the Marlins were able to tie Friday’s game on six walks and just one hit — Reed Johnson’s two-out, two-run single off Pittsburgh Pirates closer Jason Grilli.
The six walks drawn matched a club record also done July 14, 2011, against the Chicago Cubs in the 9th inning. It was also the last time a major-league team achieved that feat. Of the 53 pitches, just 23 went for strikes.
Still, it left a sour taste in the club’s mouth by not plating the winning run. Marcell Ozuna struck out after Casey McGehee tied the game with a bases-loaded walk. Pittsburgh would win in 13 innings on Gregory Polanco’s two-run homer.
"We put it all together," Redmond said. "It was impressive. We capitalized on their guys coming out being a little bit wild and we were patient, had some great at-bats and their guys took some pitches."
It marked the most runs scored in the ninth all season by the Marlins. The only other time they erased a four-run deficit was April 26 in a 7-6 win over the Mets in New York. But the last time they trailed in that game was the bottom of the fifth.
Miami moved up to 12th in the majors with 212 walks, but they have struck out 579 times (third most in MLB) entering Saturday.
"Like I’ve been saying all year — we didn’t look like we had much life for the first six or seven innings and we gave ourselves a chance," McGehee said. "Was there for the taking at the end, in that front it was definitely a good comeback. We couldn’t quite finish it off. It’s been the good thing about this team. Even when we’re down we’ve given ourselves a shot more times than not."
Christian Yelich’s lower back strain improved overnight, but not enough for him to be in the starting lineup on Saturday. Redmond said the 22-year-old would probably be unavailable.
Yelich, who felt it tighten when he reached over to pick up Polanco’s leadoff single in the first, said he can walk without too much discomfort.
"It sucks, frustrating," Yelich said. "Obviously that’s a big part of your body. For it to tighten up like that and not being able to do a lot — that’s my case."
— Second baseman Rafael Furcal may get Sunday’s game off after a 13-inning debut Friday and Saturday’s afternoon contest.
— Reports have been circulating that the Marlins have signed their top 10 picks, including No. 2 overall selection Tyler Kolek to a $6 million bonus.