Marlins seek fix from within to help battered rotation, bullpen
MIAMI — "Not right now."
That was Miami Marlins manager Mike Redmond’s response when asked whether the club made any moves following Saturday’s 8-6 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Over the past two games — both defeats — the Marlins have surrendered 16 runs — the most in consecutive contests since April 9-10 in Washington.
After four straight contests in which starters earned a win, they have gone seven straight without one for the longest skid of the season.
Entering Saturday, Miami’s starters had averaged just 5 1/3 innings and 4.3 runs over their past seven outings. In six of the contests, they failed to complete the sixth.
The Marlins have been one of the surprises of the 2014 season, but something must be done about the rotation’s troubles if they hope to keep turning heads.
A critical stretch has arrived. It’s obvious the club misses having an ace like Jose Fernandez to stop the bleeding.
"I think we’re there," Redmond said. "Our bullpen can’t sustain five or six innings every single night and nor can our morale. It’s tough as a player sometimes when you’re down 2, 3 nothing in the second or third inning.
"It affects everything — the defense, our energy. We’re in a rut right now. Our starting pitching isn’t getting deep enough into games, but that can change quick, too."
Veteran southpaw Randy Wolf, who the Marlins signed once Fernandez found out he needed Tommy John surgery in mid-May, struggled for the third time in four starts.
Wolf went just four innings, allowing five runs on nine hits. Jordy Mercer and Andrew McCutchen blasted long homers in the second and fourth, respectively.
Miami brought along the 37-year-old in the hope he could eat innings. In his three losses, Wolf has not completed six. Opponents have averaged nine hits and five runs in those starts.
"Embarrassingly bad I think is the best way to put it," said Wolf, who missed last season with a second Tommy John surgery. "After that I just came out and looked at my pitches. When you don’t have command of your pitches like that there’s no way it’s going to be good.
"It’s really frustrating to physically feel good and not be able to execute out there. It’s embarrassing when you don’t have the command you should."
Top prospect Andrew Heaney’s arrival is imminent, but fans have become impatient. Heaney was scratched from his most recent start in order to save innings for later in the season once he reaches the majors. Heaney is 3-0 with a 2.74 ERA in four starts since moving up to Triple-A New Orleans. In 23 innings, he has struck out 27 and walked just two.
Fans have been impressed by the resilient nature of the big-league club and expect more from it now.
How much longer can the Marlins go through games like Saturday before they fall too far behind in the standings?
The Washington Nationals have won seven of 10 to move into a two-way tie for first with the Atlanta Braves in the National League East. The Marlins sit one game back despite losing three in a row.
Miami’s offense rallied to tie Friday’s game with four runs in the ninth, but eventually lost in 13 innings. The Marlins scored another four on Saturday and brought the tying run to the plate before Reed Johnson popped out to first in foul territory.
On Friday, Miami trailed by three in the fifth. Saturday, the Marlins were down by two in the second, then 5-0 by the middle of the fourth.
"We’re pitching from behind every night," Redmond said. "We’re giving runs up early. We had a real struggle getting a starter through the fourth or fifth inning."
Tired of the bullpen blowing late leads, the front office did something about it by trading a Competitive Balance pick for reliever Bryan Morris earlier this month. Morris has pitched six scoreless outings since June 4, including two shutout frames on Saturday against his former team.
Perhaps nothing needs to be done about the staff… yet.
Right-hander Henderson Alvarez leads the majors with three complete game shutouts and could turn things around when he starts Sunday. Alvarez had his 26 consecutive scoreless innings streak snapped last Sunday against the Chicago Cubs when he exited with a left hip strain.
"Sometimes all you need is one good start out of a guy," Redmond said. "Hopefully Henderson can give that to us. Give us a great start like he’s been doing and we can pick up the win tomorrow and change everything."