SAN DIEGO — The Miami Marlins seek signs of life during a crucial stretch of a promising season.
After closing out the best nine-game homestand in franchise history, the Marlins won in extras against the San Diego Padres to open a season-long 11-game road trip. They stood alone atop the National League East with five straight victories.
Three days later, the Marlins (20-18) have dropped three in a row as they head two hours north to Los Angeles for a three-game set with the Dodgers. The club is now 3-13 on the road.
Sunday’s 5-4 loss to the Padres at Petco Park left a sour taste in slugger Giancarlo Stanton’s mouth.
"The whole series was subpar," Stanton said. "Now we can either fall into everyone’s concerns or do something about it."
Whatever momentum Miami took with it on the cross-country flight seems to be gone.
Right-hander Jacob Turner surrendered just a solo home run to pitcher Ian Kennedy over six innings, scattering five hits and striking out four on Thursday. Four relievers combined for five scoreless frames.
Stanton blasted a two-run, two-strike to right-center in the 11th as the Marlins won their ninth game over their past 10 to go a season-high five games over .500.
Over the weekend, however, the winning formula disappeared.
Miami’s top three starters in the rotation went just 14 innings, giving up 13 runs on 20 hits with eight walks and 10 strikeouts. After producing five straight quality starts and six of eight, the Marlins have none over their past three.
Righty Henderson Alvarez lasted four frames on Sunday, allowing five runs on seven hits one start after tossing his second complete game shutout of the year.
"Lot of pitches up in the zone, didn’t look comfortable, didn’t look like he got in a rhythm at all," manager Mike Redmond said. "That was really the three shaky starts. I don’t think any of us expected that especially coming into this ballpark. You give their hitters some credit. They battled us tough and made us throw a lot of pitches."
Added catcher Jeff Mathis: "Those guys came out ready to play ball. You’ve got to tip your hat to them. The way they came out and put it to us the last few days. You just have to come out and be better."
Marlins batters’ struggles at the plate began last Wednesday, but were masked by the 1-0 walk-off victory over the New York Mets.
In that game, the Marlins struck out 10 times and left six men on base. Thursday’s win consisted of just five hits and 17 strikeouts.
During the four-game series, Miami hitters struck out 48 times to help the Padres set a franchise record.
Down by five, Miami pulled within one with a four-run eighth that finally showed a pulse.
Christian Yelich led off with a homer to center in front of family and friends. Reed Johnson and Stanton singled. Casey McGehee lined out to right before Jeff Baker tripled in a pair. Garrett Jones walked and both he and Baker moved up a base on a wild pitch. Adeiny Hechavarria drove in Baker with an RBI groundout to second. With the tying run at third, pinch-hitter Jarrod Saltalamacchia struck out swinging. He is now hitless in 11 at-bats this road trip.
In the ninth against closer Huston Street, the Marlins left the bases loaded when Baker grounded into a forceout. Miami collected 11 hits, including five guys with multi-hit games, with at least one runner in all but one inning.
"We were coming off a monster homestand where everybody pitched well, everything’s going great," Redmond said. "We’re being tested on the road. Now we’ll find out what we’re made of. You’ve got to pitch through adversity, play through adversity, and you’ve got to keep going. That’s where we’re at right now. We’ve got to find a way to win on the road. Hopefully our offense spewing a little life today gives us that edge we’re going to need in LA."