Missed chances doom Marlins against MLB-best Cardinals

Miami Marlins' Dee Gordon breaks his bat as he grounds into a double play to end the game during the ninth inning.

Wilfredo Lee/AP

MIAMI — When MLB’s top team comes to town, execution is paramount. Not for a third of the game, but for its entirety.

Things started out well enough for the Miami Marlins through the first three innings of Tuesday night’s 4-3 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals. But they quickly soured.

Giancarlo Stanton blasted his 26th homer of the season, a two-run shot that caromed off the operable wall in left-center field, in the first. Miami extended the lead on Adeiny Hechavarria’s one-out RBI single in the second.

But missed opportunities haunted the Marlins in the one-run loss, dropping the club to 10-11 in those situations. Miami left eight men on base and went 1 for 8 with runners in scoring position. The leadoff man reached in four of the first five innings but scored just once. The Marlins outhit the Cardinals 10-9.

"When you play a team like the Cardinals, there’s a reason they have the record that they have," manager Dan Jennings said. "You have to be able to — when you get leadoff guys on — you’ve got to get them over and get them in. Unfortunately, we didn’t do that tonight. … We were there, just felt like that one hit away in the most opportune moment and it evaded us. Got 10 hits, which is certainly enough to win."

Before the game, Jennings addressed the need for the offense to manufacture runs. Following Dee Gordon’s leadoff double to open the fifth, JT Realmuto grounded out to short and Christian Yelich struck out. St. Louis intentionally walked Stanton, setting Carlos Martinez up to fan Derek Dietrich to end the threat of the go-ahead run.

Though Jennings said there was no thought of Realmuto putting down a sacrifice bunt that early in the game, a productive out would’ve worked.

"Anytime you don’t win it’s frustrating, especially a one-run game," Jennings said. "You look at different things that could’ve transpired. That one hit, two-out hit here or there and all of a sudden you’re getting add-on runs. There were a few times where getting leadoff guy on and can’t get him over and in. You can’t beat the good teams if you don’t do that. But the add-on runs are big and you have to be able to do that if you’re going to put people away. That killer instinct, that mindset."

Marlins vs. Cardinals

Spotted a three-run lead, rookie Jose Urena relinquished it in a three-run fourth.

Urena surrendered a one-out upper-deck solo shot to Jason Heyward before Yadier Molina reached on an infield single and Jon Jay walked. Pitching coach Chuck Hernandez visited the mound. Xavier Scruggs, the eighth batter, followed with a two-run, game-tying double.

Afterward, Urena said his control wasn’t there. A couple of pitches he tried going away with caught more of the zone. When those mistakes happen, "you pay for them."

"It’s tough," said Urena, who exited after five innings and 88 pitches (51 strikes). "Obviously, we started off the game with a 3-0 lead and disappointed to get the loss after having such a good start to the game. It’s just how the game goes."

When asked about the good start, Stanton noted a game goes nine innings. The little things differentiate the contenders and pretenders.

With the loss, Miami (30-42) has fallen to 12 games below .500 for the first time since June 12, when they sported a 24-36 record. The Marlins have dropped five of six.

"That’s what you’ve got to do," Stanton said of execution. "They’re not in first place by luck, by flip of a coin. You’re not going to beat those teams if you don’t execute."

You can follow Christina De Nicola on Twitter @CDeNicola13 or email her at cdenicola13@gmail.com.