Despite a valiant effort, scoring nine of the final twelve runs of the game, the Florida Marlins dropped the finale of last night’s four-game series with the Arizona Diamondbacks by a final score of 12-9. The loss capped a series victory for the Diamondbacks and one of the most disastrous homestands imaginable for the Marlins. Their only victory of the 11-game homestand came on June 10th, a 6-4 victory against Arizona. The other 10 games included a four-game sweep by Milwaukee and a three-game sweep by division rival Atlanta. Entering June, the Marlins were eight games over .500, leading the wild-card race, and only two games behind Philadelphia. Merely two weeks later, the Marlins are floundering at 32-33 and their early playoff dreams may be dashed. What went wrong?
There is plenty of blame to go around in Miami. The Marlins only scored 3.6 runs per game on the homestand while allowing 5.4, and no part of the team can escape finger-pointing. Relievers Leo Nunez and Mike Dunn combined for three losses in the later innings. The starting pitchers allowed four or more runs in six out of the 11 games. The bats have managed a 106 wRC+ in June (which includes this homestand as well as a loss to Arizona on the first of the month), but haven’t been able to get runners home, scoring nearly half a run fewer per game than the league average. Surely, the loss of Hanley Ramirez made a large impact, despite his struggles to begin the season, and the absence of Josh Johnson put extra pressure on both the rotation and bullpen.
Not that the Marlins haven’t had their share of close calls. Six of the ten losses came by one run, including the first three games against Milwaukee and all three games against Atlanta. In the first game of the homestand, John Axford walked the bases loaded in the ninth and managed to escape by striking out Brett Hayes with the bases loaded. The second game saw Nunez blow a one-run save thanks to a Ryan Braun pinch-hit home run. The third game saw another final at-bat loss as Dunn gave up an unlikely home run to backup shortstop Josh Wilson in the 11th inning after the Marlins squandered a bases loaded and one out situation in the bottom of the ninth.
The Braves series provided nothing but more heartbreak. Brad Hand‘s stellar debut performance (six strong innings, one earned run, and six strikeouts) went for naught as Tommy Hanson combined with the Braves’ bullpen for a shutout in game number one. Game number two saw a two-run ninth-inning comeback off Craig Kimbrel go wasted as the Braves would win it in the 10th on a Freddie Freeman single. At least in the last game the Marlins were never given false hope in game three, losing 3-2 but never mounting a true comeback after falling behind 3-0 to Jair Jurrjens.
Just to add insult to injury, the Marlins must now head on the road to Philadelphia. Only two weeks ago, this series could have been a battle for first place in the NL East; now, the Marlins are 7.5 games back. Throw in an bullpen in dire need of rest — over the last three games, Marlins relievers have been forced to throw 15.1 innings — and the disaster could just continue. It’s unfortunate, as the Marlins roster contains a variety of young and talented players. A homestand in early June typically doesn’t make a season, but in this case, it just may have broken the season for the Florida Marlins.