Hero of the Game (Largest WPA): Once again, no Marlin topped 0.100 WPA. We remain hero-less in 2012.
Goat of the Game (Lowest WPA): Hanley Ramirez (0 for 4, 2K, -0.126 WPA)
Play of the Game: Ryan Ludwick doubled to center off of Mark Buehrle in the 6th inning, scoring Scott Rolen (0.98 WPA for the Reds)
The Marlins' offensive woes continued Thursday in a shutout loss to Johnny Cueto and the Cincinnati Reds. The trouble began early again as Mark Buehrle loaded the bases in the first inning and then gave up a sacrifice fly to Jay Bruce, scoring the first run of the game. The Marlins failed to retaliate, only getting their first hit in the top of the fourth. Emilio Bonifacio took a massive lead at first base, only to get picked off by Cueto and ruin the Marlins' chances at scoring.
The game transitioned into a pitcher's duel as Buehrle settled into the game, inducing a series of weak ground balls and fly outs from the Reds hitters. Buehrle produced strong peripherals during the game, only walking two and striking out five in six innings pitched. Unfortunately, he was unable to hold the Reds to only one run. Buehrle gave up a double to Scott Rolen to lead off the bottom of the sixth and then another double to Ryan Ludwick with one out. The extra run for the Reds proved to be meaningless, as the Marlins could not score a run, much less two or four.
Later in the game, Aroldis Chapman made short work of the struggling Marlins, striking out two in an inning of relief. Edward Mujica worsened matters for the Marlins by allowing a home run to Jay Bruce, a walk to Drew Stubbs, and a double to Chris Heisey. Sean Marshall had no difficulty closing out the game, striking out both Emilio Bonifacio and Giancarlo Stanton.
The story thus far has been the Marlins' inability to get the offense moving, with no real heroes emerging in the lineup. Giancarlo Stanton and Hanley Ramirez were both 0 for 4 yesterday and remain hitless in the 2012 season. Jose Reyes only got on-base once in four plate appearances yesterday. The offensive issues are perhaps the result of poor luck on balls in play. Cueto only struck out four Marlins batters through seven innings pitched with a BABIP of .158. He was effective, but not dominant. In stark contrast, the Reds had a BABIP of .368 against Buehrle. It is easy to become pessimistic after seeing two consecutive poor offensive outings, but making any reasonable determinations on the team's future after only eighteen innings of baseball is impossible. Small sample sizes will often produce statistical oddities, but given enough time, the numbers will balance out. With all likelihood, the Marlins are simply suffering from a few bad breaks and unlucky plays.
The Marlins will have a day to cool off and then they will resume play against the Reds on Saturday for their first night game of the season. The match-up will be Ricky Nolasco and Mat Latos. I am interested to see how Latos does outside the spacious Petco Park. His career home ERA with the Padres is 3.11 versus a career away ERA of 3.57. Hopefully the Marlins can seize on the hitter-friendly Great American Ballpark and score a run or two (hopefully six).