Mandatory Credit: Mark L. Baer-US PRESSWIRE
The Miami Marlins continue their June slide into oblivion, as the team was unable to hold onto a tied ball game in the ninth inning and the bullpen melted down en route to a 7-1 loss to the visiting Toronto Blue Jays. Josh Johnson looked better in this start after a mediocre previous outing, but his bullpen mates were unable to pick him up and allowed six runs in the ninth inning to take a potential extra-innings or walk-off situation and turn it into another June massacre.Johnson Solid
One look at Johnson's performance today and one would think that his velocity was back up to 94 mph, but he averaged just under 93 mph on his fastball once again. Nevertheless, he did well against a typically formidable Toronto Blue Jays lineup. In 86 pitches, Johnson threw 30 pitches within the traditional strike zone and only maintained a two-to-one ratio on balls to called strikes (that is around the league average). The impressive thing was that he was able to induce swings and misses as the game went forward. Six of Johnson's seven strikeouts came in the final four innings of work for him, and he put up seven strikeouts on 13 whiffs despite just 86 pitches.
The Marlins, unfortunately, were not able to produce offensively despite facing a terrible pitcher in Brett Cecil. Cecil walked three batters and struck out two in six innings. He also allowed five hits to the Fish. However, the Marlins could not find any way to get runs on the board against the seemingly overmatched Cecil. Instead, they hit numerous lazy fly balls to all parts of the outfield and infield. The Marlins hit 10 fly balls in the game, and four of them went for pop-ups. Many of the remaining flies landed lazily in the hands of outfielders like Jose Bautista, with little drive behind them. Contrast this with a few of the well-struck fly balls that the Marlins took away from the Jays against Johnson, such as the one that center fielder Justin Ruggiano stole from Brett Lawrie.
Ruggiano was the only Marlin with multiple hits, and the team only mustered five hits and one extra-base hit total. It felt fairly fortuitous that the Marlins even got their run, but Omar Infante's double happened to come before Ruggiano's second single and was able to score him from first. Still, the Marlins saw opportunities with the bases loaded and two outs and with a runner on second and no one out and were unable to capitalize again.
In those situations, color commentator Tommy Hutton talked about the importance of "situational hitting." Sure, situational hitting may have helped the Marlins score the run in what was once a close game. But the problem is not in that department so much as it is the simple fact that the team isn't hitting at all. Before the club can fix "productive outs," they really need to fix "not making outs" entirely.
Steve Cishek struggled through the eighth inning but got out of a jam after he allowed a two-out walk and single to put runners on first and third. With powerhouse Jose Bautista at the plate, Cishek was able to get away with a lazy fly to center field. The next pitch, in the ninth inning, was not a pretty one to Edwin Encarnacion. What followed after that was a comical farce of an inning, complete with two sacrifice bunts, one as a safety squeeze, one muffed defensive play, one intentional walk, a hit-by-pitch, and a frustrating grand slam by Colby Rasmus. Cishek and Edward Mujica allowed six runs combined and cost the Marlins almost 50 percent of a win in a highly-unclutch performance.
It once again highlights what has happened with the Fish. Even when one part of the team performs well, such as today's starting pitching by Johnson, it is betrayed by two other aspects. The Marlins have simply been unable to put together a "complete" game with multiple decent contributions from each aspect of the team since earlier in the month in their first Boston Red Sox game. Since then, something has gone wrong even as the team performs well in one category, and today was no different.