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Miami Marlins' bullpen troubles play key role in late losses

While Miami's starting pitching struggled at times during the eight game losing streak, the Marlins' bullpen has been inconsistent and have failed to either hold onto a lead or keep a game tied in the later innings.

Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE

Since losing nine of their last ten games, the Miami Marlins have deemed inconsistent starting pitching and a lack of run support as the reasons for their lack of success. The Marlins didn't focus on their bullpen throughout the course of the offseason, and rightfully so. However, the inability to keep a game tied or hold onto a lead in the later innings has been a challenge for the Marlins' relievers.

Miami's bullpen opened the season with an ERA under one, but has since struggled.

Through 16 games, the Marlins' bridge between their starters and closer Steve Cishek has been rickety, among the most rickety in the National League.

According to STATS LLC, only the Phillies (6.42 through Wednesday) had a worst post-sixth inning ERA than the Marlins (5.15).

Even Jose Fernandez and Nathan Eovaldi haven't been dominant of late, which forced Manager Mike Redmond to call on the arms in the bullpen to keep games close or hold onto a small lead. Steve Cishek hasn't seen much time on the mound since the first week of the season, and Redmond is still trying to figure out which reliever is best suited for each situation.

Although it went unnoticed because the organization was trying to rebuild the offense, the Marlins lost a pair of key arms in Ryan Webb and Chad Qualls. Both had the ability to pitch multiple innings and had experience pitching late in games.

Dan Jennings and Mike Dunn have had difficulty getting left-handed hitters out early, and the Marlins haven't had a true left-handed specialist option since Randy Choate, who they unnecessarily traded to the Dodgers (and who is now in St. Louis) in the Hanley Ramirez deal.

What has arguably hurt the Marlins' bullpen the most is the way in which they have given up the leads, or in some cases, the game. Miami's relievers have given up several notable home runs over the last week and a half, during which wins were increasingly hard to come by.

Among the more recent crushers:

** April 9: Jayson Werth's eighth-inning grand slam off Carlos Marmol erased a 7-6 Marlins' lead.

** April 10: Ian Desmond's eighth-inning grand slam off Arquimedes Caminero increased the Nationals' cushion from 3-1 to 7-1.

** Saturday: Jimmy Rollins solo shot off Dan Jennings gave the Phillies a 5-4 walk-off win.

** Sunday: Chase Utley's solo homer off Dunn with two out in the eighth proved the game-winner in a 4-3 Phillies' victory.

Miami's starters have only pitched into the seventh five times this year, and the Marlins will need consistent starting pitching, which was thought to be a strength, to save the bullpen arms. A Marlins reliever has given up a home run in five consecutive games, and the team's eighth inning ERA (9.00 in 16 innings) is alarming.

Dunn, A.J. Ramos, and Carlos Marmol were all considered quality late inning options for the Marlins, but all three have been challenged early. Should the relievers continue to struggle, a Carter Capps appearance may become likely.

The bullpen will return to its week one form at some point down the line. But until the Marlins get consistent relief help, losing games in the late innings will be the norm.