The Marlins fell to the Reds 3-2 in what was a hard fought, close game throughout, decided by one pitch to Brandon Phillips. After making two spectacular plays in the field, Phillips, who started for the first time since a weekend series in Milwaukee, took a 3-1 middle of the zone fastball into the right field gap scoring the two deciding runs. The blown save and loss would be charged to Nick Wittgren, who after a stellar month of July, has posted a 4.50 ERA in his eight August relief appearances.
This adds to the tally of close games played in August for the Marlins as they hunt for a Wild Card spot in the very competitive National League Wild Card race (Pirates are now only 1 GB of the Cardinals). Of the Marlins 15 games completed in the month of August, 13 have been decided by three or less runs, with seven of those being decided by only one run. The now Stanton-less Fish fall to 5-10 in their last 15 games, and are currently two games back of the Cardinals for the second NL Wild Card - who beat the Astros today as Carlos Martinez looked strong in an 8-3 victory.
Cashner - 5 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 4 BB, 1 K
Bailey - 5 IP, 6 H, 1 ER (2R), 1 BB, 6 K
While either starter didn't particularly take over this game, from an effectiveness standpoint, Homer Bailey won the duel, regardless of the fact that he was in line for the loss until the Wittgren blown save.
From the start, Cashner was in hot water, as after a fielding error by Martin Prado, he walked Eugenio Suarez to load the bases for Scott Schebler. Getting him to pop up on a well located 2-1 slider allowed Marlins fans to breathe a sigh of relief mere minutes into the game. The second and third innings showed that he did in fact settle in, getting Joey Votto to ground into a double play and earning his only strikeout on a fastball just off the plate to Tyler Holt.
Suarez, the Reds third basemen however, seemed to be his nemesis all game, as back-to-back doubles by him and Brandon Phillips in the fourth plated the tying run for the Reds, countering Marcell Ozuna's 21st home run of the season. Another double play in the fifth got Cashner to the sixth, where another Suarez double knocked him out of the game with 93 pitches under his belt.
This start could have been a lot worse. From a viewers perspective it wasn't pretty, as Cashner failed to miss bats most of the night, but he converted a few big pitches with runners on and was able to settle in after a scary first inning. On top of this was the weird injury concerns with Cashner as well.
At one point the Marlins broadcast cut to the dugout between innings, showing Juan Nieves and Cashner inspecting what could have been either a blister or cut on Cashner's pitching hand, but it didn't pull him from the game. Neither did a failed bunt attempt that ricocheted up and hit Cashner in the cheek during his third at bat in the sixth inning (note: this was a 10 pitch AB versus Bailey!).
Marcell Ozuna - 1-for-4, HR(21)
Derek Dietrich - 0-for-4, 3Ks
Christian Yelich - 1-for-4, SB(6), R
Homer Bailey looked pretty good tonight, but the box score alone gives you a slightly skewed picture of his outing. Half of his strikeouts came against one batter, Derek Dietrich, and the other three came agains the pitcher Andrew Cashner. Otherwise there were some hard hit balls that didn't find holes or gaps and some great defensive work by Brandon Phillips. Bailey threw 96 pitches through his five innings of work, as the Reds are probably not to willing to stretch out their recently activated ace in a season that is all but lost.
The second Marlins run scored on a booted ball by the Eugenio Suarez - I guess he didn't completely kill the Marlins tonight. The fish mustered only six hits on the night, one of which went for extra bases, with nobody edging into the multi-hit game category.
It's interesting to think if this game would've gone differently if A.J. was still entrenched in his ninth inning role. Kyle Barraclough would've likely taken the 7th, followed by Rodney in the 8th, and Ramos in the 9th. While there are no guarantees, Wittgren's inexperience showed a bit today, as the reigns may have to be pulled back a little on the 25 year old righty.
Let's try to put this game quickly behind us, as the Marlins aim to split the start of their road trip 2-2 against the Reds in tomorrow night's return of Jose Fernandez - who was skipped to conserve innings last weekend.
Hero of the Game: Marcell Ozuna (+.226 WPA)
Zero of the Game: Nick Wittgren (-.393 WPA)
Play of the Game: Phillips double in the bottom of the seventh (+.438 WPA)