It was all going right for Elieser Hernandez in his return from the 60-day IL...until it wasn’t.
In the 6th inning of Thursday’s game against the Pirates, while providing his team with what was the go-ahead run at that point, Hernandez suffered a right quad strain as he crossed home plate. It’s a result of the inability of Major League Baseball to institute a universal DH that all parties involved wanted, which put pitchers at risk of these types of injuries.
Marlins Manger Don Mattingly said he was frustrated more for Hernandez after working back from his injury than he was that his pitchers have to run because of the lack of a DH.
Marlins 1B/RF Garrett Cooper said it was really frustrating to see Hernandez go down while running the bases because it was so preventable. “I was a big proponent of the universal DH not just for hitters, but also to protect pitchers,” Cooper said.
“You know my point of view on the universal DH...to see him get injured running the bases leaves a bad taste in your mouth ...I think MLB messed up by not having the universal DH, especially now,” Cooper said.
The biggest shame is that Hernandez was shining in his return from a blister issue that held him out for two months. He had struck out seven in five innings, allowing just one run on a home run that just snuck out by Bryan Reynolds in the fourth inning.
Mattingly didn’t have much of an update postgame but said “it obviously didn’t look good...it doesn’t look like a day-to-day thing.”
It was the first time all year that the Marlins had five healthy starting pitchers in their rotation, and now the Marlins are again facing the possibility of having an empty rotation spot. That spot is most likely to be filled by bullpen games that have shown to be extremely taxing on a bullpen that has seen a huge work load this season.
Mattingly did mention that RHP Jordan Holloway will make a rehab start this coming week, so he could factor into plans as well.
Mattingly spoke before the game about how much it would help the team to have a fully healthy five-man rotation, saying that it could “create some consistency, and if we can get on a little bit of a roll, we can put some wins together.”
Mattingly also mentioned that it would take some pressure off the bullpen, and take some of the work load off of them as well. That all of a sudden is a serious doubt as the Marlins will most likely have to revert to bullpen games if Hernandez’s spot in the rotation is empty for some time.
There was still a game that happened Thursday, and it was an important one for the Marlins. They opened a four-game series with the lowly Pirates, and an eight game stretch that includes seven against those Pirates and the last-place Rockies—the other game is a makeup against the Red Sox on Monday.
Mattingly said before the game Thursday “at some point we have to be able to establish that we can put wins together” when asked about the need to beat up on teams like the Pirates and Rockies.
Jazz Chisholm Jr. opened the scoring with an RBI single in the 3rd, then Starling Marte—making his return to his old stomping grounds in Pittsburgh—doubled to set up a two-run 6th. Aguilar would provide the go ahead run that Hernandez was injured on, and a Garrett Cooper RBI single tacked on another to make it 3-1.
The Pirates would get one back in the bottom half after a Ke’Bryan Hayes triple that led to a run when Bryan Reynolds reached on an error by Chisholm Jr.
The Marlins had a chance to add on in the 7th as they got two runners into scoring position, but couldn’t bring them home and it would prove costly.
In the 8th, Dylan Floro loaded the bases after a hit and two walks, and Jacob Stallings cleared them with a double that gave the Pirates a 5-3 lead. Richard Rodriguez would shut the door in the 9th.
That’s two nights in a row now that the Marlins have lead most of the night and lost as the result of an implosion by a late inning reliever. Mattingly said it’s frustrating because “you get to the guys you wanna get to” but it’s still fallen apart.
Cooper said that “you can’t say enough about the job guys have done” in the bullpen this year, despite the recent bad losses. Cooper said that the Marlins and their relievers “can’t get too high, can’t get too low, gotta take it as a lump and move on...it’s part of the game.”
The Marlins have now lost six games in a row and fall to seven games under .500.
Game two of the series is Friday at 7:05 PM EST. Cody Poteet gets the ball for the Marlins, while Mitch Keller starts for the Pirates.