During their three-game series against the Cardinals, the Marlins played like they had the first two months of the season: breaks went the other way, the bullpen blew leads, fielders made costly errors and players made fundamental mistakes.
Miami suffered another disheartening loss Sunday, 3-2, as St. Louis completed a sweep at Busch Stadium and ended a streak of four consecutive series wins by the Marlins.
“I think we’re just as good as them,” Miami first baseman Logan Morrison said. “Just because we lost three in a row to them doesn’t mean (we’re not). If a couple of things go our way or we make a couple of better plays, we win this game today.
“But that’s why they’re going to be in the playoffs and that’s why we’re not. They know how to do those things. We’re young. We’re learning. We’ll get there.”
The Marlins received a good-but-not-great performance from rookie starter Jose Fernandez, who was named to the NL All-Star team Saturday. They can pin this loss on two situations — one defensively, one offensively — in which they didn’t execute.
The Marlins botched a double steal by the Cardinals in the third inning, resulting in St. Louis’ third run. With runners on first and third and one out, David Freese struck out. Matt Holliday took off for second and got in a rundown before Carlos Beltran moved away from third toward home.
Instead of charging at Beltran, second baseman Derek Dietrich threw to Morrison in attempt to get Holliday, and Beltran took off. Morrison’s throw home was late.
Beltran and Holliday were each credited with a stolen base, giving Beltran a steal of home.
“I guarantee you, Dietrich will learn from that mistake,” manager Mike Redmond said. “It’s part of where we are at in the development process.”
Dietrich knew his mistake was tossing the ball to Morrison, which gave Beltran more time to score.
“Run that guy back all the way or just not throw the baseball,” Dietrich said about charging Holliday with two outs. “It’s a big, big run. We’ll definitely learn from that and not let it happen again.”
The Cardinals loaded the bases to start the inning on a hit by pitch, bunt single and walk off Fernandez (5-5). Allen Craig’s sacrifice fly accounted for St. Louis’ second run of the game.
With one out in the seventh, Giancarlo Stanton had his first extra-base hit in nine games, a double. Morrison then singled to center, but Stanton got a poor jump and had to stop at third.
Still, the tying run was 90 feet away with one out. Marcell Ozuna then waved at a high fastball from Trevor Rosenthal for strike three, and after Dietrich was hit by a pitch, pinch-hitter Greg Dobbs bounced out to second.
The Marlins outhit the Cardinals 9-6 and had two batters hit by a pitch but couldn’t capitalize.
The credit goes to St. Louis starter Lance Lynn (11-3), who limited Miami to two runs in seven innings despite allowing seven hits, a walk and hitting a batter. He struck out seven, including Stanton three times. Stanton slammed his bat to the ground in the fifth inning after he waived at an outside pitch. He is 4-for-29 in his last seven games.
Dietrich doubled home a run in the second and catcher Jeff Mathis put down a perfect two-out bunt in the fourth to bring home Ozuna, who had tripled.
Fernandez, still on a high after become the youngest Marlin to be selected to an All-Star team, wasn’t quite as sharp as usual. He was charged with three runs on four hits but walked a season-high four and hit two batters.
Still, he is the team’s new ace after the trade of Ricky Nolasco to the Dodgers on Saturday.
“He didn’t have his great command,” Redmond said. “He really had to grind at times to get through that lineup.”
Holliday hit a solo homer in the first on an inside fastball, but otherwise Fernandez said his “stuff” was there.
“I had a rough inning, the bases loaded, they got two runs,” Fernandez said about the third. “It wasn’t easy for sure. I battled out there.”
After taking two of three from Atlanta to start the trip, the ending was a downer for Miami. Little things — plus a couple of blown calls by umpires in the first two games — meant the difference between a winning and losing road swing.
“I know we’re all disappointed because we got swept,” Redmond said. “At the same time, we’re right there. We’ll continue to grind it out and keep turning the page.”