Blown save squanders solid start as Braves complete sweep over anemic-hitting Marlins

·6 min read

Miami Marlins pitchers have to be near perfect these days for them to win.

They were for eight innings on Sunday.

And then the dam broke in the ninth.

Michael Harris II’s 419-foot solo home run off Tanner Scott’s first pitch landed the AutoNation Alley in center field and started the Atlanta Braves comeback toward a 3-1 win and four-game series sweep over the host Marlins Sunday afternoon at loanDepot park.

William Contreras’ two-out single later in the inning scored Vaughn Grissom to plate the go-ahead run and send the Marlins (50-65) to their fourth consecutive loss and 12th in their past 15 games.

“I messed that whole game up right away when I gave up a home run to Harris right down the middle. That’s on me,” Scott said.

During that span, the Marlins have put together a string of offensive futility which no MLB team has put together in over four decades.

The Marlins have not scored more than three runs in a game since July 29 in a 6-4 loss to the Mets - a streak that reached 15 consecutive games on Sunday.

The Marlins are the first to do so since the 1979 Cubs did so in September of that year. Only eight teams all-time have had longer droughts. The MLB record is 19 in a row shared by Cleveland in 1942 and the 1906 Brooklyn Superbas.

“I think the one thing we do see in this is our pitching keeps us in games,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. “There’s not many of these games that we’re not close. The encouraging part is you feel like at least we’re going to be competitive today and not be down nine runs in the second. You feel like if you put some runs together we’ll be in the game.

“That’s the positive, but you want guys to keep fighting and keep playing hard and you find out who they are. Are they going to keep working and keep showing up and then the organization can make a decision as to is this guy right for us? Is he good enough or not good enough? The frustrating part is that we did that last year.”

The streak the Marlins were hoping to extend on Sunday was their recent knack for winning the final game of a series. Miami’s past four wins have all come in a series finale.

And it could have been the case before Scott’s ninth-inning collapse, which wasted Braxton Garrett’s strong start. Garrett matched a season-high by throwing six shutout innings. Garrett allowed five hits (all singles), walked three and struck out two on 94 pitches.

It was the second time this season Garrett threw six scoreless, matching his two-hit, 11-strikeout performance on July 14 against the Pirates at home.

Garrett had runners on base in every inning except the fourth, but his defense bailed him out twice early on, first with a double play to end the first and a great throw to the plate by Brian Anderson to retire Eddie Rosario after he attempted to score on a Marcell Ozuna single. It was Anderson’s first outfield assist of the season in his ninth game this season playing right field.

“I think my sinker got me out of trouble whenever I got behind in counts,” Garrett said. “It got me a few extra ground balls and that was really key.”

On a day in which the Marlins had to place Anthony Bender on the 15-day injured list with a right elbow strain, relievers Dylan Floro and Steven Okert held the Braves in check with a scoreless inning each.

Scott, however, blew his fifth save in 22 opportunities this season.

He followed the Harris home run by giving up a single to Dansby Swanson and walking Vaughn Grissom. After Austin Riley flew out to right, Swanson was caught in a rundown between second and third for the second out. But Scott walked Matt Olson to extend the inning, setting up Contreras’ hit.

“It’s not what you want, but you have to take it next batter and one pitch at a time and that was not a good job by me after Braxton just threw the heck out of the ball and Dylan and Steven as well,” Scott said.

The Marlins’ only run came on Miguel Rojas’ two-out RBI single in the fourth inning which scored JJ Bleday after he doubled.

INJURY UPDATE

Bender, who already missed two months earlier this season with a back injury, went back on the IL a day after exiting the second game of Saturday’s doubleheader after throwing only five pitches.

Bender (3.26 ERA over 19⅓ innings this season with 17 strikeouts and eight walks) said late Saturday night he had been feeling discomfort in his arm flexors after facing Guillermo Heredia, the second hitter he faced which he struck out on three pitches.

“I tried to throw through it a little bit on the next two pitches,” Bender said after the game. “I was just feeling tight at the release point. They noticed I was kind of starting to stretch it out on the mound. They came out and asked me. I was trying to go through it, but they figured that wasn’t the best idea, so they took me out just to get checked out and see what’s going on.”

MORE DEBUTS

Bender’s move opened the door for the Marlins to select the contracts of lefthander Andrew Nardi and righthander Parker Bugg from Triple-A Jacksonville.

Nardi, 23, was a 16th-round pick of the Marlins in 2019 and possesses a mid-90s fastball-slider combination which has helped him become an effective closer this season in the minors.

Nardi, the Marlins 30th-ranked prospect according to MLB Pipeline, has a 2.29 ERA with 76 strikeouts and 18 walks combined at Double A and Triple A this season. Nardi has also converted 9 of 12 save opportunities.

“I think you’ll be seeing a lot of fastballs up, hopefully sliders down in two varieties and hopefully a lot of swings and misses from lefties on the slider,” Nardi said.

Bugg, 27, is 2-1 with a 2.39 ERA over 37 ⅔ combined innings (21 appearances including two starts) at Double A and Triple A this season with 43 strikeouts and 25 walks.

Nardi and Bugg would become the 11th and 12th players to make their major-league debuts this season for the Marlins whenever they first pitch in a game.

The Marlins also optioned righthander Tommy Nance to Triple-A Jacksonville, designated righthander A.J. Ladwig for assignment, and transferred righthander Cole Sulser to the 60-day IL.