Don Mattingly was quick to say pregame Friday that the Miami Marlins’ best chance to win during their three-game series against the Los Angeles Dodgers this weekend would require their starting pitchers to have quality outings against one of baseball’s top teams.
Jesus Luzardo certainly completed that task in the series opener at Dodger Stadium.
But lack of offense paired with a share of key defensive miscues late negated Luzardo’s outing in Miami’s 2-1 loss to the Dodgers. The Marlins fall to 52-67. The Dodgers improve to an MLB-best 82-36.
Luzardo threw 6 1/3 strong innings against a Dodgers team that leads the majors in most key offensive stats. He left the mound in the seventh with a one-run lead and a runner on first with one out.
That’s where the collapse came in.
Trayce Thompson tied the game with a two-out double to left in the seventh against Steven Okert that plated Justin Turner, who led off the inning with a single against Luzardo. Jerar Encarnacion, who drove in Miami’s only run with an RBI double in the top half of the inning, missed the cutoff man on his throw back to the infield, which eliminated any chance of the Marlins throwing out Turner at home and allowed Thompson to get to third.
And then in the eighth, the Dodgers had runners at the corners when Mookie Betts hit a leadoff triple and the Marlins intentionally walked Freddie Freeman with one out and Dylan Floro on the mound.
Will Smith hit a hard ground ball to the left side. Third baseman Jon Berti ranged to his left to scoop up the ball. He had two options at that point: Try to turn the double play or go for the forceout at home.
Berti went for the latter, clutched to make the throw ... and realized catcher Jacob Stallings wasn’t at home plate. Berti held onto the ball. Betts scored the go-ahead run.
Stallings took responsibility for the miscue.
“That’s on me,” the catcher said, calling the decision a “brain fart.” “I need to be there just in case something like that happens. I kind of read double play right off the bat and I was going to backup first [base], but I need to be there.”
Berti’s perspective of the play: “Just running scenarios through the mind on what you want to do, depending on how the ball’s hit and the speed of the runners. I felt like if there was a ball hit hard or medium at me or to my left that I was going to turn two. A ball down the line would have had to have been hit hard, just because it’s a long through, so anything medium to my right, I was probably going to pick through it and try to just make sure we got the out at home, but for whatever reason, when I left my feet, the way my body kind of positioned itself, in my mind, it was just ‘get the out at home.’ Obviously, from Jake’s perspective, that was probably a double-play ball. We probably could have turned it and gotten out of it right there but just unfortunate miscommunication.”
It spoiled Luzardo’s start that the pitcher said was “probably the best game I’ve played in my career.”
He threw 100 pitches for the first time this season and just the fifth time in his big-league career. He limited the Dodgers to four hits and two walks while striking out seven. He threw first-pitch strikes to 19 of 24 batters he faced and induced 18 whiffs on 52 Dodgers swings — including 13 on 25 swings against the changeup alone.
“My confidence is growing,” said Luzardo, who has a 3.44 ERA this season and a 2.70 ERA in his four August starts since returning from the injured list. “I do feel like I’m on a good run. Just trying to keep it on.”