A disappointing road trip is dimming the Florida Marlins’ playoff aspirations.
The Marlins look to regain some momentum when they continue a three-game series against the Atlanta Braves on Wednesday.
Florida (67-65) has lost four of seven on this nine-game trip, and has fallen six games behind NL East-leading Philadelphia after a late collapse in a 10-9 loss to the Braves (58-74) on Tuesday.
Atlanta scored four times in the ninth inning off Marlins closer Kevin Gregg. Gregor Blanco grounded into what could have been a game-ending double play, but shortstop Hanley Ramirez couldn’t pull the ball from his glove, allowing Jeff Francoeur to sore the tying run. Yunel Escobar then singled in the winning run, handing Gregg his eighth blown saves in 37 chances.
“It stinks,” Gregg said. “You can’t lose games like that when you’re running out of time. You can’t let games like that get away.”
The Marlins had a chance to make up some ground during this road trip, but they opened it by losing two of three to San Francisco, which has one of the NL’s worst records. They bounced back to win two of three against NL West-leading Arizona and seemed to be heading in the right direction before Tuesday’s disappointing defeat.
“It’s a tough loss, but there are still plenty of games to play,” manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “This late in the season, every loss is hard.”
The Marlins’ bullpen entered this series with a 2.92 ERA over 12 1-3 innings during the first six games of the trip. That success, however, didn’t continue Tuesday as five relievers combined to allow six runs, nine hits and five walks 3 1-3 innings.
Tuesday’s victory was just the third in the last 15 overall games for Atlanta, which has dropped 13 of its last 17 home contests.
“It was fun,” Blanco said. “We had a lot of fun today. We didn’t have any pressure.”
The Braves hand the ball on Wednesday to Mike Hampton (2-1, 6.47 ERA), who looks to build off another strong outing. Hampton missed all of 2006 and 2007 with elbow injuries, and had his 2008 debut delayed four months because of a strained left pectoral, but he’s had consecutive quality starts.
He allowed two runs in six innings of an 11-5 victory over San Francisco on Aug. 16, then limited the New York Mets to three runs over six innings Thursday in Atlanta’s 5-4 loss.
“The body felt pretty good tonight,” Hampton told the Braves’ official Web site. “I made some petty good pitches. My fastball’s kind of starting to get there, the velocity’s starting to come back a little bit. I felt pretty comfortable.”
Hampton is 10-6 with a 4.58 ERA in 22 starts against the Marlins, who counter with Josh Johnson (3-0, 3.51).
The Marlins won each of Johnson’s first six starts, but they’ve lost his last two. He has allowed three runs over six innings in each of those losses. On Thursday against the Giants, he gave up nine hits while striking out four in a 4-3 loss.
Johnson is 2-1 with a 2.78 ERA in six starts against the Braves.