Lifeless Arizona Diamondbacks fall to Marlins at Chase Field

It was sometime last week that Diamondbacks bench coach Jeff Banister came to manager Torey Lovullo with a troubling observation. Their team, Banister noticed, had struggled in games immediately following off days.

That fact was on Lovullo’s mind on Friday afternoon, when he sat in on the pregame hitters’ meeting. He praised them for their play against the Dodgers earlier in the week, but he stressed that it was not the time to relent.

“It’s still go time,” he recalled telling them. “It doesn’t mean stop today. It means get on the horse and ride it.”

But, once again, the Diamondbacks fell flat after an off day, losing to the Miami Marlins, 3-0, on Friday night at Chase Field. It was their sixth loss in seven games after a break in the schedule.

Marlins left-hander Braxton Garrett fired a four-hitter in what was both the first complete game and first shutout of his career. He needed just 95 pitches and permitted the Diamondbacks only one runner in scoring position.

None of the Diamondbacks’ four hits were turned in by Ketel Marte, whose career-best hitting streak ended at 21 games. He struck out in his first at-bat and grounded out each of his next three trips to the plate.

Zac Gallen's performance

Meanwhile, the Marlins scored three times off Diamondbacks right-hander Zac Gallen in his seven innings, collecting a pair of runs in a four-hit second inning, then adding another on Jake Burger’s solo homer in the fourth.

“I felt OK in the first, then the second through the fifth I felt like I was kind of grinding out there,” Gallen said. “I just didn’t feel particularly too sharp. It kind of clicked in the sixth and the seventh a little bit. I felt like I started to get back to what had been working the last few starts.”

Still, Gallen managed to keep his team in the game; it was the offense that did not contribute.

Garrett, a sinkerballer, does not have overpowering stuff, but he threw strikes on 71 of his 95 pitches. He threw first-pitch strikes to 11 consecutive batters to start the game, 14 of the first 15 and 25 of 31 overall.

“With that low pitch count, you want to wait him out and get better pitches to hit, but also it felt like everybody was starting out 0-1, 0-2,” Diamondbacks slugger Christian Walker said. "So when he’s filling up the zone like that, we’ve got to swing.”

Though the Diamondbacks did hit a lot of ground balls — including nine to the pull side — they also hit several balls hard, including seven that were hit in the air or on a line at 95 mph or harder, the kind that usually go for hits.

“We just couldn’t get them to fall,” Walker said.

No rhythm after an off day

At 1 hour, 58 minutes, Friday night's game beat the May 15 win over the Cincinnati Reds for the fastest of the season for the Diamondbacks. It is the quickest in club history since a 1-hour, 55-minute game from August 5, 2008.

The Diamondbacks’ troubles after off days partially overlaps with their struggles in series openers. They are just 3-14 in those. Lovullo said identifying and talking about the problem is often his first step in trying to solve something with a ballclub. He said that began in the past week. He hopes they can get to the bottom of the off-day issue sooner than later.

“We’ve got to figure that out,” he said. “We have more off days this year.”

Walker said off days can “throw a wrench into things” from a player’s perspective, and he said he tries to combat the interruption in rhythm and routine by getting in extra work the first day back.

“It does feel like maybe it can mess up the flow sometimes,” Walker said. He added, “It’s just one of those things. Everybody’s got to do it, but we’ve got to figure out a way to be better.”

Perhaps by Sunday night, this loss will feel like little more than a blip. But coming off a rousing series win at Dodger Stadium, it feels for now like another instance of stunted momentum for a Diamondbacks team that has struggled to maintain any through the season’s first two months.

“It’s just where we’re at right now,” Lovullo said. “We’ve just got to keep fighting and grinding through it. We’ve got to win each day. That’s how we look at it. We’ve got to go 1-0 each day.”

This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Off day trend continues as Diamondbacks drop to Marlins at home