Shutdown frame missing as 2-out rally sinks Fish again

Shutdown frame missing as 2-out rally sinks Fish again

PITTSBURGH -- In the eyes of Marlins manager Dan Jennings, missing a pitch or two is the difference between escaping a potentially damaging inning and fueling a game-changing rally.

Miami was on the wrong end of the latter on Wednesday afternoon. Despite holding a two-run lead entering the bottom of the seventh, and retiring the first two batters of the inning, the Marlins' bullpen was tagged for five runs in a 5-2 loss to the Pirates at PNC Park, securing a sweep for Pittsburgh.

"You've got to be able to shut down an inning. You've got to be able to close it out," Jennings said. "We failed to get that job done in the seventh."

Things were looking up early for Miami. Spot starter Brad Hand held the Pirates to four hits in five scoreless innings, and the Marlins were opportunistic at the plate, as Justin Bour and Christian Yelich homered off Pittsburgh ace Gerrit Cole.

And after another scoreless inning for the Pirates in the sixth, it seemed as though Miami's bullpen would continue the rhythm Hand had established.

Then, the seventh inning happened.

Lefty Mike Dunn recorded two outs before allowing two singles, and he was pulled in favor of right-hander Sam Dyson. From the get-go, Dyson fell behind hitters -- and it was ultimately what did him in. Down 2-1 to Pirates right fielder Josh Harrison, Dyson served up a fastball that was stroked for an RBI single.

It was much of the same in the next at-bat. Falling behind 2-0 to Pedro Alvarez, the left-handed hitter connected on another fastball for a single to knot the game at 2.

"I fell behind guys so they were swinging at everything over the plate," Dyson said. "I might as well put it on a tee for them."

Dyson proceeded to walk Pirates star outfielder Andrew McCutchen on five pitches, and before being pulled, he walked Starling Marte to score Harrison and give Pittsburgh the lead.

Things didn't get much better when Carter Capps replaced Dyson. The right-hander surrendered a two-run single to Jung Ho Kang before finally securing that evasive third out.

The issue of polishing off innings isn't a newfound problem for Miami. On Tuesday night, all five runs scored by the Pirates came with two outs. Except that was on starting pitcher Jose Urena, not the bullpen.

Jennings said it's not a question of whether or not the bullpen possesses "the stuff" to get the job done. Rather, it was the simple but frustrating failure to complete the task that plagued the Marlins yet again.

"It's just about executing a pitch to finish off a hitter or executing a pitch to shut down the inning," Jennings said. "And you know what, when you get two outs, you feel like you should be able to do that and certainly stop the bleeding before five runs touch the plate."

John McGonigal is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.