Held to single runs early, Marlins go cold late

Held to single runs early, Marlins go cold late

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Marlins were able to score early against the Twins on Tuesday night at Target Field. But as easy as the hitting seemed to come, it dried up late in a 6-4 loss in 11 innings.

Miami scored single runs in four of the first five innings, running up the pitch count of Twins starter Pat Dean and eventually knocking him from the game after just 4 1/3 innings.

The Marlins' bats left at the same time.

Minnesota's bullpen, which ranks among the bottom five in the Majors in ERA, was able to stifle Miami from there, allowing just three hits over the final 6 2/3 innings while walking none and striking out 10.

"Gotta give credit to their bullpen," said Marlins first baseman Chris Johnson. "[Their] bullpen came in and did a good job. We got a lot of hits today, we just struggled trying to get that big hit to give us a little bit more cushion."

Even when things were going well early on, Miami missed on opportunities to build a bigger lead.

Ichiro Suzuki led off the game with a single and Martin Prado followed with a walk to put two on with nobody out with the middle of the Marlins' lineup coming to the plate.

A fielder's choice groundout to second moved Ichiro to third and put runners on the corner for Giancarlo Stanton. Fittingly, the struggling Stanton crushed the first pitch he saw; a 120-mph grounder that Twins shortstop Eduardo Nunez was able to nab and make a play on at second.

Stanton's RBI grounder

According to Statcast™, Stanton's grounder was one of the two hardest-hit balls by any player this season, and one of two (Stanton also had the other one, April 10 against the Nationals) to reach at least 120 mph.

The play scored a run, but with a runner at first and two out, the inning fizzled quickly.

"We had chances," said Marlins manager Don Mattingly. "In this kind of game, it's a big hit. It was a pretty clean game both teams. Defensively, it was pretty good; I thought both teams pitched well. They end up getting the key home run to tie it and, obviously, another one to win it."

Stanton was the victim of more bad luck in the fifth. After back-to-back one-out hits by Prado and Christian Yelich plated one and left the Marlins' powerful cleanup hitter with a man at second and a chance for a crooked number on the scoreboard, Stanton lashed another sharp grounder at Nunez. This one, at 118 mph off the bat, was gobbled up nicely by Nunez, who held the runner and retired Stanton at first.

Miami's run in the fifth put the Marlins ahead by two, but left-hander Adam Conley, who settled in nicely after a rocky first inning, surrendered his second homer of the night to Nunez.

Still, when he departed with two outs in the seventh inning, Conley was in line for the victory.

Robbie Grossman tied it against David Phelps with a solo blast in the eighth before Brian Dozier won it on a walk-off two-run homer in the bottom of the 11th inning against Dustin McGowan.

"Our bullpen has been so good, especially those later guys," Johnson said. "We like the position we were in, and we'll take it every single day. But you gotta give credit to their bullpen and some of their hitters. They came up with some big hits."

The Marlins gave Stanton a chance in the 10th with Ichiro on second and two outs, but Fernando Abad blew a 93-mph fastball by him for strike three.

Abad strikes out Stanton

Another frustrating at-bat for a Marlins offense in desperate need of a clutch hit.

"We didn't stretch the lead," Johnson said. "We have to stretch the lead, we have to get more runs, add a little bit of a cushion and just keep on them. Their bullpen came in and didn't allow us to do that. We have to give credit to their bullpen, [but] we still have a chance to come out and win the series."

Dan Myers is a contributor to MLB.com and covered the Marlins on Tuesday. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.