MIAMI – The Braves lost five of their first six games this season primarily due to poor defense and situational hitting and a leaky bullpen. They lost their seventh game Tuesday mainly because of the hole that starting pitcher Bartolo Colon put them in.
Colon gave up six runs in the first three innings of an 8-4 loss to Miami to start at two-game series at Marlins Park, where the Braves have fared well in the past but Colon has turned in a couple of clunkers in his past two trips to the mound.
“That’s just kind of where we’re at right now,” said manager Brian Snitker, whose Bravesfell to 1-6 on a season-opening three-city tripthat ends Wednesday night. “We’re having a hard time getting on the same page with everything, to put a complete game together, get a big hit.
“Seems like every little mis-hit ball is finding a hole. It’s just like one of them things where you have to handle that in order for something good to come on the back end of it.”
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Brandon Phillips had two doubles and two stolen bases for the Braves and said, “I’m going to say, there’s a little bit of pressure on guys. We’re trying to come here, trying to win, and we may be trying to do too much.”
Marcell Ozuna had a career-high six RBIs for the Marlins on a sacrifice fly in the three-run first inning, a three-run homer off Colon in the third inning and a two-run homer in the fifth against Mike Foltynewicz. The Braves’ No. 5 starter, Foltynewicz made a relief appearance since his next start isn’t until April 18.
After pitching six sparkling innings of two-hit, one-run ball in his Braves debut last week against the Mets in New York, 43-year-old Colon lasted just four innings Tuesday and was charged with seven hits, six runs and two walks with two strikeouts in 75 pitches.
Since the beginning of August, Colon is 0-2 with a 25.65 ERA in two starts at Marlins Park and 6-1 with a 1.57 ERA in 12 starts everywhere else.
“He just got a little fat in the strike zone, it looks like,” Snitker said. “Just wasn’t as crisp as he was the last time.”
Colon said through a translator, “Last year, the last time I faced them they kind of got into a good rhythm against me and hit me pretty well. What else can I say, they got the better of me and hit me today, too.”
Nick Markakis hit a two-out solo home run in the fourth inning and the Braves scored four runs in the fourth through sixth and trailed 8-4 before they loaded the bases loaded with one out in the seventh. But Freddie Freeman struck out and Markakis flied out to end the inning and strand three.
Phillips had his second double of in the eighth inning with one out, before Tyler Flowers flied out and Emilio Bonifacio struck out looking. Earlier in the day, theBraves placed their hottest hitter, Matt Kemp, on the 10-day disabled list.
“Man, it’s still early,” Phillips said. “That’s one thing I don’t like to say, but it’s still early. We’re still trying to learn each other. We’re all new when it comes to the pitching staff, catchers – everybody’s got to learn each other. Like myself, I’m still trying to fine my position over here, trying to fit in, trying to show everybody what I can do.”
After going 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position and blowing two late-innings leads in Sunday’s 10-inning, 6-5 loss at Pittsburgh that sealed a sweep, the Braves were 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position Tuesday. They’re batting just .183(11-for-60) with runners in scoring position.
“We’re getting guys in scoring position but we’re just not doing the job, myself included,” Phillips said. “And like today, if we could have got some key hits in some key situations, we could have busted the game open. But like I said, we’re trying to do too much. I’m guilty of that, also.”
Phillips recorded the 200th and 201st stolen bases of his career, and in the seventh inning Braves prospectJohan Camargo struck out in his first major league plate appearance but reached on a wild-pitch third strike.
The Braves entered with a 31-14 record at Marlins Park, seven more wins than any other visiting team since the retractable-roofed stadium opened in 2012. It was the third time this season they’ve played in another team’s home opener and the Braves have lost all three.
A year ago, the Braves started out 0-9 and were 9-28 when manager Fredi Gonzalez got fired. He’s now third-base coach for the Marlins.
“Things like this just get so magnified in the beginning,” Snitker said. “You do this in the middle of April and it’s just one of them streaks, but it’s just always magnified in the beginning.”
The spacious dimensions of Marlins Park haven’t helped Colon in his past two starts in Miami. In his penultimate start for the Mets on Sept. 26, he gave up seven earned runs in 2 1/3 innings of a 7-3 loss at Marlins Park, the first game the Marlins played after the death of pitcher Jose Fernandez in a boating accident.
The Marlins paid tribute to Fernandez before Tuesday’s game and are wearing a patch to honor their late teammate.
Colon gave up three consecutive singles to start the first inning including a run-scoring hit by Christian Yelich. Giancarlo Stanton walked to load the bases before Justin Bour hit a line-drive sacrifice fly to the left-field warning track. Ozuna followed with another sacrifice fly for a 3-0 lead.
Bour also singled in the third inning to make him 7-for-18 with two sacrifice flies in his career against Colon.
“I got that first game after Fernandez passed away and I think they had a little bit of extra motivation,” Colon said. “And I think this year, too, with the opening game, kind of commemorating Fernandez as well, I think they were all pretty motivated to go out there and perform. It’s just how it goes. Those are just the turns that I got.”