MIAMI — The swing-and-miss stuff was apparent. The command of those three explosive pitches — a fastball that touches 99 mph, a biting slider in the mid 80s and a nasty knuckle curve that darts out of the strike zone — was spotty again, showing the need for refinement or proper execution. This much has become obvious to Matt Brash and the Mariners: teams have adjusted their approach to facing him and he will have to adjust and execute at a higher level to find success.
The rookie right-hander was roughed up Friday night for the worst outing of his short career, allowing six runs in just two innings of work in what eventually would be an 8-6 loss to the Marlins.
The Mariners have lost three games in a row.
“He made some mistakes in the middle of the plate,” manager Scott Servais said. “And no matter how good your stuff is in this league — you can get away with it once in a while especially if you throw as hard as he does and the breaking ball is good — but the league has started to know him, and he got hit around.”
Three pitches into the game — all 97-mph fastballs that resulted in swings and misses by Marlins leadoff hitter Jazz Chisholm — Brash seemed to be poised for a strong showing. That thinking changed quickly.
Veteran first baseman Jesus Aguilar sat on an 0-2 slider and drove a single to right field. Brash then fell behind to the ultra-dangerous Jorge Soler. On a 3-1 count, Brash made the rookie mistake of piping a fastball in a fastball count to a hitter who lunches on them.
Soler crushed the mistake, sending a rocket to left-center that hit off the back windows behind the concourse in the second level of loanDepot Park. The ball was hit so hard that it ricocheted off the glass back into the field of play.
“It’s me not being able to throw my offspeed for strikes at the moment,” Brash said. “He knew a fastball is coming. And I threw it right down the middle and that’s what’s gonna happen. It’s just bad counts and then not executing pitches.”
MLB Statcast measured Soler’s blast at 468 feet with a 117.6 mph exit velocity. It was the third-longest homer hit this season. Mike Trout has the longest homer recorded this season at 472 feet while Byron Buxton hit a ball 469 feet.
“It was smoked,” Servais said. “What can you say? What are you gonna do? It’s over and you have to move on from it. I know Matt Brash well enough. He’s a really good competitor. And I thought he got after it after that.”
Brash bounced back to strike out Jesus Sanchez and get Avisail Garcia to ground out to end the inning.
The Mariners even gave him a brief lead in the second inning. They loaded the bases with two outs against Marlins starter Elieser Hernandez and Luis Torrens cleared them with a deep drive to center that was about a foot away from being a grand slam. Instead, the ball hit off the wall and Torrens had a three-run double.
Any hopes of Brash turning things around with a 3-2 lead in the second ended quickly. He gave up a leadoff single to Brian Anderson, walked Joey Wendle and allowed a hard single to Miguel Rojas to load the bases. In a bit of a bad break, Brash’s 0-2 slider to Jacob Stallings caught just enough of the plate to allow for some contact. Stallings’ weak ground ball to third didn’t allow for a play to be made. It was a game-tying RBI single on a ball that traveled two feet per Statcast.
Brash recorded his first out of the inning with his second strikeout of Chisholm on three more pitches. Aguilar gave the Marlins a 4-3 lead with a crisp single to right field. Jarred Kelenic delayed it becoming a 5-3 lead with a strong throw home to get Rojas out at the plate for the second out of the inning.
But after Brash wisely pitched around Soler with a walk and first base open, Brash gave up a two-run single to Sanchez that made it 6-3. The inning might have still been going had Sanchez not lost track of the number of outs at first base, getting caught in a rundown that resulted in Soler unsuccessfully trying to advance home on the play, which resulted in the third out of the inning.
“The second inning spiraled out of control and you can’t let that happen,” Brash said.
The Mariners opted to not send Brash back out for a third inning. His final line: two innings pitched, six runs allowed on seven hits with two walks and three strikeouts.
“They swung the bats really good against him,” Servais said. “It was almost like they kind of knew what was coming at times, but they were on him.”
Could he be tipping pitches and letting hitters know when his offspeed pitches are coming?
“I just think that I wasn’t throwing my offspeed consistently enough for strikes,” he said. “It kind of narrows it for them and they just put good swings on the ball. I thought I made some good pitches but I just didn’t execute when I needed to.”
Brash said he struggled with command of his breaking pitches early last season.
“It’s both right now and the feel is just not there,” he said. “It’s just taking me a little longer than I would like, but it’ll get there. It feels good in my ‘pens. It’s just translating to games right now, but I’m not worried about it. It’s been my pitch for a long time. So I’ll get it done.”
Matt Festa replaced Brash and gave up a two-run homer to Rojas in the third inning that made it 8-3.
The Mariners didn’t muster any more offense until a last gasp in the ninth inning where they scored three runs on Kelenic’s RBI double, a Torrens sac fly and an Adam Frazier run-scoring single.
It brought the ultrahot Ty France to the plate as the tying run with two outs. But his hard ground ball to shortstop was gloved by Rojas and flipped to second for the final out.