Five runs, two runs. Five runs, two runs. Those are the amount of runs that the Miami Marlins have scored in their last four contests. As you would expect, the outcomes were: win, loss, win, loss. On Friday, Aug. 15, Miami wasted a solid outing by starting pitcher Brad Hand to fall to the Arizona Diamondbacks 3-2.
Hand wasn’t superb in the outing. His first inning was anything but stellar. Hand allowed a home run by Arizona third baseman Cliff Pennington, then gave up a two-run shot to second baseman Aaron Hill two batters later. Before the Fish even came up to bat, they were already in a hole thanks to some mistakes by Hand.
It seemed the Marlins were undeterred in the bottom of the first inning, however. Miami left-fielder Christian Yelich, second baseman Donovan Solano and right-fielder Giancarlo Stanton all got singles to start the at-bat, pushing a run across. After third baseman Casey McGehee flied out to advance Solano to third, first baseman Garrett Jones gave the Marlins their fourth single of the inning to score Solano. That would be all Miami could muster in that inning, but just headed into the top of the second, a one-run deficit looked like less of an obstacle.
Unfortunately for Hand, that would be all the Marlins could muster for the game, as Miami was shutout the rest of the way. Hand ended up pitching six more shutout innings of his own, giving the Marlins plenty of opportunity to repeat their first-inning performance and pull the rug out from under the Diamondbacks. It was the second time in four days that Miami had a chance to get back to .500. It also ended up being the second time in four days that the Marlins managed only two runs.
It was another in a string of starts for Hand that make you think he is figuring it out, however. Over his last nine starts, only twice has Hand failed to go at least five innings. In that same stretch, he has allowed more than three runs only once. If you exclude that Aug. 10 start at Cincinnati in which he went 4 2/3 innings and allowed seven runs, in the other eight games he averaged going 6 2/3 innings and had an earned run average of 2.88.
It remains to be seen if Hand can continue pitching at this level over a longer span of time. Progression is never linear and it’s not certain that Hand fits into the team’s long-term plans at starting pitcher. Right now, he is outperforming fellow Miami starter Nathan Eovaldi and if that continues, the Marlins could give him the fifth spot in the rotation for next season and put Eovaldi in the bullpen as a long reliever.
There are more pressing matters “at hand” (pun totally intended) right now, however. Despite being two games under .500, Miami is still just four games out of the National League’s second wild card spot with 40 games to play. Every loss means a waste of a chance to potentially gain ground however, chances which are dwindling in number by the day. The Marlins need to stop wasting quality starts like Hand gave them on Friday and score more runs more consistently.