For a third consecutive series, the Miami Marlins found themselves facing a playoff contender, the latest test for a team that is trying to make the postseason itself to see where it stacks up against the competition.
With a 4-2 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers on Thursday at American Family Field, the Marlins dropped three of four games against the Brewers.
Miami (75-72) lost the first two games of the series 12-0 on Monday and 3-1 on Tuesday before winning 2-0 on Wednesday.
“We didn’t score enough runs,” Marlins manager Skip Schumaker said.
On Thursday, the Brewers (82-64) took the lead for good with a two-run fifth inning against Eury Perez, the Marlins’ 20-year-old wunderkind rookie right-handed pitcher.
Andruw Monasterio led off the inning with a single, moved to second on a Brice Turang sacrifice bunt and advanced to third on a wild pitch before Tyrone Taylor drove him in with a double to left-center field to tie the game at 2-2.
Sal Frelick then hit a single to right that scored Taylor, who beat the throw from Jesus Sanchez in right and got past catcher Jacob Stallings’ attempt to tag him at the plate to give the Brewers a 3-2 lead.
“Tough play,” Stallings said. “Sanchi ade a really strong throw. I just felt like I needed to drop step to get a longer hop because the short hops are difficult to catch. Taylor made a great slide. I just didn’t have quite enough momentum going back.”
Perez pitched 4 2/3 innings on Thursday, giving up three earned runs on five hits while striking out seven and not issuing a walk.
All five hits — and all 12 balls in play — against Perez came on his four-seam fastball, which he threw with 50 of his 85 pitches. He also mixed in 24 sliders, 10 curveballs and one changeup.
“It wasn’t the best,” Perez said of his start. “I went out there to compete, help the team in any way I can. In the end, I think it was an outing that I can learn a lot.”
Milwaukee tacked on its fourth run on a Taylor RBI double in the seventh against Steven Okert.
Here are three takeaways from the game.
A quiet offense in Milwaukee
The Marlins entered their series against the Brewers having averaged six runs and 9.5 hits per game over their past 10 games — a four-game series sweep against the Washington Nationals and those series wins over the Dodgers and Phillies.
The bats went quiet during their four games in Milwaukee.
Miami scored just five total runs and no more than two runs in any game.
They hit just .175 (22 for 126) and went 4 for 18 with runners in scoring position, with all four of those hits coming in the final two games. The Marlins also just hit one home run in the four-game set with the Brewers after mashing 19 in their previous 10 games.
On Thursday, the Marlins scored their runs on a Sanchez sacrifice fly in the first inning and a Stallings RBI single in the fourth.
“It’s tough for pitcher to have to keep throwin up zeros,” Schumaker said. “If we’re not scoring runs, you’re playing tight game after tight game. That’s kind of their recipe and how they win — really good pitching and timely hitting. It’s been our recipe honestly, too.”
Eury Perez’s latest milestone
Perez’s first strikeout of the game — Frelick whiffing on a 98.6 mph fastball to begin the first inning — was the 100th of his MLB career. Perez got to the feat in just 84 innings, making the second-fastest Marlins starting pitcher in terms of innings pitched to get to 100 strikeouts. Trevor Rogers got to 100 strikeouts in 76 2/3 innings.
Perez is also just the eighth pitcher since 2000 to have a season with at least 100 strikeouts before his age-21 season and the first since Jose Fernandez in 2013. The others: Clayton Kershaw in 2008, Felix Hernandez in 2006, Zack Greinke in 2004, Jeremy Bonderman in 2003, CC Sabathia in 2001 and Rick Ankiel in 2000.
“Very excited and proud for that achievement,” Perez said. “Looking for more milestones.”
On the season, Perez has a 3.06 ERA with 106 strikeouts against 28 walks and a .212 batting average against in 88 1/3 innings.
Where thing stand in the playoff race
With the loss, the Marlins will remain on the outside looking in of a playoff spot at the end of the day Thursday.
In the best case scenario, losses by both the Giants and Diamondbacks, Miami will remain a half-game out of the third wild card spot. In the worst case scenario, a win by the Diamondbacks, the Marlins will be one-and-a-half games back.
The Marlins have 15 games left, only six of which are against teams in the playoff race.
Miami’s next nine games are at home, with three-game series against the Atlanta Braves, New York Mets and Brewers before finishing the regular season with a road trip against the Mets and Pittsburgh Pirates.
“Every game is big now with 15 left,” Schumaker said. “Hopefully we have a nice homestand. ... Take it day by day. We have to find a way to win tomorrow.”