MIAMI -- Matt Belisle nearly pulled himself and the Rockies out of an eighth-inning jam Thursday afternoon. But in the end, his relief pitching pushed the team into an 8-5 loss to the Marlins.
With two out, a runner at second and the Rockies clinging to a 5-4 lead, Belisle threw a well-place curveball that Christian Yelich turned into a soft fly ball into short-left field, landing just barely out of the reach of shortstop Troy Tulowitzki.
After that, however, Giancarlo Stanton, who earlier lost a Tulowitzki line drive in the lights to set up a Rockies run, smoked an RBI single on an 0-2 pitch that cut over the heart of the plate. Casey McGehee singled for two more runs. The Rockies, who at one point led, 5-2, could do nothing but look forward to the home opener after dropping three of four at Marlins Park.
"That [Yelich] ball could be an out, but it wasn't an out," Belisle said. "It was a pretty good executed pitch. But after that is where my execution lagged a little bit."
The Rockies spent the offseason bolstering their relief pitching, but even the best-laid bullpen plans can be fragile.
In the opener, Wilton Lopez had a chance to rescue the Rockies after starter Jorge De La Rosa lost control of his outing, but he let a close game turn into a 10-1 rout. The bullpen was leaned upon heavily in a 4-3 loss Tuesday and a 6-5 victory Wednesday. So, on Thursday, righty setup man Adam Ottavino, lefty Rex Brothers and closer LaTroy Hawkins -- who needed a whopping 36 pitches to close Wednesday night's win -- were unavailable.
Tommy Kahnle, a Rule 5 pick from the Yankees, entered with a 5-3 lead in the sixth and pitched reasonably well. He gave up an RBI triple to McGehee, who drove in eight runs in the series, but that was the only run or hit off him in 1 2/3 innings. Manager Walt Weiss, knowing his bullpen was depleted, hoped Belisle could hold the lead for righty Chad Bettis, who was being held for the ninth inning.
"[Belisle] almost got through that inning," Weiss said. "That two-out hit by Yelich, that was the tough one."
It didn't have to be so tough.
In six innings against Marlins starter Jacob Turner, the Rockies scored five runs on eight hits -- with Michael Cuddyer driving in three runs, two on a third-inning homer, and Nolan Arenado driving in two. It was a decent show of support for starter Franklin Morales, who gave up eight hits and three runs in 5 1/3 workmanlike innings.
But Marlins relief pitchers Carlos Marmol, A.J. Ramos (1-0) and Steve Cishek (second save) combined to hold the Rockies to two hits and strike out four in the final three frames.
"Similar to yesterday, we get out to that early lead, we've got to be able to tack on a run here or a run there," said Weiss, whose team finished with 10 hits to the Marlins' 13.
The Rockies needed more offense just to overcome the hot hitting of McGehee and Stanton, who contributed seven RBIs.
"The more chances you give yourself, you're going to come up with the hits eventually," McGehee said. "It's not going to always work out. I think last night said as much about this team as anything. We had every opportunity to quit, and just kind of phoned that one in the rest of the way."
Cuddyer, who went 7-for-17 with the homer, a double and four RBIs in the series, said the Rockies are resilient as well.
"They've got good arms over there," Cuddyer said. "We had good at-bats. We battled. We didn't get the wins.
"I know the first series of the year is big and you don't want to lose it, but we've got 158 more games to go."