SAN FRANCISCO – The bullpen for the Marlins has gone from boom to bust.
Ten days ago it was riding high on a scoreless innings streak that ranked as one of the longest in the history of the franchise. Since then, the bullpen has been giving up almost nothing but runs from one game to the next.
And so it was on Tuesday when reliever Brian Sanches took over in the eighth inning of a tie game and was promptly greeted by a Juan Uribe home run, followed by another blast off the bat of Edgar Renteria.
The result was a 6-4 Giants victory at AT&T Park.
Since the scoreless innings streak ended on July 19, Marlins relievers have given up 22 earned runs in 27 innings (7.33 ERA) and been tagged for seven home runs.
“I don’t have any reasonable explanation for that other than they’ve been overworked,” said Marlins manager Edwin Rodriguez. “We’ve been playing so many tight games, we’re overworking our bullpen, and it’s showing up now.”
On a night when starter Josh Johnson failed to continue a streak of his own but still pitched solidly, and Dan Uggla smashed two home runs, the Marlins could not back up Monday’s victory with another over the Giants.
Johnson was bidding to become only the second pitcher in the live ball era (since 1920) to give up two runs or less in 14 consecutive starts. But 13 was as far as he got, leaving Mike Scott of the 1986 Houston Astros alone at the top.
The top half of the Giants lineup that proved to be Johnson’s undoing. Leadoff hitter Andres Torres had a pair of doubles, an infield hit, and scored twice. No. 2 hitter Freddy Sanchez went 2 for 3 and drove in a run. No. 3 hitter Aubrey Huff had a RBI double. And rookie cleanup hitter Buster Posey also drove in a run.
The Giants scored three runs off Johnson, who went seven innings.
“When you only allow three runs and call that an off day, it is amazing,” Rodriguez said of Johnson.
But Johnson was spared the loss thanks to home runs by Cody Ross and Uggla. Ross cranked a two-run home run off Matt Cain in the fifth inning while Uggla clubbed two to raise his team-leading total to 21. It is the fifth year in a row Uggla has connected on at least 20 home runs for the Marlins.
Uggla’s low-altitude blast in the seventh and two-out shot in the ninth moved him closer to Mike Lowell’s team record. Lowell hit 143 home runs. Uggla now has 142.
Uggla, though, was dismayed the Marlins couldn’t do more for Johnson.
“We have not done a very good job of giving him run support,” Uggla said. “It’s frustrating for us because he’s picked us up so many times and it would be nice for us to pick him up.”
The rest of the Marlins’ new look lineup struggled with Cain. On the night, the Marlins produced just five hits, three of them home runs.
Hanley Ramirez, back in the leadoff spot due to Chris Coghlan’s freak knee injury, continued to slump offensively, going 0 for 3. Logan Morrison, fresh up from Triple A New Orleans, made his major-league debut and singled once in four at bats.
Still the Marlins were in it until the eighth.
Sanches, who has appeared in eight of the Marlins’ 12 games since the All-Star break, gave up a leadoff home run to Uribe on a 1-2 pitch and a two-run blast to Renteria.
“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little tired,” Sanches said. “I’ve pitched a lot. But it’s the situations I want to pitch in.”
Eight of the Marlins’ past 11 games have been decided by two runs or less.
“The pressure is there,” Sanches said. “Is it out of the ordinary? No. We’re used to dealing with it. We’ve been doing this long enough where we’re used to the close games.”