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Volstad starts strong, but misplay hurts

Volstad starts strong, but misplay hurts

MIAMI -- There was atmosphere, anticipation and some late drama on Friday night at Sun Life Stadium.

All the trappings were there to build excitement at home. But for the Marlins, there also were some more of the costly miscues that have repeatedly surfaced in the early going.

The way Chris Volstad started, he deserved better. But the way the game changed in the seventh inning, it is easy to see why the Marlins stumbled, 7-3, to the Dodgers.

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An energized crowd of 40,666 watched the Marlins watch a one-run lead slip away. All seven Dodgers runs came after the sixth inning, and the bullpen had a rough night for the second time in three games.

A trend has been established in the Marlins' first four games. Of the 21 runs they have allowed, 13 have come in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings.

"It's simple. We need to throw strikes, and we need to play defense," catcher John Baker said. "All the stuff we're very capable of doing. I will say, and I don't want it to sound like an excuse, but Spring Training, a lot of times, your [regular players] don't play nine innings.

"Give it a couple of weeks, and I think you're going to see the performance improve late in the game."

Dodgers starter Hiroki Kuroda kept the Marlins in check, limiting them to one unearned run in eight innings.

Florida relievers Clay Hensley, Jose Veras and Renyel Pinto were tagged for four runs (three earned) on three hits with four walks and three strikeouts in 2 2/3 innings.

After the Dodgers scored four runs in the seventh, the left-handed Pinto was called upon with two outs in the ninth to face the left-handed-hitting James Loney, who ripped a two-run double. Manny Ramirez then added an RBI single.

It was the second consecutive rough outing for Pinto. At New York on Wednesday, he faced three batters and didn't record an out, surrendering a hit and a walk and hitting a batter.

"You've got to put them in there," manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "There are certain situations you put guys in, and I thought that was a perfect situation to put [Pinto] in there, a 4-1 game at home.

"I thought that was the perfect situation to build some confidence, and get him going. We've all seen him really, really good. He can help us."

Pinto has been a workhorse for Florida in the past. A year ago, he appeared in 73 games.

"The velocity is there. His stuff is there," Gonzalez said. "Sometimes you're the windshield and sometimes you're the bug. But we'll get him over the hump, we really will."

The big crowd was the largest home opener since 2005, when 57,405 were on hand for Opening Day.

Even though the Dodgers had a six-run lead entering the bottom of the ninth, the Marlins made it interesting, with Wes Helms delivering a pinch-hit two-run double off Jonathan Broxton. But Los Angeles' hard-throwing closer, who had come on in relief of Russ Ortiz, regrouped and didn't allow any more damage.

Helms' pinch-hit was his 45th as a Marlin, breaking the club record held by Alex Arias (44).

"We're a very resilient team," Baker said. "Look at the second game in New York. We struggled throwing strikes, walked some guys and made some errors, and we come back and win the ballgame [7-6]. We're not going to worry about it too much individually. We're going to go out there and improve."

For six innings, Volstad was especially sharp. The 6-foot-8 right-hander escaped a first-inning jam with a runner on third and no outs, and coasted until the seventh.

That's when he was charged with three runs (two earned). A two-out error by Hanley Ramirez resulted in two more runs scoring.

In the first inning, the Marlins stranded Chris Coghlan at third base with less than two outs, and they had few more chances off Kuroda. Jorge Cantu snapped the scoreless deadlock in the sixth inning, giving the Marlins their brief lead with an RBI single. Cantu now has an RBI in all four games.

A bid for a second run was taken away when Baker's soft liner was snared by a leaping Blake at third.

That catch was a turning point. Instead of the Marlins having at least a two-run lead, the Dodgers were down by just one.

Their deficit didn't last long. Ramirez doubled to open the seventh, and he scored on Blake's double, which came on a two-strike pitch.

"For me it's just making better quality pitches," Volstad said. "That 0-2 pitch that Blake hit that double -- I need to get that in there a little bit more. Ahead 0-2, you can really bury a pitch."

Blake DeWitt added an RBI single, and Volstad was lifted for Hensley. With two outs and the bases loaded, Reed Johnson tapped a grounder that forced Ramirez to go into the hole at short to field. Ramirez tried for the force on Rafael Furcal at second, but the throw went into right field. Two runs scored on the error.

Florida's late-inning struggles drained the energy out of the big crowd, which began filing for the exits after the seventh.

"It's nice that over 40,000 people came out," Gonzalez said. "You hope to walk out shaking hands instead of walking back here with your heads down. But it is absolutely a good feeling."

Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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