As the Marlins begin year two in their ballpark, they're back to operating in obscurity. Given the dismal outlook this season, that may be just as well.
Thousands of empty seats are likely for the home opener against the Atlanta Braves on Monday night, with a succession of small crowds to follow. Many potential ticket buyers are disenchanted because owner Jeffrey Loria reverted to his frugal payrolls of the past, and the team is widely projected to finish last in NL East for the third year in a row.
Kevin Slowey (0-1, 1.69 ERA) is scheduled to start the first home game for Miami against Paul Maholm (1-0, 0.00). If fans are on the edge of their seats, it may be only because they're awaiting a chance to boo Loria, who ordered a roster dismantling when last season went sour."I appreciate and am sorry it has been such a tough offseason," team president David Samson said Sunday before the Marlins' game against the Mets in New York. "The people who are coming to the game (Monday) hopefully are there to cheer on the players who deserve to get cheered."
Loria decided the Marlins needed to reboot after losing 93 games last year, and slugger Giancarlo Stanton will be the lone holdover in the lineup from the home opener in 2012.
That night, Miami christened its long-sought ballpark in the major-league opener on national TV against the defending World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals. Starters were introduced accompanied by women dressed as Latin showgirls, and Muhammad Ali delivered the first pitch."It was awesome," reliever Steve Cishek recalled. "Seeing Muhammad Ali out there, it was crazy."
Then Kyle Lohse held Miami hitless until the seventh inning, the Marlins lost, and little went right the rest of the year."Last season ... there's not much more negative we can get than that," Stanton said.
But negativity lingers, and many former Marlins supporters pledge to stay away. The team was disappointed to sell only 12,000 season tickets a year ago, and this year sales have declined to about 5,000.
Interest in the home opener was so tepid that a discount coupon company offered reduced-price tickets. The club's slow start this week on the road didn't help - Miami (1-5) totaled one run in the first three games and was the last major-league team to win a game.
Samson said well over 30,000 are expected for the opener. But a sellout is unlikely, and while Samson expects season attendance to surpass the modest goal of 1 million, he conceded it will likely be lower than in 2012."We didn't start from such a high number to start with last year," he said, "but I think it'll go down."
While the Marlins might finish last in the NL in attendance for the eighth time in nine years, Stanton said the team can't do anything about discontented fans."They're not angry with the players," he said. "We didn't lose them, we can't gain them back from one thing. ... We've just got to play good."
They'll try to start doing so against the Braves (5-1), who have scored 31 runs in their wins and went 7-2 at Marlins Park last year and 14-4 in the season series.
The Braves completed a three-game sweep of Chicago on Sunday with a 5-1 victory, winning despite striking out 16 times. Atlanta, missing injured starters Freddie Freeman and Andrelton Simmons , got a two-run single from backup infielder Ramiro Pena ."Our bench is so deep that you can run Pena in there and not lose a beat," manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "And put Chris Johnson at first base and still put a pretty good team on the field. That's a sign of a good baseball team. Well-rounded."
Maholm was solid in his season debut Wednesday, pitching 5 2-3 scoreless innings in a 9-2 victory over Philadelphia. He went 2-0 with a 1.27 ERA in three starts versus Miami last year.
Slowey pitched well in his long-awaited return after a year off due to injuries, going 5 1-3 innings and allowing one run in a 3-0 loss to Washington on Wednesday. He's still seeking his first win since Sept. 18, 2010.
Stanton has a six-game hitting streak versus Atlanta, going 7 for 21 with two home runs, three doubles and three RBIs.
The Braves placed Freeman on the disabled list with a strained right oblique.
|April 07, 2013||Freddie Freeman||15-Day DL||Strained right oblique|
|April 06, 2013||Andrelton Simmons||Day-to-Day||Sprained left thumb|
|March 27, 2013||Jonny Venters||15-Day DL||Sprained left elbow|
|March 22, 2013||Brandon Beachy||15-Day DL||Recovery from right elbow surgery|
|March 22, 2013||Brian McCann||15-Day DL||Recovery from right shoulder surgery|
|March 22, 2013||Paul Janish||15-Day DL||Recovery from left shoulder surgery|
|April 04, 2013||Casey Kotchman||Day-to-Day||Strained left hamstring|
|April 04, 2013||Casey Kotchman||15-Day DL||Strained left hamstring|
|March 31, 2013||Alfredo Silverio||60-Day DL||Sprained right elbow|
|March 31, 2013||Jose Ceda||60-Day DL||Recovery from right elbow surgery|
|March 31, 2013||Logan Morrison||60-Day DL||Recovery from right knee surgery|
|March 27, 2013||Henderson Alvarez||15-Day DL||Mild right shoulder inflammation|
MIAMI (AP) -- Justin Upton is hitting enough for an entire team.
The slugging outfielder went 4 for 4, including his sixth home run, and Paul Maholm allowed one hit in seven innings to help the Atlanta Braves spoil the Miami Marlins ' home opener Monday night by winning 2-0.
Upton scored both runs and doubled the Marlins' hit total. The Braves won despite going 0 for 7 with runners in scoring position.
"We've only got about three guys hitting on all cylinders," Atlanta manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "We won today with Justin doing all the damage."
The Braves earned their fourth consecutive victory and improved to 6-1, their best start since 2007. The Marlins lost their third game in a row and fell to 1-6, their worst start since 2006.
Announced attendance was 34,439, with thousands of empty seats and many tickets sold at discounted prices. Some fans pledged to stay away this season because they're angry that owner Jeffrey Loria reverted to a frugal payroll only a year after the team opened a new ballpark built mostly with taxpayer money.
Loria watched the game from his suite, out of the view of potential boo-birds. A handful of spectators wore homemade T-shirts disparaging him, a few others had bags over their heads, and many wore jerseys of Marlins traded in the past year, including Hanley Ramirez , Jose Reyes and Josh Johnson .
Two spectators were ejected by police for creating a disturbance, Marlins president David Samson said, but he praised the crowd support.
"Overall, other than the result, it was a very, very positive night," Samson said.
Upton singled in the first, doubled in the fourth and homered in the sixth. With a chance at the cycle he singled in the eighth, which dropped the Atlanta newcomer's slugging percentage to 1.192 but raised his batting average to .423.
"You definitely notice it," Upton said of his impressive start. "You can't ignore it. You try not to get too high on what's happening."
Upton, who came into the game tied for the major league lead in homers, hit a solo shot for a 2-0 lead against Kevin Slowey (0-2). Atlanta also scored in the fourth when Upton doubled, went to third on a flyout and came home on Dan Uggla 's groundout.
"I told Justin to just keep doing it when I pitch," Maholm said. "He's obviously one of the top players in the league. It's fun to watch, and not having to face him, it's a lot better."
The lone holdover in the lineup from the Marlins' opener a year ago was Giancarlo Stanton , who went 0 for 1 with three walks to drop his average to .174. The team's newcomers couldn't do much against Maholm (2-0), who remained unscored upon this season in 12 2-3 innings over two starts.
"I'm going to ride this as long as possible," the left-hander said. "I was just trying to get ahead, mix up the pitches, let them put it in play and let the guys make some plays."
Maholm struck out seven and gave up three walks, including two to Stanton, last year's NL slugging leader.
"I wasn't technically going right at him," Maholm said. "If he wanted to swing at one of my pitches, great. But I wasn't going to give him a cookie to hit and let him do damage. I was just trying to get him to fish and not make good contact."
Craig Kimbrel needed 28 pitches to get through the ninth. He struck out Adeiny Hechavarria with two on to complete the two-hitter for his third save.
Atlanta struck out only six times, an improvement, but slumping B.J. Upton went 0 for 5 and Jason Heyward was 0 for 4. B.J. Upton is batting .120 and Heyward .083.
The Braves, who lead the NL East, started a stretch that includes 16 of 18 games on the road.
Slowey, who was seeking his first victory since 2010, allowed two runs in seven innings. Marlins starters are 1-4 despite an ERA of 2.50.
The Marlins went 0 for 3 with runners in scoring position and are batting .170 in those situations. The lone hit off Maholm was a single by Placido Polanco in the third inning.
"When you don't score, it puts a lot of pressure on the pitching," Marlins manager Mike Redmond said. "We can't panic. It's going to turn. It always does."
NOTES: Braves SS Andrelton Simmons returned to the lineup after missing two games with a sprained right thumb. ... For the first pitch, former Marlin Jeff Conine threw the ball from his old left field position to ex-teammate Mike Lowell , who relayed it from third base to the plate. ... The retractable roof was open after being closed for all but eight games last season. ... The Braves went 14-4 against Miami last year.