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Ziegler falls short again as Marlins lose in ninth

Brad Ziegler stood in front of his locker, searching for answers to the same painful questions he'd rather not be asked.

"I don't know exactly what it is," Ziegler said. "It's pretty empty. It's a lot of self-examination, questioning, what in the world is going on? It's frustrating to just be in this spot again."

Once again, Ziegler failed to protect a ninth-inning lead and the result was a 3-2 loss to the Padres on Wednesday that spoiled Jose Urena's bid to register his first pitching win of the season.

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Ziegler is now 0-5 with a 7.83 ERA, and manager Don Mattingly has a sticky problem on his hand. Does he stick with Ziegler as his closer or turn to someone else for that role?

Mattingly didn't provide any clarity on it afterward in his post-game remarks.

All he could really say is that "you want to get something dependable at the end of the game."

That somebody, or "something," hasn't been Ziegler.

The Marlins took a 2-1 lead into the ninth with Urena (0-7) poised to celebrate his first win of the season before it all went up in flames when Ziegler couldn't lock it down. He gave up a four-pitch walk to the first hitter he faced, Franmil Reyes. One out later, Freddy Galvis slashed a double into left. After Manuel Margot was walked intentionally to load the bases, Hunter Renfroe bounced a weak grounder to third that was fielded by Miguel Rojas.

Rojas intended to throw home to get the lead runner on a force. But when he couldn't get a grip on the ball, he threw hastily to first. The ball bounced and got past Yadiel Rivera. Two runs scored. The Marlins lost.

"It starts with the leadoff walk," Ziegler said. "Didn't even make him earn his way on."

And it only got worse from there.

"It's frustrating," Ziegler said. "Jose, we had a chance to give him his first win and he's pitched well enough multiple times to get one."

Urena's drought goes back to last season. He recorded his last win on Sept. 20 and none in his 14 starts since. The Marlins have ended up losing all 14 of those games.

Urena has received the lowest run support of any major league starter this season and it looked early on as if Marlins hitters weren't going to give him any help at all. Padres starter Clayton Richard retired the first 10 batters he faced.

But after J.T. Realmuto singled with one out in the fourth, Starlin Castro followed with a two-run homer. Urena hasn't pitched with the lead very often and the question became whether he could protect what small margin he had to work with.

Reyes made it 2-1 in the fourth with a towering home run off the foul pole in left. It was the third home run in as many nights against the Marlins for Reyes. But Urena gave up nothing else and came out after the sixth with the lead and a chance to finally end his losing drought. All told, Urena allowed just three hits over six innings.

Two runs was all the Marlins could muster. Padres pitchers retired the final 13 Marlins hitters they faced.

Then it was up to the bullpen. Drew Steckenrider worked a scoreless seventh. Kyle Barraclough did the same in the eighth, facing the top four hitters in the Padres' lineup.

Mattingly said either Steckenrider or Barraclough could serve as closers if he opts to remove Ziegler from that role.

"Problem is if you move him out of there, who pitches the eighth, who pitches the seventh, who pitches the sixth?" Mattingly said. "But it’s something we talk about."

Mattingly pointed out that Barraclough faced the top of the Padres lineup in the eighth.

"We sent Claw out there through the top of the order," Mattingly said. "He really gets the toughest part of those last two innings. He has to get through the top three. You talk about leverage situations. Do you want your best guys pitching against the best part of the order? Or do you want him to pitching somewhere else?"

It's up to Mattingly to answer those questions.