MIAMI -- Coming home from a winless road trip, the Marlins needed a victory in the worst way. But D-backs starter Joe Saunders baffled Miami's struggling offense and gave the Marlins their sixth straight loss.
Saunders tossed a three-hitter to help the D-backs beat the Marlins, 5-0, before 31,949 at Marlins Park.
"He threw the ball good," Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen said. "A combination of a good pitcher on the mound and a really bad hitting team right now."
The Marlins have struggled for most of the young 2012 season. But for the first time all year, Guillen noticed some of his players were hanging their heads and not having fun playing the game.
"It seems like we're not having fun," Guillen said. "It seems like we worry too much. Every time we go to the plate, it seems like guys are thinking, 'If we lose this game, we're going to be in trouble.'"
Catcher John Buck also noticed the mood change in the Marlins' dugout and on the field. He believes the players are working so hard to snap out of this tough stretch that they may be doing themselves more harm than good.
"I think he's seen us all working hard and trying to get out of it and being too hard on ourselves," Buck said. "It's early and you've got to shake it off and have a little fun. It's hard to say, 'have a little fun,' when you're slumping like this, but it's kind of what you have to do."
Shake it off is exactly the advice Guillen gave his players following their loss on Friday. The manager wants to see his team focus on the future and not the past.
"I told them to throw this game away," Guillen said. "Last week, we were good. This is going to happen. It's a long season. We'll have good weeks and bad weeks. Good teams cut the bad week right a way. For bad teams, it carries on."
It carried on Friday night, as Saunders scattered just three singles in his third career shutout.
"They had some good defense along with Saunders sinking the ball, changing speeds and keeping us off balance," Buck said. "He was doing it early in the count. He would get ahead and use our aggressiveness against us, because everyone is trying to break out. I think he did a good job of that."
Marlins starter Carlos Zambrano was not at his best, allowing 10 hits on the night, but he was able to limit the damage. The right-hander held the D-backs to three runs over six innings, tossing the 15th quality start over 19 games by a Marlins starting pitcher.
"He's a different pitcher," D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said. "He used to throw much harder and come at you a lot more. He was behind in counts, a lot of offspeed pitches, and we laid off some of those early and got his pitch count up and got into their bullpen, and their bullpen is a little bit shot from their last series, so it worked well for us."
Aaron Hill was one of the D-backs' biggest offensive stars, going 3-for-4 with a home run and two runs scored. Jason Kubel also had a big night, collecting four hits in a game for the sixth time in his career. The D-backs had all eight position players reach base, as they established a new season high with 15 hits.
While Guillen is not panicking yet about the Marlins' offensive struggles, he does admit that this tough stretch early could end up costing his team later in the year.
"You don't win a pennant race in the beginning, but you can lose a pennant race in the beginning," Guillen said. "We have to pick it up and play the game better. We'll just keep fighting. If we were a bad ballclub, I would say it's going to be tough. But I know in my heart and in my brain and in my soul that we have a great ballclub. We just have to show people how good we can be."
David Villavicencio is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.