5 Takeaways from a week of Marlins Baseball

After taking 3 of 4 from the Atlanta Braves early last week, the Marlins came home and took 2 of 3 from the San Francisco Giants. This caps a week of positives for the Fish, as they look forward to a much easier schedule in the coming weeks. After a slow and demoralizing start, the pieces are starting to come together in Miami. 

 

Here are 5 takeaways from a successful Marlins run:

 

Marlins Win When They Score

 

I know, isn’t that the basics of baseball? You score and you win, simple. For the Marlins, it hasn’t been so easy. With a consistent lack of production from the bats earlier in the season, the Fish put together a strong set of games offensively. The Marlins are now 5-1 in games where they score 5 or more runs and a whopping 2-7 in games where they don’t. Regardless of who is on the mound, the bats are determinant of when and how the Marlins win.

 

Especially with the talent the Marlins have in pitching, it makes it more strange that this season will come down to how well the bats can perform consistently. Nevertheless, the Marlins found a way to win low scoring games last season, and they need to start doing so this year to keep the pressure off of an inconsistent lineup.

Jorge Alfaro is a fine option

 

Out of 54 qualified catchers in the early 2021 season, Jorge Alfaro ranks 16th in framing. Obviously, he is no Russell Martin behind the plate, but he is actually performing well-above expectations defensively. The passed balls he has allowed have skewed the narrative on his performance. Now, with his bat finally waking up, he may be the best option the Marlins have at the catcher’s position. He is not a juggernaut offensively or defensively, but all he needs to be is average.

 

Trade rumors have circulated for months about Wilson Contreras replacing Alfaro/Wallach in Miami. Contreras, although a superior hitter, is 41st among qualified catchers in framing. At this point in the year, the Marlins should focus on putting their young pitchers in the best situation possible. A good defensive catcher gives them even more leeway to develop further. 

Adam Duvall can carry an offense

 

It is no secret that the former Brave can swing the bat. He terrorized his old team in Atlanta, especially in Tuesday’s game where he went 4-5 with 2 home runs and 7 RBIs. He is still trying to figure out how to hit elsewhere, but once he does, he can carry this Miami offense on nights where the rest of the lineup is faltering. His bat alone almost won that game in Atlanta on a night where the Braves scored 8 runs, as he accounted for half of the runs in a 14-8 win. Duvall getting his bat consistent is a central key to this Marlins team’s future. 

Starling Marte is… clutch

Marte is central to every operation on this Miami Marlins team. He is invaluable offensively and defensively, and he is the guy who picks up the important hits in key situations. In Friday’s win versus the Giants, his 3-run homer in the 8th sealed the deal. On Saturday, his 2-out RBI single in the 9th tied the game, leading to an eventual win. In Sunday’s 1-0 loss, Marte elft the game with an apparent injury in the bottom of the 9th. In Don Mattingly’s post-game interview, he expressed the “Next man up” mentality that the Marlins have.

 

There may not be a next man up to replace anything near what Marte provides. Hopefully, for the Marlins sake, it isn’t that serious.

Marlins compete versus good teams

 

It is no easy feat to start a season versus the defending AL Champs, the presumptive NL Central winners in St. Louis, a revamped first place Mets team, and a Braves team that was one game away from the World Series. The Marlins left those games just 2-games under .500, and now sit one game under heading into a much easier schedule. They play the Orioles, Giants (again), Milwaukee, Arizona, and Washington. 

 

This set of games may be the most important of the season for the Marlins as they try to take advantage and gain ground in the standings. They don’t play the Mets until late-May and the Braves until early June, so this is the time for the Marlins to show what they are capable of. 

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Marlins Overall Takeaway

 

There is something special brewing in Miami (and not just Marlins Lager from Biscayne Bay Brewing). This team feels different from even last year’s squad. Baseball is fun to watch again in Miami, and this Marlins team still has a lot to prove. Enjoy a fun week of Marlins baseball ahead, Marlins fans.

 

Marlins vs Giants Preview

The Marlins dropped the 4th and final game of the series against the Atlanta Braves today in dramatic fashion. A Dansby Swanson single capped the third blown save of the young Miami Marlins season, as the Braves won 7-6. The Marlins dropped to 5-7, blowing two different leads Thursday and the opportunity for the first 4 game sweep in Atlanta in team history.

Don’t let yesterday’s ending fool you: the “Bottom Feeders” are back. Miami had a gauntlet of an opening schedule that included 4 teams predicted to make the playoffs. Yes, the Fish are 5-7, but these games proved that this team can compete with anyone when they score. The Marlins now head to Miami for a 5-game homestand versus the Giants and Orioles. Here is what you can expect their series with San Francisco that starts tonight:

 

Game 1 : Daniel Castano (0-0, — ERA) vs Anthony DeSclafani (1-0, .82 ERA)

 

Keys to the game for Marlins: The bats stay awake, bullpen

 

Coming off a series in Atlanta with no rest in between, it makes sense that Daniel Castano is the man to get the ball on Friday night. It will be his first start of the season, as he looks to cement himself on the roster. The real question for tonight: Can the Marlins hit at home? The answer so far has undoubtedly been no. In Atlanta, the bats made the Marlins look like a playoff team; however, at home, they have looked like they would be lucky to scratch 60 wins. If the Marlins can carry this offensive explosion (or at least some of it) into tonight, they have a chance to win a game without their aces. 

In other words, Jazz needs to stay Jazzy.

 

Game 2 : Sandy Alcantara (0-1 2.45 ERA) vs Aaron Sanchez (0-1, 2.70 ERA)

 

Keys to the game for Marlins: Sandy has his A(ce) game

 

Aaron Sanchez is a solid arm facing a Marlins lineup at home. Much like game 1 versus DeSclafani, we can guess what is going to happen. Hitting at home has not been the Marlins strong suit to say the least, and whether it’s the dimensions or humidifier, we can expect the struggle to continue. The Marlins route to victory Saturday night will be carried on the arm of Sandy. If Sandy can leverage his changeup effectively and pitch to quick outs throughout the ballgame, allowing him to pitch deep into the game, the Fish will be in good shape.

Game 3: Pablo Lopez (0-1, 4.60 ERA) vs Alex Wood (0-0, — ERA)

 

Keys to the game for the Marlins: Pablo overcomes last outing, bullpen does it’s job

 

In the Marlins 14-8 win against the Braves, Pablo Lopez allowed 6 earned runs over 4 innings pitched. The bats waking up overshadowed the worst start of his season, but that won’t be happening in Miami. Lopez needs to put together a start much like his first two. This game has the highest potential of the 3 for the Marlins offense to perform at home. Alex Wood is on the backend of a solid career, having posted subpar numbers over the last few seasons. He makes his first start this season for the Giants, so a well-adjusted Miami offense should be able to figure him out enough to give Pablo a cushion. 

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Overall for Marlins

 

Look, this team could be 8-4 like the Giants if they didn’t blow 3 saves. The Marlins are playing good baseball for the most part, and as their schedule eases up in difficulty, they should be able to put together more consistent wins. The bats are awake, the starting pitching is electric, so all that is remaining is the “revamped bullpen” to look revamped. It will take time, but the progress is being made slowly as it seems all Marlins operations do.

 

5 Takeaways from Marlins 14-8 Win in Atlanta

Last night, the Marlins showed the baseball world that they can compete. After sporting one of the worst offenses through 9 games, the “Bottom Feeders” broke out at just the right time to take game 2 versus Atlanta 14-8. For the first time this season, the bats carried the starting pitching in a nice turn of events for the floundering Fish bats. Former Brave Adam Duvall led the way, going 4-5 with 2 home runs and 7 RBIs. 

 

Although this is one game (and I’ll be the first to say one game means nothing), if certain aspects are continued, this Marlins team will be able to compete this season. Here are my 5 takeaways from the Marlins explosive win in Atlanta:

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Marlins CAN Compete in the NL East

 

The NL East is one-of, if not the best division in all of baseball. For a young Marlins team, competing versus the juggernauts in New York, Atlanta, Philadelphia, and even Washington seems daunting and near impossible. Regardless of how you order the rest of the division, the Braves are the top of the food chain. The Fish have now matched up with Atlanta twice in this young season and won. That’s not to say that the Braves won’t win every other game in the season series; however, if the Marlins can continue to play as they have the last two nights, they will be able to compete with the best.

 

The Marlins took the season series versus the Nationals and Phillies last season, while dropping the season series to both the Mets and Braves. If this team can figure out one of those matchups, they will be in good shape to maintain a steady place in the division once the Braves figure things out.

 

Marlins bats aren’t bad, they were just cold

 

There was a huge misconception spreading that the Marlins bats were not capable of much. That is simply an overgeneralization of 8-9 games of baseball in my opinion. This team boasts 6 hitters that are statistically above the league average in many categories consistently throughout their careers. 

 

Games like these show that the bats just needed to find consistency after a long offseason and inconsistent lineups. The bats are starting to see the ball better, which is the best news a Miami Marlins fan can receive. Don’t expect consistent 14-run games out of this offense, but when they are on, expect them to give solid run support to the starters.

Starting Pitching can have off nights

 

It is ironic that 3 of the 4 Marlins wins to-date have come on days where the starters are not on their A-game. Elieser Hernandez was hurt in win 1. Sandy Alcantara had his B+ stuff at best last night. Pablo Lopez was shelled last night. 

 

Last night is evidence that the Marlins don’t have to have their starters pitch like they did to start the season (led the MLB in total starters ERA) to win games. Rather, the starters just have to match an awakening offense.

 

It should be extremely exciting when the Marlins can combine the awakened bats with the stellar starting pitching.

 

Adam Duvall could be “the guy”

 

The Marlins have needed “the guy” on offense for years. We all thought it was going to be Starling Marte, Brian Anderson, or even Garrett Cooper. But it may just be Adam Duvall. He has been this guy throughout his entire career, and my guess is, it won’t be changing anytime soon. 

 

Duvall has powerful bursts of offense that can pilot a Marlins team through close games the rest of the season. Nights like last night will be few and far in between, but if he can consistently produce as he has been lately, the Marlins will finally have “the guy” they need carrying the weight of the offense. 

 

Duvall is no Mike Trout or Freddie Freeman, but he is the best power option the Marlins have had since Giancarlo Stanton and Christian Yelich. Progress? You decide.

Marlins are making adjustments

 

The Fish are starting to make adjustments at the plate. This was evident last night , not against Max Fried, but rather against the Braves bullpen. Last season, this bullpen was kryptonite to Marlins bats in both the regular season and postseason.

 

Clearly, these arms like Tomlin and Dayton have struggled out of the gate, but it is important for the Marlins to be able to capitalize on those situations and get better with time. The Fish have gotten periodically better over time at damaging bullpens late in the game. The last two nights in Atlanta, they have put up 10 runs alone.

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Overall

 

The first two games in Atlanta have been a positive twist to an unfortunate start for Miami. They sit at 4-6 now with 2 more games to go in this series. Tonight, Nick Neidert takes the mound looking to win the series versus veteran Charlie Morton. 

 

Marlins @ Braves Preview

The struggling Marlins head into Atlanta to play a 4 game series against the Atlanta Braves. The Braves ended the Marlins magical playoff run last season with a clean 3-0 sweep in the NLDS before they fell to the eventual World Series Champion Los Angeles Dodgers. 

 

Not much has changed from the rosters that competed in the playoffs last season, and the Braves look to continue to capitalize on their mismatch with the Marlins. The Fish sit at 2-6 to start the season and the Braves sit at 4-5. Both teams have been victims to terrible umpire calls to start the season, but they both have struggled out of the gate in 2021. With 4 games for one of these teams to get back on track, let’s take a look at the matchups:

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Game 1: Alcantara (0-1, 1.50 ERA) vs Ynoa (0-0, 0.00 ERA)

 

Keys for Marlins: Sandy being Sandy, early run support

 

The Marlins clearly have a pitching advantage in this matchup. The question commonly remains whether the bats will be able to produce to capitalize. Alcantara has been steadily getting better every start, so don’t expect this game to be any different. Sandy has received exceptionally poor run support to start the season, making it important that the Marlins score early, before reaching a Braves bullpen that completely dominated their lineup last season. 

 

Even in the Marlins 3-0 win against Mets, where Trevor Rogers had the best start of his young career, they left 10 runners on base. If the Fish are going to compete with the Braves lineup, they need to be able to score in these situations more consistently. 

 

Game 2: Lopez (0-1, 1.54 ERA) vs Fried (0-0, 9.00 ERA)

 

Keys for Marlins: Pablo figuring out Braves

 

It’s no secret the worst start of Pablo Lopez’s career came in the 29-9 Braves win against the Marlins last season. This obstacle looks much harder to overcome in the face of the Braves’ ace Max Fried. If Pablo Lopez can pitch to the level he has this season, and the Marlins can sneak some runs across versus Fried, the Fish have a chance to steal this game. Out of all 4 games, this win will be the toughest to get.

 

Game 3: Neidert (0-0, 2.08 ERA) vs Morton (1-1, 3.27 ERA)

 

Keys for Marlins: Bats heat up

 

After pitching 4.1 innings of 1 run ball in his first career start, Nick Neidert gets an even bigger challenge in an extremely potent Marlins lineup. He matches up against a veteran Charlie Morton. With an inexperienced arm on the mound for the Marlins, the bats need to wake up to facilitate a victory. The Braves score a lot of runs. The Marlins need to score to keep up, especially when their top arms aren’t on the mound. 

 

Game 4: Rogers (1-1, 1.80 ERA) vs Anderson (0-0, 4.35 ERA)

 

Keys for Marlins: Trevor continues upon success

 

For pitching fans, this is the game to tune into. Ian Anderson broke out last season going 3-2 with a 1.95 ERA. Trevor Rogers showed his true potential this past weekend versus the Mets, where he went 6 innings allowing 0 runs on 10 strikeouts. With Anderson looking to return to last season’s form and Rogers looking to continue upon his last start, it should be an exciting game to watch. 

 

Overall

 

This series should be another strong set of pitching duels. Miami was fortunate enough to win these battles last season, but have struggled to seal the deal in 2021. The Braves lineup makes it even harder for the Marlins to figure things out, but if the Fish want to compete in the NL East, the Braves are who they have to go through.

 

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Player Spotlight: Sandy Alcantara

Sandy Alcantara: Elite

There is no doubt in the world that Sandy Alcantara is the ace of the Miami Marlins. Over the course of just a few seasons, Sandy has elevated his game higher and higher with each passing start… and that is not an exaggeration. When looking at every basic and advanced analytic in the book, it is clear that Sandy is evolving at an extremely fast pace. Let’s take a look at what has allowed this progression:

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Changeup Usage

 

Arguably, the best pitch in Sandy Alcantara’s arsenal is his changeup. Between 2017 and 2020, Alcantara threw a changeup on just 12% of his pitches with it maxing out at 13% in 2018. However, in 2021, Sandy has thrown his changeup on 23% of his pitches. The result? Through his first 2 starts of 2021, Sandy is posting career highs in K%, BB%, xBA, xSLG, and xWOBA. With Sandy being in the top 6% of pitchers this season in three of the stats (xBA, xSLG, xWOBA), Sandy is becoming recognized around the league as a dominant force. His trust and confidence in his changeup has allowed quicker progression as a young starter, posting career lows in ERA, xERA, and WHIP in 2020 and to start 2021. 

 

Pitch Location

 

For any power pitcher, location becomes the attribute that differentiates between the deGroms and the rest of the pack. In his young career, Sandy has had opponents get the “sweet spot” of the bat on the ball at a relatively higher clip (Sweet Spot % 2017-2019: 69.6, 32.5, 29.9). His growth as a pitcher is most evident in 2020 and the start of 2021, where batters are getting the sweet spot on the ball just 21% of the time. He was transitioned to working out of the zone, being effectively wild. A high proportion of his pitches are thrown out of the zone inside and low to righties and up and into lefties. This shift in approach has created a career high in chase rate over the past two years, putting him in the top percentiles of Major League Baseball.

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Spin Rate

 

In his 2017 debut season, Sandy’s fastball came out of the gate averaging 98 MPH with a relatively low spin rate for that kind of velocity. In his next few seasons, Sandy lowered his fastball velocity (around 95 MPH in 2018) and focused on raising the spin on his pitches. Now, he has combined an average velocity of 97 MPH (92nd Percentile in 2020) and a spin rate in the 75th Percentile. This change has allowed him to control his elite fastball more effectively, posting dwindling numbers in batters Hard Hit %. With just 28.2% of balls in play hit hard in 2020 and 15.4% in early 2021, these numbers continue to get better as the spin rate and velocity of Sandy’s pitches increase. 

 

Sandy will continue to grow

 

This growth in such a short amount of time in the baseball world is quite rare. The loss of Jose Fernandez a few years ago was demoralizing, but the Marlins have finally found an elite arm to take up the “Ace” duties. Alcantara should be a dark horse for NL Cy Young this season. Regardless, he will be a mainstay on a dangerous Marlins rotation for years to come. The sky’s the limit.

 

Shoutout to Fangraphs, Baseball Savant, and Sports Info Solutions  for the data.

Follow me on Twitter @chasechrisjr for daily Marlins coverage.

Positive Takeaways from Struggling Marlins

Yesterday’s contest between the Miami Marlins and New York Mets ended in quite the unorthodox way. With the game tied at 2 in the bottom of the 9th, the Mets threatened to win the game with the bases loaded and only one out. Michael Conforto stepped into the box against a struggling Anthony Bass, looking to give the Mets a win on their Home Opener. With 2 strikes, Conforto leaned into the pitch drawing, what looked to be, a game winning Hit By Pitch. The pitch, clearly a strike on the inner half of the plate, was ruled to be the end of the game by Home Umpire Ron Kulpa. 

 

As an enraged Don Mattingly and Marlins’ team-leader Miguel Rojas argued the blatantly incorrect call, the umpires walked off the field, unable to correct a “judgment” call. The Fish left the ballpark in defeat, officially starting the season at 1-6. The Mets, on the other hand, improved to 2-2, and still remain much better odds to compete in the National League East according to VW Sports Betting

 

It is easy to point towards that moment as the key factor in yesterday’s loss for the Marlins, but doing so overshadows the countless other missed opportunities throughout Thursday’s game for the Marlins. The Marlins “Why not us?” mentality that pushed them through last season looks to have evaporated in early 2021. But rather than dwelling on what could have been through the first week of the season, here are the positives that the “Bottom Feeders” can build on to find their way back to a winning mentality.

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Marlins Starting Pitching

Sandy Alcantara

Sandy Alcantara continues to be the ace that the Marlins need. In his 12 innings of work, he has allowed just 3 runs (2 ER) on 17 strikeouts, 6 hits, and 4 walks. He has been everything that the Marlins could ask for in his first two starts. With only a total of 2-runs of support from his offense in innings which he has pitched, Sandy has simply gotten the short end of the stick. He’s the guy. The Marlins haven’t had anything near this level of production since Jose Fernandez. 

 

Pablo Lopez

In an even better turn of events, Pablo Lopez has continued to surprise the baseball world. He has thrown 11.2 innings this season, only allowing 2-runs off the bat of a Yadier Molina home run. Pablo has been nothing short of brilliant in his outings this season, eliciting a 57.1% groundball rate, the highest of his career. He, much like Sandy, has gotten a grand total of 0 runs of support while he is on the mound.

 

Keeping it close

In the Marlins 6 losses to date, they have only lost by 4 or more runs one time (Wednesday’s 7-0 loss to STL). It is clear that the bats have not woken up yet; however, in a positive twist, when they do wake up, it could be enough to put the Marlins over the top. The Marlins played close baseball all of last season and won close ball games at a higher clip than most teams throughout the league. The bats are performing below expectations at the moment, preventing close games from going in the Marlins favor. It is a long season, and when the bats put the pieces together, things will change.

 

It’s a long season!

Did you know that in last season’s 60 games, there were not one but two sets of 7 games where the Marlins went 1-6? Even with a shorter amount of time, the Marlins managed to finish the season with a 31-29 record. Although a similar record may not make the playoffs this season, all the Marlins are looking to do is grow as a team. There is still plenty of time for the Marlins to go on 6-1 runs to even their record back to .500 and beyond. And there is still plenty of time for the Marlins to go on more 1-6 runs. 

 

In a 162 game season, expect we can expect this to happen multiple times. There is no need to panic. Statistically, this Marlins team is around that of a .500 ballclub. The law of large numbers is a mathematical/statistical fact, and one that will play in the Marlins favor going forward.

 

Overall for Marlins

 

To players, coaches, and fans, this start may feel like rock bottom especially in comparison to last season’s 7-1 start. But this start will not last for long, and the Marlins will find their way back to the team they truly are. They really are the “Bottom Feeders” right now, but as we all know, that hasn’t held them back before. 

 

Marlins/Mets Series Preview

After a disappointing 1-5 start to the season, the Miami Marlins start their first road trip of the year in New York versus the new look Mets. Throughout the first 6 games, the Marlins have been plagued by an inability to hit with RISP and with 2-outs: both key elements of last year’s playoff run. It will not get any easier in the Big Apple, as the Mets are lined up to pitch Taijuan Walker, Jacob deGrom, and Marcus Stroman. 

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Game 1 (Thursday 1:10 PM EST): Nick Neidert (0-0, / ERA) vs Taijuan Walker (0-0, / ERA)

Keys for Marlins: Neidert, Bats getting back on track

Neidert takes the mound for his first career start for the Marlins. After posting solid numbers throughout his career in the minors, Neidert hopes to continue a positive start for Marlins starting pitchers this season. Every starter, barring Elieser Hernandez’s injury-shortened outing, has been able to keep the bats they have faced at bay. There, however, has been nothing to show for it through 6 games. LoanDepot Park has not been a friendly sight for Marlins hitters, and weirdly enough, there is an expectation that pitchers will get more run support on the road this season. A 24-year-old Neidert is matched up against an extremely potent New York Mets lineup, which serves as a tough obstacle on start 1.

Keys for Mets: Walker having a Quality Start

His counterpart Taijuan Walker was 4-3 last season with a 2.70 ERA pitching for the Mariners and Blue Jays. Walker was injured throughout 2018 and 2019, but in seasons where he was healthy, has been a steady innings eater with a consistent ERA in the high 3s. Walker, although a solid arm, will be the lowest quality starter the Marlins will face in this series. It is important that the bats break out in this game to set the tone for games 2 and 3.

Game 2 (Saturday 1:10 PM EST): Trevor Rogers (0-1, 4.50 ERA) vs Jacob deGrom (0-0, 0.00 ERA)

Keys for Marlins: Rogers settling in, Late-inning magic

After a shaky first inning in which he allowed 3 runs on Monday versus the Cardinals, Trevor Rogers settled in to throw 3 shutout innings to finish his night. In those 3 innings, his fastball looked electric and he looked much more settled in. In his post game press conference, he mentioned that he was too “amped up.” With the first start with fans out of the way for Rogers, he is looking to continue to grow from his stellar Spring Training this season. The Mets offer another difficult lineup to navigate as a pitcher, but Rogers did just that last year. Two of his better starts came against the Mets last season, both of which resulted in Marlins’ wins. 

Keys for Mets: deGrom doing deGrom things

In his first start of the season, deGrom was stupendous (per usual). He will once again be rightfully in Cy Young talks as his game continues to get better with age. However, over the course of his career, he has struggled somewhat versus the Marlins. The Marlins got a win when he was on the mound last season, but with the bats continuing to struggle, the most likely hope for Miami this season lies in the late innings. Much like the Marlins’ starters, deGrom has had infamously low run support throughout his career. If Rogers can keep it close with deGrom, the Marlins can piece together a win, just like the Phillies did against the Mets on their Opening Day.

Game 3 (Sunday 1:10 PM EST): TBD vs Marcus Stroman (1-0, 1.50 ERA)

Keys for Marlins: Bullpen

Don Mattingly mentioned that the Marlins will most likely not start Sandy Alcantara on Sunday, even though technically it is his turn in the rotation. Whoever the Marlins go with, this will be a game decided on their bullpen. With a weak start in comparison to expectations this season, the Marlins’ new-look bullpen will have a chance to get back on track this game and series. With two young arms in Games 1 and 2 and the makings of a bullpen game in game 3, there will be plenty of chances for a bullpen to right the sinking ship in Miami.

Keys for Mets: Stroman

The Mets will counter with Marcus Stroman, a consistently solid starter over the course of his career. Stroman put together 6 masterful innings of 1-run ball in his first outing in route to a Mets win. The former Blue Jay has been the definition of consistent in his time in the MLB as he continues to bounce back after a poor 2018 season. Stroman has ace-quality stuff, and will bring his normal on Sunday.

Overall for Marlins

 

The Marlins starting pitching has been everything Marlins’ fans have asked for. Every other aspect of this team has dwindled in comparison. With an extremely tough task ahead in the Mets, the Marlins need their bats to break out (or at least play small ball in key situations) or they can easily be swept away by a good Mets team. This task becomes even harder when the Marlins aren’t expected to pitch Sandy or Pablo. 

This series is extremely important for the Marlins to bounce back before they head to Atlanta, where they have consistently struggled over the past few years. Sitting at 1-5, the Marlins could easily finish this series at 1-8 if the adequate changes are not made heading in. 

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Marlins vs Rays Takeaways

Miami Marlins baseball is back! On Opening Weekend, the Fish found themselves slated against the defending AL Champion Tampa Bay Rays. Although the Marlins dropped 2 of the 3 games at home, there is a lot to be excited about in Miami going forward in 2021. Here are my main takeaways from the first weekend of Marlins baseball:

 

Marlins Pitching

With high amounts of well-deserved hype surrounding the Marlins young pitching staff, they somehow exceeded expectations. Let’s take a look at the 3 starters who got the ball this weekend and the revamped bullpen.

Sandy Alcantara

Sandy proved his ace status this weekend, pitching 6 strong innings giving up just 2 hits and no runs. He dominated an extremely potent Rays lineup on Opening Day, leaving the game tied up 0-0 going into the 7th. He looked to be in midseason form, as he generated 7 strikeouts during his outing and 15 strikes swinging. It’s a shame such a masterpiece had to go down as a no-decision, but his counterpart Tyler Glasnow pitched just as well. If Sandy continues to pitch on this level, the Marlins will be in great shape going forwards

Pablo Lopez

Pablo Lopez is not a flashy pitcher, but he gets the job done continuously. Much like Sandy, Pablo shut down the Rays over his 5 innings of work, allowing 0 runs on 2 hits with 4 strikeouts. I would have liked to have seen him work for another inning or two, but with the Marlins held scoreless through 14 innings at the time, the pinch hitter seemed almost necessary. If Pablo can pitch past the 5th inning consistently this season, he will show his continued development as a number 2 man on a playoff team in the future. 

Elieser Hernandez

Hernandez allowed 2 runs in his 2.1 innings on a 2-run bomb off the bat of Mike Zunino. A simple cross up between Wallach and Hernandez allowed this to happen the pitch before, so his actual pitching isn’t too worrisome. What is worrisome is that he left the game early due to bicep inflammation. It is unclear how long he will be out due to this injury, but hopefully he can get back to his normal form soon.

Bullpen

Oh boy. The “revamped” Miami bullpen is the sole reason this team is not 2-1. In their combined 10.2 innings of work, they have allowed 11 runs, including the 4-run blown save by Anthony Bass in game 2. Look, these numbers aren’t great, but it is not too alarming. It takes time for a bullpen to become a cohesive unit, especially when most of the guys are in new situations. On a positive note, after poor performances in their first outings, Yimi Garcia and Anthony Bass bounced back in their next games. As they settle in, this bullpen will get more and more stable as time progresses.

 

Marlins Hitting

In what seemed to be a flashback to the early Miami days, the Marlins were shutout for the first 14 innings of the 2021 season. Their offensive struggles seemed to carry right on over from 2020. In the 6th inning of Friday’s ballgame they finally woke up. So much so, that the Marlins actually outscored the Rays 16-14 through the 3-game series. Starling Marte, Jazz Chisholm, and Garrett Cooper led the way. 

Marte

After going 0-4 with 4 (!!!) strikeouts on Opening Day, Starling Marte showed why he is the main bat in this lineup. In games 2 and 3 he went 7-10 striking out 0 times. A full season of Starling Marte means a full season of games like these. He has been this player his entire career and will be the backbone of this offensive force going forwards.

Chisholm

The blue-haired phenom. The face of a young Marlins team. Jazz Chisholm may be 2 for 10 to start the season, but his impact is much greater than what is visible on the stat sheet. He brings energy to a lineup that was previously lacking. He fits in with the small ball mentality Mattingly continues to utilize (evident through his magical trip around the bases on Saturday night). As he continues to get more at-bats and become more and more comfortable as an every day MLB player, the sky’s the limit.

Cooper

After all of the controversy regarding how Cooper would fit in the lineup going into this season, he made his name known on Saturday. A very poor performance Friday night in which he left 5 runners on-base going 0-4 with a K started his season on a bad note; however, on Saturday we saw the real Garrett Cooper: 3 for 5 with 3 RBIs and a solo homer. The decision at first base may get tougher and tougher if he continues to produce like this. 

 

Outlook for Marlins

 

Regardless of the result, the Marlins look better than expected. The lineup looks strong, the starting pitching is as advertised, and the bullpen is developing. They went head-to-head with one of the best teams in baseball and completed all 3 games.

 

Now, the Marlins look forward to a 3-game set against the Cardinals. The Fish start Trevor Rogers, Sandy Alcantara, and Pablo Lopez versus the Cardinals’ Ponce de Leon, John Gant, and Jack Flaherty. With an extremely tough schedule lined up at home versus Saint Louis, and away against the Mets and Braves, this will prove to be the first test of many. The “Bottom Feeders” will be ready.

 

Follow me on twitter @chasechrisjr for more Miami Marlins coverage.

Pablo Lopez impresses in Marlins loss

Opening Day came and gone, but for the other pitchers in the Miami Marlins starting rotation, like Pablo Lopez, that feeling still persists.

“A lot of excitement, a lot of butterflies going on,” Lopez said.

Lopez started the 2021 season by shutting out the defending American League champion Tampa Bay Rays for five innings, allowing only two hits with two walks and four strikeouts. The Rays ended up winning 6-4 on Friday after a four-run rally in the ninth inning.

“Once I was able to get through the first inning I was able to settle down a little bit more and it was about executing pitches.”

Lopez showed a lot of improvement last season, dropping his ERA from 5.09 in 2019 to 3.61 and struck out more batters than innings pitched for the first time in his young career.

The next step for him is to establish a better breaking ball and have five pitches to work with. He’s trying to do that with a cutter, sinker, and curveball.

“It’s gonna help a lot,” Lopez said. “You’re going to face teams that have very good balance like the Rays. They got five lefties, four righties, so it’s good to have pitches that have both movements to both the arm side and glove side.”

Lopez threw 77 pitches after five innings. He said he felt good physically but with the season going from 60 to 162 again, managers will likely be hesitant to keep starting pitchers out for long especially when there is a desire to give the relieves on the mound for the first time.

Back & Forth

The Marlins bullpen gave up a pair of home runs to the Rays in the next two innings. Austin Meadows homered off Richard Bleier’s cutter in the sixth inning and Manuel Margot hit a 400-foot bomb off Justin Curtiss in the seventh inning.

The Marlins came back and took a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the seventh inning after Jazz Chisholm hit a triple to spark a three-run rally capped by a two-run double by Miguel Rojas.

The Rays scored four runs off newly signed Marlins closer Anthony Bass in the ninth inning, including a three-run home run by Joey Wendle.

“The guys battled tonight and showed you after not scoring for 15 innings that all of a sudden things start to roll,” Miami manager Don Mattingly said. “We felt a little better about ourselves offensively after this game. We’re gonna be fine.”

All that Jazz

Chisholm’s rally-sparking triple in the seventh may be a sign for things to come. He was the top-rated prospect in the Arizona Diamondbacks system in 2019 when the Miami Marlins traded emerging ace Zac Gallen for him at the trade deadline.

Two years later, he beats Isan Diaz for the Opening Day second base job and is starting to prove that he is a star on the rise.

Jazz is one of those guys, he plays with a lot of energy,” Mattingly said. “Hold on, Jazz is starting his thing.”

Up Next

Elieser Hernandez starts in the series finale against Rays, who are sending out Rich Hill. Hernandez started all six games and posted a 3.16 ERA with 34 strikeouts in 25.2 innings pitched.

Hill is starting his season with his 10th MLB team. Hill posted a 3.03 ERA in eight starts in his one season with the Minnesota Twins last year.

Sandy Alcantara pitches great, Marlins drop Opening Day game

Sandy Alcantara did what we’ve been expecting him to do.

He pitched great and held the American League champions to no runs through six innings, but the Marlins lost the opening game of the season.

The Marlins started the 2021 season as they finished their run in the playoffs last year: struggling to score runs.

Only three hits, all singles, two by Jesus Aguilar, and one by Jorge Alfaro, were the only offensive production on the day.

Virtually impossible to beat these Rays that way, but it was fun to watch baseball with fans in the stands again.

However, Sandy really made Marlins fans enjoy their comeback to the stands.

Besides struggling a little bit in the first after a two-out base hit by Randy Arozarena, a walk to Brandon Lowe and hit by pitch to Yandy Diaz, and then striking out Kevin Kiermaier, Sandy look imposing on the mound.

A leadoff double in the fourth looked like could have been the beginning of the meltdown, but it was the opposite.  He retired the side after that and cruised the rest of the way, finishing with six very solid innings to start the season.

Austin Meadows was the only difference

Sandy Alcantara and Tyler Glasnow’s face-off was just great. Both starting pitchers dominated, and both bullpens were dominating, until Yimi Garcia came in.

Yimi Garcia had allowed a couple of balls to go deep into the outfield, and Marlins fans were breathing hard already.

Then, the third hard-hit ball of the inning came out of the bat of Austin Meadows and never came back.

That was all the Rays needed to get their first win of the season, and sadly, the Marlins wasted a great performance by their ace.

Aguilar, the one and only

Jesus Aguilar got the first basehit of the season for the Marlins. An infield hit, after a slow bouncer to third baseman Yandy Diaz.

Then, he got the second hit of the season for the Marlins, hitting a ball through the right side of the infield.

Miami got to the eight inning with only two basehits on the board, until Jorge Alfaro got his first of the season (the second infield hit of the day for the Marlins).

Alfaro stole second and the Marlins had the only real opportunity in that eight inning, with pinch hitter Garrett Cooper drawing a walk and Corey Dickerson flying out to left field.

Aguilar came back in the ninth and almost tied the game against Rays’ closer Diego Castillo. He hit it too much on a line drive, and there were the Marlins hopes for the day.

The Marlins face the Rays again on Friday, with Pablo Lopez taking the mound, facing lefty Ryan Yarbrough, starting at 7:10 pm.

 

By Alejandro Villegas | @Alejandrovg32 on Twitter