The Miami Marlins entered their weekend series against the Atlanta Braves with an opportunity to extend their unlikely lead in the NL East. Despite having 20 players on the IL, Miami sat atop the division in August for the first time in franchise history. The Braves rolled into town down one game in the standings, but they’ve owned the Marlins of late. In 2019, Miami dropped 15 of 19 games to the Braves. The Marlins haven’t taken a series from Atlanta since 2017.
Here’s a look at five takeaways from the Marlins series loss to the Braves.
Marlins Loss to Braves: A Missed Opportunity
The Marlins hosted their home opener with control of the NL East. This unexpected development came despite losing more than half of the Opening Day roster to COVID-19. Miami welcomed in the Braves, who’ve won the division for the last two seasons.
Atlanta arrived minus keys players, with Ronald Acuna Jr. and Ozzie Albies missing from the lineup and three-fifths of their starting rotation out. Despite that, the Marlins were unable to extend their lead in the division.
Ahead of the homestand, Miami’s schedule featured 15 straight games versus NL East opponents. After going 1-2 versus Atlanta, the Marlins will face the Mets for four games before a five-game weekend series in Washington. They’ll finish their 15-game NL East stretch in New York with three more against the Mets.
If the Marlins are serious about making a playoff push in 2020, they’ll need to win these series.
Bats Went Silent
On Friday night, the Marlins piled up eight runs on 10 hits, but eight of those 10 hits were singles. Miami used speed to pressure the Braves, including stealing home for the second straight game. Eight of the 10 hits on Friday were singles, and most of those came from the bottom of the order.
After a rousing 8-2 win on Friday, the Marlins proceeded to score just one run over the next 18 innings.
Between Saturday and Sunday, the Marlins went 0-for-6 with runners-in-scoring-position. On Sunday, they saw just two pitches with a runner in scoring position. For the series, Miami managed three extra base hits, and one of those came thanks to aggressive baserunning from Magneuris Sierra, who stretched a soft single to right into a double.
Over their last three losses, the Marlins are a combined 1-for-14 with runners-in-scoring-position and a grand total of two extra-base hits.
Starting Pitching Solid
The Marlins wasted a pair of excellent starting pitching performances over the weekend. On Saturday, Daniel Castano tossed a career-high six innings, allowing just four hits and one earned run. He lowered his ERA to 4.35 with the outing.
Castano threw 80 pitches and made just one mistake. To start the seventh inning, he surrendered a home run to Marcel Ozuna on a changeup left out over the plate. Otherwise, he was sharp in what was his second career MLB start.
On Sunday, Elieser Hernandez continued his solid stretch to start the season. He went five scoreless innings, allowing just three hits and tying a career-high nine strikeouts. 57 of his 81 pitches went for strikes and he lowered his ERA to 1.84. In three starts this season, Hernandez has pitched 14.2 innings and has allowed runs in just one of those. He’s posted 19 Ks and only two walks thus far.
On Friday night, Pablo Lopez went a season-high six innings, surrendered two earned runs on seven hits and piled up eight strikeouts. He remained sharp throughout. His ERA in 2020 stands at 2.25.
Mattingly Finally Fed Up
Marlins manager Don Mattingly lost it with home plate umpire James Hoye in the fifth inning of Sunday’s game. Mattingly argued vehemently about the strike zone and was ejected. His profanity-laced tirade was caught by the Braves TV broadcast.
After the game, Mattingly did not address the altercation, saying the discussion about umpiring was “not worth getting into.” He revealed there had been many complaints from players regarding the zone, but shrugged and said: “It is what it is.”
The Marlins had the same umpiring crew for the last three series (Hoye, Roberto Ortiz, Mike Estabrook and Mark Carlson). Before Friday’s game, Mattingly admitted they “do get frustrated with the zone,” particularly the inconsistencies from day-to-day.
“I think the biggest thing you look for is that consistency of the zone. That’s one thing that seems to be missing,” Mattingly said on Friday. He also admitted that there’s not much to do about it.
VIDEO: Don Mattingly unloads F 💣s on the home-plate umpire after he gets ejected.
Kudos to the Braves broadcast team for the sound! pic.twitter.com/IiKBZOY7xj
— Andy Slater (@AndySlater) August 16, 2020
Reinforcements Needed, And Potentially on the Way
After having their roster decimated by COVID-19, the Marlins scrambled to assemble a competitive roster. To their credit, the team emerged from quarantine and ran off five wins in a row. But since that streak, the team is 2-5. While most assumed the difficulties would come from a makeshift bullpen, it’s actually been inconsistencies in the lineup that have hurt the most.
Versus the Braves, Miami’s best hitters failed to come through. Brian Anderson did not record a hit during the three-game series. Jesus Aguilar went 2-for-11 and Jonathan Villar went 3-for-12. Those two combined to drive in four runs no Friday, but nothing on Saturday and Sunday.
One day after coming through with big hits, both Monte Harrison and Lewis Brinson were hitless Sunday. Harrison’s game-tying home run on Saturday proved to be a wonderful moment for the young man, but he followed that with a 0-for-3 performance with two strikeouts. Brinson tallied two hits on Saturday but went 0-for-2 with two Ks Sunday.
Word came out of Marlins camp yesterday that all 18 players affected by COVID-19 have been approved for reinstatement by the joint MLB/MLBPA committee. The players have reported to Jupiter for training and rehab. This lineup needs an injection of life, and that could come from Jorge Alfaro, Garrett Cooper, Harold Ramirez and Miguel Rojas.
Here is a key point. Marlins players who are returning must travel with the team. No exceptions. Miami departs Thursday Night for Washington. Marlins could activate some AND/OR add to the taxi squad. Pitchers especially. Then return next weekend in Washington.
— Craig Mish (@CraigMish) August 16, 2020