The Miami Marlins ended their seven-day, six-game road trip with a three-game sweep of their NL East rivals, the Washington Nationals, in D.C. Miami used dominant starting pitching and timely hitting to win the series.
It’s clear the Marlins have elite starting pitching at this point, with potentially more on the way in the minors. What’s also clear is that the offense needs more consistent production, especially from the five regulars hitting below .205. But with this three-game sweep, the Marlins showed themselves to be a good team, taking care of business on the road against an inferior opponent.
Miami comes home 10-8, having won five in a row, their longest win streak since 2020. A win on Friday at home against the Seattle Mariners would push the Marlins to three games over .500 for the first time since August 29, 2016.
Here’s a look at five takeaways from the Marlins sweep in Washington.
Starting Pitching Carries the Marlins During Sweep of the Nats
The Marlins saw the top three pitchers of their rotation get a turn in this three-game series in Washington. The result? Two earned runs allowed over 18 innings pitched. On the road trip, Sandy Alcantara, Pablo López, and Trevor Rodgers combined to toss 38 innings, allowing three runs total. That’s an 0.71 ERA.
Marlins starting pitchers have allowed one total run over 20.0 innings in the last three games (0.45 ERA):
Sandy Alcantara – 8.0 IP, 0 R vs. STL
Pablo Lopez – 7.0 IP, 0 R vs. STL
Trevor Rogers – 5.0 IP, 1 R at ATL
— Marlins Communications (@MarlinsComms) April 23, 2022
Alcantara limited the Nationals to one run on six hits and three walks over six innings, although he was helped on Tuesday by a pair of outfield assists. Alcantara’s surrendered just five earned runs through his first four starts of the season. He struck out five Nationals, to run his season total up to 20 over 25.1 innings pitched. His 1.78 ERA for the season sits just outside the MLB top-10.
MLB’s leader in that category is López, who tossed another gem this week. But more on him in a moment.
Rodgers helped the Marlins secure the sweep in D.C. thanks to his best outing of the season. Rodgers went a season-long 6.0 innings in what was his fourth start. He surrendered two hits in the effort, both in the first inning, and only allowed two base runners after that. He helped keep this Nationals offense under wraps, lowering his ERA to 5.09 in the process.
Pablo López Leveling Up
Pablo López’s start to this season has been one of the most impressive things in baseball through the first month. Lopez shut down the Nationals, navigating a third consecutive start without surrendering a run.
The right-hander allowed just three hits over his six innings of work, with six strikeouts to just one walk. Miami picked up a 2-1 victory and López was credited with his third win in a row, matching a career high. He’s has now tossed 18.1 consecutive scoreless innings, which is the longest stretch of his career without allowing a run.
Pablo Lopez is off to an UNREAL start ♨️
☄️ 23.1 IP
☄️ 1 ER
☄️ 0.39 ERA (best in MLB)
Oh, and he's pitched 19 STRAIGHT INNINGS without allowing an earned run 😳 pic.twitter.com/hiUbJCSKI8
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) April 28, 2022
“I feel real good,” López said after the game on Wednesday. “I feel really happy with where I am feeling on the mound with the rhythm, the tempo, the way I’m breaking my hands the same time with my legs.”
López continued: “I just feel like I’m in a good spot on the mound.”
In addition to leading the league in ERA (0.39), López leads in WAR for pitchers (1.5) and ranks second in WHIP (0.729). Lopez is the 12th pitcher (13th occurrence, Roger Clemens did it twice) in MLB history to allow one run or less in his first four starts of the season while pitching at least 20.0 innings. His 0.39 ERA is the lowest in club history through the first four starts of the season, bettering Dontrelle Willis’ 0.71 mark to start 2004.
‘Mix and Match’ Bullpen Saves Marlins Sweep
It wasn’t just the Marlins starting pitching that propelled the team to the sweep in Washington. Miami’s bullpen shut the door in each of the three games, registering with key outs in high leverage situations. And with Dylan Floro still on the IL, Marlins manager used the “mix and match” approach throughout the series.
The fact that their starters each pitched six innings in these games allowed Mattingly to approach the final third of these games based on matchups. With the starters covering all but nine innings in the series, relievers came out of the bullpen in different combinations to maximize matchups in those high leverage situations to much success.
Marlins relievers allowed three runs (two earned) during this sweep in Washington. Anthony Bender missed the series win against the Atlanta Braves due to hip soreness, but registered his third and fourth saves of the season in the first two games versus the Nationals.
It's a @Marlins win!
— Bally Sports Florida: Marlins (@BallyMarlins) April 28, 2022
Bender pitched a clean ninth on Tuesday, then registered a four-out save on Wednesday. That 1.1 inning effort was his longest outing of the season. Perhaps the most impressive part was Bender’s ability to keep the Nationals off the board in a high leverage, one-run situation, although Yadiel Hernandez seemed to just miss a grand slam of him.
On Thursday, Cole Sulser picked up his first save with the Marlins. Sulser closed the sweep of the Nationals with a 1.1 inning outing of his own that included keeping Washington’s tying run at third with a strikeout of Josh Bell in the eighth.
On the road trip, Miami’s bullpen went 5-for-5 in save opportunities, with four different relievers (Bender, Sulser, Louis Head, and Tanner Scott) registering a save.
Sanchez Delivers with Key Pinch Hit
The Marlins find themselves in a stretch of 16 games over 16 days, so naturally, Mattingly will work off days into the schedule for many of his regulars. Playing a day game after a night game, and with a lefty starter on the mound, Mattingly opted with a right-handed heavy lineup for the series closer.
But in a key spot in the seventh inning, with the game tied at one, Mattingly tapped Jesus Sanchez to pinch hit for Bryan De La Cruz with Brian Anderson and Miguel Rojas on base. Down 0-1 in the count, Sanchez reach down and shot RHP Victor Arano’s 83.5 MPH slider through the right side of the infield, getting the Marlins the lead. Rojas advanced to third and would score what amounted to the game-winning run on a wild pitch.
HUGE hit by Jesus Sanchez cold off the bench here in the 7th right after Miggy was hit in the face by a pitch. Now 3-1 after a wild pitch.
— Kyle Sielaff (@Kyle_Sielaff) April 28, 2022
That hit snapped an 0-for-14 stretch for Sanchez that included seven strikeouts. It was Sanchez’s lone RBI on the trip, one in which he went 3-for-22 overall, lowering his batting average from .356 to .284. Although he struck out in the ninth, it was good to see Sanchez deliver in a clutch spot with a base hit.
Marlins Struggle with RISP (and Bad Luck) During Sweep
Although the Marlins completed the series sweep on Thursday, they did so in large part thanks to their pitching. Miami pitchers limited the Nationals to five runs over the three games. Marlins hitters, meanwhile, did just enough.
Miami’s offense put up 10 runs, half coming in the series opener. The Marlins went 4-for-24 with runners-in-scoring-position. Sanchez came through with the big hit on Thursday, with Joey Wendle’s three-run homer on Tuesday being the difference in that one.
For the season, the Marlins remain in the bottom third of MLB in this metric, hitting just .203 when runners are in scoring position. Miami’s 31-for-153 in that spot. While the team’s 192 plate appearances with RISP ranks eighth so far, Marlins hitters still need more consistency in the clutch. Miami’s even worse (.178) with RISP and two outs.
While some of this is bad execution, some of it is also just plain bad luck.
Jorge Soler went 0-for-4 on Thursday, but he had the two highest exit velocities of the game. Soler rocketed a grounder to third at 106.3 MPH with runners on the corners, but Nationals third baseman Maikel Franco snagged the ball and registered the force out. Later in the game, Soler smashed a pitch 110.9 MPH to left but Nats outfielder Yadiel Hernandez made an excellent sliding catch. The expected batting averages for those Soler strikes were .650 (for the 106.3 grounder) and .870 (for the 110.9 liner).
Avisail Garcia’s flyout in the sixth sported an exit velocity of 98.6 and an expected batting average of .630. Had it dropped, it would have scored Garrett Cooper from second. Garcia has a similar situation unfold in the second inning, with a flyout to right that had a 101.4 exit velocity and a .610 expected batting average.