Nearly halfway into the season, the Marlins are among the hottest teams in baseball. Who saw that coming?
Despite Tuesday night’s 2-0 loss to the Blue Jays, this upstart squad is having its best season in over a decade, and the timing is perfect.
Fresh off of championship appearances by the Heat and Panthers, and Inter Miami bringing the soccer GOAT to South Beach (it’s really Commercial Boulevard, but let’s keep that quiet), optimism among South Florida sports fans has never been higher.
The surprising Marlins have elbowed their way into the conversation. This team is fun, this team is likable, and most importantly, this team is winning.
Fan favorite Luis Arráez is the second coming of Tony Gwynn, Jorge Soler might hit 50 homers, and Eury Pérez, Tuesday night’s starter, is a 20-year-old pitching prodigy.
Eury “ROY” Pérez
Eury Pérez’s Rookie of the Year campaign starts now.
Entering Tuesday, the 6-foot-8 flamethrower was 4-1, with a 1.80 ERA, a 1.09 WHIP and 36 strikeouts. That’ll work.
Pérez faced a tough challenge, with a Toronto lineup stacked with studs. Names like Springer, Bichette, Guerrero and Chapman all looked to derail the Eury Pérez hype train.
Pérez should be incarcerated for how bad he made Toronto hitters look on Tuesday night. The righthander had his secondary pitches working, his slider and change-up particularly being unhittable. And, of course, his blazing fastball sat at 98 MPH all night.
The 20-year-old went six innings, giving up three hits, no runs, no walks, and striking out a career high nine.
With his ERA now at a miniscule 1.54, Pérez has further established himself as an ace. Not a future ace — an ace right now. In his last 5 starts, the rookie has only allowed one run over 27 innings.
Marlins manager Skip Schumaker was all smiles discussing his young star.
“He’s getting better [with] every result, every time out, learning how to pitch on top of the zone, learning how to attack different hitters different ways,” Schumaker said.
Marlins Bats Disappear
We’re not going to pretend like the Marlins are a team of hitting machines — other than a couple guys named Arráez and Soler — but the Fish have usually found a way to get that clutch hit when needed.
That was not the case Tuesday night. They only managed 6 baserunners, and only had one inning with more than one man on base, and that inning ended with a deflating double play.
Nick Fortes and Bryan De La Cruz each had a single and a double, Soler and Guririel each got robbed at the wall in the bottom of the ninth. Other than that, the bats were quiet.
Costly Double Plays
The Marlins lead the MLB in double plays, and it’s not particularly close. Miami hit into their 79th and 80th DPs of the year on Tuesday. The Atlanta Braves are second with 67.
A comeback was brewing in the bottom of the eighth, with Fortes at third and Wendle at first, and pinch-hitter Jesús Sánchez at the plate with one out. As Luis Arráez loomed in the on-deck circle, Sánchez did the one thing he could not do. His inning-ending, rally-killing double play sent some fans toward the exits.
Sánchez, who didn’t get the start with Toronto throwing lefty Yusei Kikuchi, has struggled against southpaws his entire career. He looked overmatched against lefty reliever Tim Mayza.
It’s hard to question Skip Schumaker, who is firmly in the NL Manager of the Year conversation, but the decision to stick with Sánchez with a lefty on the mound had to be a tough one. Would outfielder Jonathan Davis have had a better result? Who knows.
Luis Arráez is Human
This man has been on another planet, but on Tuesday night he came down to Earth.
Coming off a five-hit night on Monday, the second baseman was the center of attention every time he stepped in the batter’s box. The energy in the park is noticeably different when he comes up.
The 26-year-old had a pedestrian night, finishing with only one hit, which lowered his average to a measly .398. A 1-4 game for Arráez feels like an 0-10 doubleheader for most hitters, which speaks to how dominant he has been this season.
Arráez has had three five-hit games in June, two in the past six days. For reference, Albert Pujols, one of the best hitters ever, had three five-hit games — in his career.
Even with an off-night on Tuesday, Arráez has been nothing short of spectacular, and is currently the leading vote-getter at second base for the National League All-Star team.
The last three-game series that the Marlins had at loanDepot Park, the average attendance was 7,400. The first two games of the Toronto series have drawn not only more fans, but more passionate fans.
Monday’s series opener had more than 12,000 fans watch the Marlins dismantle the Blue Jays 11-0. That number had not been eclipsed on a Monday-night game since 2021. Tuesday night, it was a little less than 10,000 people.
Beyond the numbers, it was the passion and rowdiness that stood out. When Eury Pérez got to two strikes on Spencer Horwitz in the fifth inning, the crowd stood and roared like it was 2003.
Saturday, the Marlins are projecting upward of 20,000 fans for Puerto Rican Heritage Night, and if that crowd is as lively as Tuesday night’s, the roof might blow off. Sunday is Sandy Alcántara Bobblehead Day, and is sure to be a big draw as well.
This ballclub is playing well and the South Florida faithful need to take notice. To quote Marlins color analyst Tommy Hutton: “No Heat, no Panthers, no homework” and “no excuses.”