The Miami Marlins completed a four-game sweep of the Baltimore Orioles on Thursday night. The 8-7 victory felt different than the pitchers’ duels earlier in the series, but the Marlins completed the sweep thanks to timely hitting and great work from the backend of the bullpen.
The unlikely nature of this win streak comes as the team has reshaped their roster coming off of an 8-day quarantine in Philadelphia. The Marlins have won five games in a row, including the four-game sweep, despite making 36 different roster moves this week.
Bullpen Has Been Key
In 2019, the Marlins featured one of the worst bullpens in MLB. Miami relievers posted the fifth-worst ERA (4.97), strikeout-to-walk ratio (2.11) and save percentage (55.1). Their WHIP (1.45) was seventh worst. Relievers blew 22 save opportunities and surrendered a .235 batting-average-against and .343 on-base percentage.
It’s been a very different story thus far in 2020. The new-look Marlins bullpen has looked good. In the four-game series versus the Orioles, Marlins relievers surrendered just three earned runs and gave up seven walks over 18.2 IP. They registered 15 strikeouts over that span. The bullpen is 4-for-4 in save situations this season.
The pitching staff in total posted solid performances almost across the board. The Marlins limited Baltimore to 3-for-25 with runners-in-scoring-position. Marlins pitchers combined for 31 strikeouts over the 32 innings of the sweep.
Jordan Yamamoto struggled in his 2020 debut, but he did not issue a walk. Yamamoto’s problem seemed to be location, which led to several hard hits including a pair of home runs. Intriguing pitching prospect Jorge Guzman made his MLB debut and finished his first inning of work cleanly on six pitches. But his second inning of work saw him surrender two home runs, a walk and a hit-by-pitch.
The Marlins offense stayed relatively quiet through the first three games of the series but woke up on Thursday night. The team posted eight runs on 11 hits. Miami managed to go 4-for-12 with runners-in-scoring position and answered each Baltimore rally with one of their own.
Brian Anderson continued his hot start to the season going 2-for4 with a triple and three RBI. Jonathan Villar posted his first three-hit night as a Marlin, starting with a lead-off homer. It was Villar’s seventh career lead-off blast and the 14th time in club history that a Marlins home run came off the first pitch of the game.
Monte Harrison collected his first Major League hit. He reached base on an infield single in the sixth inning, and immediately registered the first stolen base of his career right after.
Speed and Versatility
The Marlins rolled out maybe the fastest outfield in franchise history with Harrison, Lewis Brinson and Magneuris Sierra to start the game. And that speed came in clutch throughout, as they were able to track down hard-hit fly balls and save runs.
Harrison’s running grab in the second limited the Orioles to just one run that inning. The Marlins took the lead back the following half-inning when Sierra’s sac-fly scored Brinson, who’d walked and reached third on a Logan Forsythe double.
Sierra flashed his speed in the fourth. After a HBP, Sierra scored from first on a soft single to right by Villar. His speed from first-to-third pressured Orioles RF Anthony Santander into a throwing error, and Sierra scored.
Marlins Sweep Orioles, but What’s Next?
The Marlins traveled to New York overnight ahead of a three-game set against the division rival Mets (5-8). The Mets have won two of their last three after dropping five in a row. They have some injury issues though, as Robinson Canó, Jeff McNeil and Amed Rosario have all missed games recently. This after Yoenis Cespedes opted out for the 2020 season.
Miami are scheduled to face RHP Michael Wacha (1-1, 6.00 ERA), LHP David Peterson (1-1, 3.86 ERA), and ace RHP Jacob DeGrom (1-0, 2.12 ERA) in the series.
The Marlins have yet to name their starter for Friday’s game, though recent call up LHP Daniel Castano (27-24, 3.76 ERA, 335 K, 59 minor league starts) could get the nod. Another option could be taxi squad player RHP Humberto Mejia (13-16, 240 ERA 268 K, 43 minor league starts).
The Marlins have five games remaining on this road trip and have a real shot to be at least 8-4 coming home. Prior to the season, Marlins manager Don Mattingly said: “In a 60-game season, there’s a lot of momentum. You go 8-4 out of the gate, you’ve played 20 percent of your season, and you put pressure on teams.”
Mattingly passed Jack McKeon on the all-time wins list for Marlins managers after securing his 282nd win with the Marlins sweep.
He downplayed tying McKeon for wins record prior to Thursday’s game.
“Jack did a tremendous job with the Marlins, coming in and getting a world championship. Jack’s the man. I can’t take it too serious knowing that our win percentage has not been very good while I’ve been here.”
Mattingly noted he’s been with the Marlins a while (this is his fifth season).
“Hopefully I’ve been through the worst,” Mattingly said. “I was happy Derek wanted me back this year because I wanted to finish the job, knew what kind of talent we had coming. I think continuity is part of creating consistency.”