The Miami Marlins crashed MLB’s postseason party in 2020. On Wednesday, the franchise played its first playoff game in 17 years. The Marlins rallied around a dominant pitching performance from Sandy Alcantara to win Game 1 over the favored Chicago Cubs, 5-1.
It wasn’t just Alcantara leading the way, though. Key veterans provided the offensive lift late in the game, and veteran additions to the bullpen closed the door for the Marlins.
The Marlins entered the playoffs with nothing short of the most historical turnaround in MLB history. No team in the long life of the sport has ever emerged from the depths of a 105-loss season to qualify for the playoffs a year later. And the key to that emergence has been not only the development of young talent, but also the production from veterans acquired for just this purpose.
Veteran Additions Lead the Way
Chicago’s starter Kyle Hendricks dominated the Fish through six, surrendering just one hit in that span. But Hendricks’ control was uncharacteristically off, as the starter who’d issued just eight walks in 2020 gave up three free passes and a hit-by-pitch.
“[Hendricks] was tough,” Dickerson said via Zoom postgame. “He was hitting his spots. Very tough at-bats. It was about getting a good pitch, and don’t miss it. Early on, I was thinking too much, trying to get the right pitch. It was about seeing it over the plate, get my timing right and letting it go. I got a good pitch to hit.”
From there, Cubs manager David Ross went to the bullpen, summoning closer Jeremy Jeffress. What followed was a sharp single from Starling Marte and a two-run home run by Aguilar. That quickly, the Marlins went from down 1-0 with a punchless offense, to up 5-1 and in full control.
“That inning was a great inning for us, especially with Corey’s homer,” Aguilar said postgame. “It was like, ‘We could do it.’ We just tried to do our job, and stay aggressive. We’re here. I think we have the right pieces. We’ve got the right guys. Now let’s see what happens.”
Don Mattingly, managing his first game in the postseason for the Marlins after becoming the club’s all-time leader in wins earlier this season, lauded the additions of Dickerson and Aguilar postgame.
“Corey was one of the guys that we went after,” Mattingly said. “He’s always hit. He’s always been a guy that seems to hit good pitching. It was good for him. His first postseason, and he hits a homer. He was excited, and then [Aguilar] is another guy that’s hit. Good year a couple of years ago, struggled last year. We were hoping for the bounce back, and we got it. Both of those guys bring a ton to the club.”
Pitching Key to Marlins Win
Veteran additions to the bullpen also helped in this one.
Richard Bleier entered in the sixth and retired Ian Happ with on pitch to end the inning. The eighth belong to Yimi Garcia, and he knifed through three Cubs hitters, registering two strikeouts. In the ninth, closer Brandon Kintzler shut the door and helped the Marlins win their first playoff game in 17 years.
Alcantara’s efforts in this one signal a bright future for the Marlins. The 25-year-old starter went 6.2 innings and surrendered just three hits, one being a home run to Ian Happ that just barely escaped Wrigley Field.
After the game, Alcantara said it wasn’t one of his “best days.” He did walk three and struck out only four. He relied mostly on his fastball and struggled to spot his off-speed pitches consistently.
“We’ve seen him even better than that,” Mattingly said of Alcantara. “He didn’t really get his changeup going today. I’m not complaining with Sandy. You know that he has more there.”
Alcantara admitted he “didn’t have his best stuff” but he managed to throw enough strikes. He also induced six ground ball outs, which is key against the Cubs lineup.
Marlins Win, But Lose Marte in the Process
The one sour note from an otherwise excellent Marlins win was the potential loss of Marte. In the ninth innings, Cubs reliever Dan Winkler caught Marte on his left hand, leading to a non-displaced fracture of the fifth metacarpal.
Marte’s been hit four times since joining the Marlins, including a scary moment just prior to the postseason when a pitch came up and in and clipped the brim of his batting helmet.
The Marlins haven’t officially announced Marte as out, listing him still as day-to-day. There seems to be a chance that he could return to the lineup soon and would do so with a considerable wrap of his injured pinkie finger.
For Game 2, the Marlins give the ball to rookie right-hander Sixto Sánchez (3-2, 3.46) against Cubs ace You Darvish (8-3, 2.01).
Check out the Five Reasons Sports Marlins postgame show below: