Opening Day came and gone, but for the other pitchers in the Miami Marlins starting rotation, like Pablo Lopez, that feeling still persists.
“A lot of excitement, a lot of butterflies going on,” Lopez said.
Lopez started the 2021 season by shutting out the defending American League champion Tampa Bay Rays for five innings, allowing only two hits with two walks and four strikeouts. The Rays ended up winning 6-4 on Friday after a four-run rally in the ninth inning.
“Once I was able to get through the first inning I was able to settle down a little bit more and it was about executing pitches.”
Lopez showed a lot of improvement last season, dropping his ERA from 5.09 in 2019 to 3.61 and struck out more batters than innings pitched for the first time in his young career.
The next step for him is to establish a better breaking ball and have five pitches to work with. He’s trying to do that with a cutter, sinker, and curveball.
“It’s gonna help a lot,” Lopez said. “You’re going to face teams that have very good balance like the Rays. They got five lefties, four righties, so it’s good to have pitches that have both movements to both the arm side and glove side.”
Lopez threw 77 pitches after five innings. He said he felt good physically but with the season going from 60 to 162 again, managers will likely be hesitant to keep starting pitchers out for long especially when there is a desire to give the relieves on the mound for the first time.
Back & Forth
The Marlins bullpen gave up a pair of home runs to the Rays in the next two innings. Austin Meadows homered off Richard Bleier’s cutter in the sixth inning and Manuel Margot hit a 400-foot bomb off Justin Curtiss in the seventh inning.
The Marlins came back and took a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the seventh inning after Jazz Chisholm hit a triple to spark a three-run rally capped by a two-run double by Miguel Rojas.
The Rays scored four runs off newly signed Marlins closer Anthony Bass in the ninth inning, including a three-run home run by Joey Wendle.
“The guys battled tonight and showed you after not scoring for 15 innings that all of a sudden things start to roll,” Miami manager Don Mattingly said. “We felt a little better about ourselves offensively after this game. We’re gonna be fine.”
All that Jazz
Chisholm’s rally-sparking triple in the seventh may be a sign for things to come. He was the top-rated prospect in the Arizona Diamondbacks system in 2019 when the Miami Marlins traded emerging ace Zac Gallen for him at the trade deadline.
Two years later, he beats Isan Diaz for the Opening Day second base job and is starting to prove that he is a star on the rise.
Jazz is one of those guys, he plays with a lot of energy,” Mattingly said. “Hold on, Jazz is starting his thing.”
Hill is starting his season with his 10th MLB team. Hill posted a 3.03 ERA in eight starts in his one season with the Minnesota Twins last year.