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5 Takeaways from Marlins Wild Road Trip

The Miami Marlins get a home opener, finally. After a 6-day road trip morphed into a 23-day odyssey, the Marlins are set to defend their home (new) turf for the first time this season. Miami enters the game after a thrilling 14-11 victory over the Blue Jays and own a 1-game over the Braves in the NL East.

Here’s a look at five takeaways from the Marlins road trip.

Marlins Road Trip Produced Some Wild Numbers

The teams trip went from six days to 23 days. They spent eight of those days in quarantine. They’ve made 58 roster moves, used 45 players total, including 26 pitchers. In 2019, they used 25 pitchers for the whole season. All 162 games.

Of the original 30 players on the Opening Day roster, 18 have landed on the IL and one has since opted out. Two of the recent additions are IL bound as well. The Marlins gave up a franchise record seven home runs in a game, and still won!

Despite the wild trip, Miami managed an 8-4 record, including a 5-game winning streak. They posted a 4-1 record in 1-run games, a vast improvement thus far from 2019, where they went 16-28 in 1-run contests.

Finally, the Marlins odds for making the playoffs have climbed to 25 percent for ESPN and 23.3 percent for FanGraphs. If they make the postseason, it’ll be the first time since 2003. The Marlins have the second-longest current playoff drought in MLB (Seattle, 2001).

Aguilar and Anderson Mashing for the Marlins

The Marlins offense has improved considerably under the watchful eyes of bench coach James Rowson and hitting coach Eric Duncan. The offense scores five runs-per-game this year, versus 3.8 in 2019. And the team is connecting on 1.25 home-runs-per-game, which is a vast improvement upon last season’s 0.90 clip.

Jesus Aguilar and Brian Anderson are leading the way in that department. Both have a team-leading four home runs this season. Aguilar leads the team in batting average (.311) and Anderson leads in OPS (1.007). Anderson also leads in RBI (13), but Aguilar is right behind (12).

Marlins manager Don Mattingly has spaced out the two in the lineup, so as long as the players around them continue to get on, these two can knock them in.

Mags Sierra and Eddy Alvarez Deserve Playing Time

Magneuris Sierra’s performance of late demands attention. Sierra’s game-changing speed affects opponent pitching staffs and the Marlins are 5-0 when he’s in the starting lineup. In seven games this season (five starts), Sierra’s hitting .286 with a .421 on-base percentage. He’s played solid defense in the outfield and stolen one base. While some of the other Marlins outfielders have sputtered early on, Sierra has proven to be a sparkplug.

Eddy Alvarez has also impressed of late. After starting his career 0-for-9, Alvarez has gone 4-for-10 at the plate with a double, three runs scored and two stolen bases. His play defensively at second base has been a marvel. He made game-saving plays (plural) versus the Mets last Friday. Mattingly said recently he likes Alvarez in against RHP.

Both of these young players have earned spots in the lineup for now.

Pitching Has Been…Okay

The Marlins lost three members of their starting rotation and about two-thirds of their bullpen. The front office scrambled to assemble a piecemeal staff and the results thus far have been…okay.

The Marlins are 12th in team ERA (4.22), 12th in batting-average-against (.233) and 17th in WHIP (1.34). This season, the bullpen is 6-for-7 in save situations. Last season, the Marlins featured one of the worst bullpens in MLB. Miami relievers posted the fifth-worst ERA (4.97) and their WHIP (1.45) was seventh worst. Relievers had a save percentage of 55.1 in 2019 and blew 22 save opportunities.

Brandon Kintzler is 3-for-3 in saves thus far with a 1.42 ERA. Stephen Tarpley has impressed as well, posting a 2.84 ERA, two wins and a save. Generally, the bullpen has been good in high leverage spots, despite the home run binge from the Blue Jays and the extra innings loss.

For the starters, Pablo Lopez (1-1, 1.80 ERA, 11 K) has become the de facto ace. And Elieser Hernandez, other than one bad inning against Toronto, seems sharp as well. (0-0, 2.79 ERA, 10 K).

Monte Harrison & Lewis Brinson Struggling

The excitement of Monte Harrison’s call up saw Marlins fans frothing. And though he’s been more than stellar in the outfield, Harrison has not really come through at the plate. In 20 plate appearances, Harrison is 2-for-18 with two walks, two RBI and 11 strikeouts. He’s struck out each of his last six at-bats.

The key for Harrison is putting the bat on the ball. He’s seeing 4.6 pitches-per-plate-appearance and he’s hitting .286 on balls-put-in-play. If he can get on the basepaths, his speed remains an incredible weapon.

Lewis Brinson, meanwhile, has gone hitless in his return to the Marlins. He’s 0-for-12 in 15 plate appearances with three walks but just strikeouts. He’s shown increased discipline at the dish, seeing 4.7 pitches-per-plate-appearance, which is up almost a full point for his career average.

Bottom line for Brinson, though, he needs to produce. Hopefully, he and Harrison will see more opportunities in the coming days and can shake off these slow starts.

Marlins beat Blue Jays

Marlins Finish Road Trip with Thriller, Beat Blue Jays 14-11

The Miami Marlins escaped Buffalo, NY, with a series split after a thrilling win over the Toronto Blue Jays. Miami built an 8-0 lead before Toronto stormed back thanks to seven home runs. But after dropping the game in extra innings on Tuesday night, the Marlins put three runs on the board in the 10th and held on to beat the Blue Jays 14-11.

Thanks to 10th inning heroics from Magneuris Sierra and Jesus Aguilar, the Marlins return to Miami with an 8-4 record. The team’s 6-day road trip morphed into a 23-day odyssey that saw them lose 20 teammates along the way. And, improbably, Miami sits atop the NL East.

“Obviously, that was a crazy game,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said on the postgame Zoom call. “Seems like a perfect game to end this trip with. Just out of the ordinary, every bit of it.”

Marlins pitchers served up a franchise single-game high seven home runs in this one. The Blue Jays connected on homers in six consecutive innings to tie the game after their early deficit.

This game mirrored the rollercoaster road trip. There was a thrilling, unexpected start, considerable difficulty in the middle and a team-oriented response in the end to help the Marlins beat the Blue Jays.

Wild Ride as Marlins Beat Blue Jays

Brian Anderson connected on his fourth home run of the season to open the scoring. Then in the third inning, the Marlins put five more runs on the board with three singles, three walks, an error and an inexplicable pick-off attempt by Toronto’s catcher.

From there, though, Marlins pitchers allowed the Blue Jays back into the game. Starter Jordan Yamamoto couldn’t make it through four innings, surrendering up seven hits, four earned runs, two walks and two home runs. But the Blue Jay’s home run binge didn’t stop there. Miami’s bullpen gave up five homers and seven earned runs.

But one night after a frustrating extra innings loss, the Marlins rallied in the 10th inning.

Another Shot at Extras

On Tuesday, the Marlins played for the big inning, and were inches away from it, but they couldn’t push a run across. With the new extra innings rule, if the road team doesn’t score first, the odds tilt almost insurmountably in favor of the home team.

Mattingly played last night’s game for one in extras.

“I wanted to try and get a run,” Mattingly said. “The analytics tell me not to do that [bunt]. It ended up being big. You don’t get an out on the bunt, it usually causes you multiple runs.”

That was the case for the Blue Jays. With Eddy Alvarez placed at second base to start the inning, Jon Berti stepped up to move him over. But his bunt snuck pass the mound on the left side and Berti reached base safely, putting runners on the corners with no outs. After a wild pitch moved Berti to second, Sierra followed with a two-run single.

Sierra took second on a failed pickoff attempt, then made it to third on a sacrifice bunt by Jonathan Villar. Aguilar then drove in Sierra with a single, his fourth RBI of the game.

Josh A. Smith entered in bottom of the 10th as Miami’s ninth pitcher of the night. Despite the placed runner at second and starting the inning with a walk, Smith navigated the 10th with a pair of strikeouts to record the save. It was Smith’s second career save and his first with the Marlins.

“We’re competitors,” Smith said after the Marlins beat the Blue Jays. “It says a lot about this organization. It says a lot about the guys that we have down there. We come to work every day, blue collar. Whenever our name is called, we try to get it done. Whoever doesn’t get it done, then the other guys just pick them up.”

Up Next: Atlanta Braves

The Marlins return home after this rollercoaster road trip 8-4 and in first place. The Atlanta Braves (11-9) come in for a three-game set for control of the NL East. Pablo Lopez (1-1, 1.80 ERA, 11 K) takes the hill for the Marlins. The Braves counter with RHP Kyle Wright (0-2, 6.75 ERA, 11 K).

Marlins extra innings

Marlins Lose In Extra Innings

The Marlins first experience with MLB’s new extra innings rule left the team with a bitter taste in their mouth. Miami dropped the 10-inning affair 5-4 and have lost three straight after a six-game winning streak and 7-1 start overall.

Elieser Hernandez went 5.1 innings and surrendered three earned runs. He made one mistake pitch in the sixth to Bo Bichette, which went for a 3-run home run, but otherwise looked good. He finished with five strikeouts, four hits and one walk.

Despite Two Home Runs, Marlins Offense Continues to Struggle

The Marlins offense slumbered through most of this extra innings game. Miami’s offense seemed to sleep-walk through this one, outside of Brian Anderson’s second inning homer and Francisco Cervelli’s 2-out, game-tying 3-run shot in the bottom of the ninth.

“The home run, I saw the ball and I hit the ball. That’s it,” Cervelli said. “I saw the situation and I looked at who was behind me, and I said, ‘I’ve got to swing here.’ That was my plan.”

Lewis Brinson followed Cervelli in the batting order and he’s yet to register a hit with the club since his recent call up. Heading into the game, Brinson was 0-for-8. On Tuesday night, Brinson’s struggles with the bat continued as he went 0-for-3 with a strikeout.

All in all, the Marlins couldn’t muster the big hit. The team, which went 4-for-17 with runners-in-scoring-position in their weekend loses to the Mets, was 1-for-8 with runners-in-scoring-position. Marlins batters struck out nine times, including the key first out in extra innings.

Logan Forsythe nearly gave the Marlins a 2-run lead in the top of the 10th inning, but his hit, initially ruled as a home run, was ultimately overturned to a foul ball. Forsythe then struck out.

“Obviously, Cervy’s homer is big,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. “It gives us an opportunity. For a brief second there, it looks like Logan’s got a homer. Then, just weren’t able to make a pitch there in that last inning.”

Marlins Loss: Extra Innings Rule Favors Home Team Considerably

The new extra inning rules tilt the odds of the game dramatically in favor of the home team. Each club gets a runner at second base to start the inning, but if the road team doesn’t score, strategy dictates the home team move the runner over with a sacrifice bunt then try to put the ball in play to score the runner from third.

For the Marlins, Stephen Tarpley faced these long odds and couldn’t wiggle out of the trouble. After the Blue Jays bunted Anthony Alford over, Tarpley seemed to have Cavan Biggio on the ropes, but a pitch that clearly seemed in the strike zone was called a ball by home plate umpire James Hoye.

The call elicited an expletive from Mattingly, who barked his displeasure toward the plate. Marlins batters remained frustrated with the zone throughout the night, as they have been for the better part of the last two series.

“The strike zone again,” Mattingly said after the game. “We’ve had this crew and they’re gonna go back to Miami with us. You can’t complain, just live with it.”

Mattingly made defensive adjustments in the 10th inning, including going to five infielders, then moving Brinson from right to left field in the middle of Biggio’s at-bat. But Tarpley’s inability to get the strikeout led to Biggio’s walk, then an intentional walk to Bo Bichette to load the bases. Travis Shaw looped a game-winning single to right five pitches later.

“This is not softball,” Cervelli said of the new extra innings rule after the Marlins game. “This is not the Olympic Games, this is baseball. But this is what it is. I’ve got to adapt to this. I believe if we’re the home team, and we have success, we’re going to be happy.”

Harrison Pulled in 8th Inning

Monte Harrison’s struggles at the plate continued. He struck out twice before being replaced by Eddy Alvarez in the eighth inning. He’s now struck out in six consecutive at-bats.

The Marlins have one more game in what has turned out to me an epic opening road trip. When the Marlins finally return home, it’ll be 23 days after having left for what was originally supposed to be a six-day trip.

 

Marlins Loss

5 Takeaways from Marlins Loss to Mets

The Miami Marlins were riding high after 4-3 Friday night win over the New York Mets. The team ran off six straight wins and vaulted to the top of the NL East. But moving into the weekend, Marlins bats fell silent and the pitchers weren’t as sharp, especially during Sunday’s loss.

Here’s a look at five takeaways from the Marlins loss to the Mets.

Needed the Big Hit

This Marlins loss, and the one that preceded it on Saturday, were frustrating. Not because the revamped roster and piecemeal pitching staff were overmatched. No, the most frustrating element proved to be the lack of timely hitting.

On Sunday afternoon, the Marlins went 2-for10 with runners in scoring position. In all, they stranded 10 runners. Each inning saw at least one Marlin reach base, but the team managed just two runs.

In the second inning, the Marlins had two-time Cy Young winner Jacob deGrom on the ropes. They’d loaded the bases with one out, but followed that with a strikeout and ground out, producing no runs.

This followed a similar refrain from Saturday, where the Marlins went 2-for-7 with runners-in-scoring-position. They stranded nine runners in the 8-4 loss.

“We just didn’t get that big hit,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said after the game. “Didn’t really capitalize.”

Bright Spot in the Marlins Loss: Eddy Alvarez

One of the bright spots over the weekend was the play of Eddy Alvarez. The Olympic speedskating medalist flashed his moxie on defense and provided a lift on offense.

On Friday, Alvarez stole an extra base-hit from Jeff McNeill in the eighth inning. He then knocked down Wilson Ramos’ two-out grounder with the bases loaded and recovered in time to throw out the slow-footed catcher to end the Mets’ rally.

Sunday saw Alvarez register his first hits in MLB. His first hit came on an infield single in the second inning against deGrom. In the fourth, he singled then stole second base (his first steal in MLB). Then in the eighth, Alvarez put a charge into the ball to the opposite field and picked up his first double.

Alvarez said after the game that getting that first hit lifted a weight off his shoulders. He also thought he’d tied the game for a moment in the eighth with his double. He has opposite field power and thought that hit had a chance to get out.

Bright Spot in the Marlins Loss: Jesus Aguilar

Before Sunday’s game, Mattingly praised Jesus Aguilar.

“Jesus has been great, in a lot of different areas,” he said. “He’s got plenty of power. This guy can hit, he’s got good hands. He’s got a good eye up there. He’s such a positive influence.” Mattingly went on to say that Aguilar’s personality has been “awesome” and that he’s a well-rounded hitter, not just a power threat.

During the game, Aguilar flashed that power on Sunday when he connected on his team-leading fourth home run of the season. His fifth inning blast off deGrom pulled the Marlins to within one run.

Six of Aguilar’s 11 hits this season have gone for extra bases (two doubles, four home runs). He leads the team in batting average (.306), slugging percentage (.694) and OPS (1.036). He’s second in RBI (8). This discounted both Miguel Rojas and Magneuris Sierra, who have 10 and nine at-bats apiece.

His bat in the middle of the lineup puts pressure on opposing pitchers, but he needs guys on in front of him in order to maximize the damage.

Monte Harrison & Jonathan Villar struggle

Both Monte Harrison and Jonathan Villar came to the plate on Sunday with a chance to break the game open. Neither hitter was able to have even a productive out, though.  The two combined to go 0-for-9 total, including 0-for-6 with runners-in-scoring-position. They struck out a combined eight times and stranded 11 runners on base, which directly led to this Marlins loss.

With deGrom on the ropes early in the game, both Harrison came up with the bases loaded and one out in the second. He struck out. Villar followed with a soft groundball out to end the inning.

Harrison followed his decent Saturday performance (one hit, two RBI, two BB) by taking a significant step back. Harrison has nine times in 16 at-bats in his six games. Yes, he has game-changing speed, but he needs to be able to put the bat on the ball.

Villar struggled throughout the series. After going 6-for-14 with a homer, two RBI and two walks, Villar has gone hitless in his last two games. In the series versus the Mets, Villar went 1-1-15 with nine strikeouts. He was 0-for-5 with runners-in-scoring-position.

If the Marlins are going to be successful this season, they’ll need production from Villar and Harrison. These two hitters need to find a way out of their slumps and have productive at-bats for the team.

Defensive Miscues

During the four-game sweep of the Baltimore Orioles, the Marlins did all the little things. Productive outs, clean innings and no errors. This rag-tag group of Major Leaguers needs to be sharp in order to stay competitive and have a shot to win.

On Friday night, a Brian Anderson throwing error allowed the Mets to score a run in the eighth inning. It almost cost the Marlins the game. On Saturday, Anderson followed with another throwing error.

On Sunday, though, a pair of errors in the field cost the Marlins runs in what was ultimately a two-run loss. Corey Dickerson’s fielding error in the third inning cost Pablo Lopez a run. Dickerson botched a seemingly routine fly ball.

Later in the game, Matt Joyce nearly cost his team a run after a fielding error in right field. It took a highlight-reel play from Lopez to get Michael Conforto at home in the next at-bat.

If the Marlins are going to maintain their hold on the NL East and make a push for the playoffs, they’ll need a much cleaner effort than the one that came during this loss.

Pat Venditte

Meet the Marlins: Pat Venditte

The Miami Marlins roster machinations continue as the team deals with the fallout of the team’s COVID-19 outbreak. On Saturday, the team announced LHP Daniel Castano will make his MLB debut and start for the club in New York. Miami also announced several rosters moves, including placing recently acquired LHP Richard Bleier on the 10-day IL with an elbow strain, and activating Brian Moran and Pat Venditte from the taxi squad.

Last night’s starter, Humberto Mejia, has been optioned the Miami’s alternate training site (Jupiter), but he’ll remain with the club.

Marlins: Pat Venditte

Pat Venditte signed a minor-league deal with Miami this offseason. At 35-years-old, Venditte remains one of the most unique players in MLB history. He’s a “switch pitcher,” meaning he has the ability to work off the mound with either arm, depending upon the handedness of the hitter.

Over a four year big-league career, Venditte has gone 2-2. He’s posted a 5.03 ERA and 1.309 WHIP over 68 innings pitched exclusively out of the bullpen. He’s registered 53 strikeouts and 28 walks over that span. Venditte has pitched for Oakland, Seattle, Los Angeles and San Francisco throughout his career.

In 2019, Venditte made two appearances with the Giants. He gave up six earned runs in 3.1 innings pitched. Venditte was far more affective with the Triple-A Sacramento RiverCats. He went 6-2 with a 2.85 ERA and a 1.014 WHIP over 47.1 innings pitched. He registered 59 strikeouts and 17 walks with Sacramento.

Over his career, Venditte has been more effective against left-handed batters. Lefties have a .179 batting average versus Venditte, whereas right-handed hitters have a .286 batting average against him.

The Switch Pitcher

The ambidextrous Venditte could be a unique solution to MLB’s new three-batter minimum for relievers. The MLB instituted the new rule for 2020, stating pitchers must face a minimum of three batters in an appearance or pitch until the end of a half inning. This new rule was instituted in an effort to reduce the number of pitching changes in a game and to speed up average game times.

For Venditte, he has to declare the handedness he’ll use for each batter and can’t switch arms during an at-bat. Unlike the pitcher, the batter can switch continuously from the left to the right side of the plate during the same at-bat. However, there is one exception: never during the pitcher’s windup. If the batter switches sides during the windup, he’s out.

Venditte uses a customized glove that allows him to change his throwing hand depending upon the batter he’s facing. Pat Venditte’s another veteran arm with Major League experience for this Marlins bullpen, which may as well install a revolving door at this point.

Daniel Castano

Meet the Marlins: Daniel Castano

The Miami Marlins five-game winning streak has come amid unprecedented roster turnover. The club has made nearly 40 roster moves since resuming their season after an 8-day COVID-19 hiatus. Come game time tonight, Miami will have seen eight straight days of MLB debuts, with the latest being Daniel Castano.

So many new faces have joined the club that Marlins manager Don Mattingly admitted to not having personally met players who were taking the field for him.

“A pretty good roster turnover here,” Mattingly said last week. “Some of the guys I’ve never met and still at this point have not met — texted with, but not met. There are other guys that we’re comfortable with that we know are coming. They were part of our summer camp and actually our spring also so parts of it are comfortable.”

Marlins catcher Francisco Cervelli voiced a similar sentiment, saying he was meeting pitchers for the first time at the mound.

The Marlins will have their ninth different starting pitcher take the hill for their ninth consecutive game. Tonight, it will be 25-year-old prospect Daniel Castano, whose contract was among those selected by the team to fill the void left by the COVID-19 outbreak.

Marlins’ Daniel Castano’s Career Thus Far

Miami acquired Castano as part of the Marcell Ozuna deal with the St. Louis Cardinals. The 25-year-old lefty came to the Marlins with RHP Sandy Alcantara, RHP Zac Gallen and OF Magneuris Sierra on 12/14/2017. The Cardinals drafted Castano in the 19th round of the 2016 First-Year Player Draft out of Baylor University.

In 2017 with the Cardinals organization, Castano went 9-3 with a 2.57 ERA for Short Season-A State College over 14 starts, striking out 81 in 91.0 innings. He earned a New York-Penn League Midseason All-Star berth that year.

After coming over to the Marlins, Castano moved through three levels of Single-A ball, ultimately earning an MILB.com Organizational All-Star berth in 2018. He made eight starts for Single-A Greensboro, going 4-3 with a 2.70 ERA in 50.0 innings and striking out 52. 14 starts for Jupiter followed, going 5-8 with a 4.74 ERA in 76.0 innings. He finished the season in Advanced-A Jupiter. All told, he went with a 9-12 record with a 3.93 ERA.

Castano split 2019 between Advanced-A Jupiter and Double-A Jacksonville. He made 12 appearances for Jupiter, going 0-2 with a 3.82 ERA in 33.0 innings pitched, striking out 31. He earned a promotion to Jacksonville on May 27 and went 7-2 with a 3.35 ERA in 18 games (11 Starts), striking out 73 in 86.0 innings pitched.

Castano doesn’t have overpowering stuff, unlike fellow prospect Jorge Guzman. He registers his outs through command and control. His fastball measures 88-92 mph, topping out at 94. There’s some sink to it and he hides the ball well. He throws strikes and has an effective, slow curveball. He’s has shown considerable growth over his minor league career and will look to fill the void in the starting rotation.

Marlins sweep

Marlins Sweep Orioles, Improve to 6-1

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.

Timely Hitting

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.”

Marlins win streak

5 Reasons For Unlikely Marlins Win Streak

The Miami Marlins suffered through a week-long quarantine and eight-day hiatus from on-field baseball activities. The COVID-19 outbreak ripped through the clubhouse, particularly the bullpen, and ultimately required 18 players to be moved to the IL. This forced management to turn over the roster with waiver claims, free agent signings and prospect promotions. And despite all of that, the Marlins have resumed their season with an impressive three-game win streak (and four straight overall).

“Good to put some wins on the board,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said after the doubleheader on Wednesday. By sweeping the doubleheader, Mattingly pulled even with Jack McKeon for the most wins as a manager in franchise history (281).

Mattingly, in his fifth season with the franchise, started the season tied with Fredi Gonzalez at 276 wins on the all-time list. McKeon finished his career with a 281-257 record (.522) and a World Series title in 2003. A win Thursday would give Mattingly sole possession of the all-time mark for manager wins with the Marlins and push the team’s winning streak to five games.

The Marlins win streak has been a feel-good story for the club after an incredibly difficult week. Here’s a look at five reasons for the Marlins’ unlikely win streak.

Great Pitching

The COVID-19 outbreak decimated the team’s pitching staff. Eight of 12 bullpen arms and three starters were lost. President of Baseball Operations Michael Hill and his staff scrambled over the last week-plus to assemble a competitive staff with waiver claims, trades and free agent signings.

But the piecemeal pitching staff has been impressive.

The Marlins shut out the Orioles for the first 21.2 innings of the three games, including a pair of shut-out wins.

“It started with Pablo in the first game, he set the tone for the whole staff,” said Sterling Sharp, who made his MLB debut on Wednesday, throwing 1.2 innings. “We just fed off that. It’s a real contagious feeling once you see guys go out there putting up zeros. You want to match that.”

Pablo Lopez tossed five shutout innings with seven strikeouts on Tuesday in his season debut. Four bullpen arms followed, giving up just one hit and one walk, striking out four over four innings.

On Wednesday, Elieser Hernandez nearly matched Lopez’s performance. He pitched 4.1 scoreless, striking out five and didn’t surrender a hit until a one-out double in the fifth inning. Three relievers finished the game, allowing just one hit and one walk over the final 2.2 innings.

The nightcap of the doubleheader was entirely a bullpen game for the Marlins. Six pitchers combined to hold the Orioles to one run on four hits and four walks with seven strikeouts over the seven innings.

Josh A. Smith made the start in his Marlins debut and Sharp followed with his MLB debut. Brian Moran and Justin Shafer also appeared, with Shafer surrendering the lone run. And Stephen Tarpley closed the game with a save to extend the Marlins win streak to three.

“The bullpen,” Matting said. “What a day.”

Even position players have marveled at the performance.

“Our pitching has been incredible,” said Brian Anderson. “I don’t know how they go from throwing into a mattress and going out and getting big league hitters out like that. But whatever they’re doing, we’ve got to keep doing it.”

New Additions Hitting

While the pitching has been the story during this Marlins win streak, there’s been some timely hitting as well. Miami did just enough in the doubleheader to get the wins, after posting four runs on Tuesday night.

On Tuesday, catcher Francisco Cervelli started the scoring with a solo home run in the fifth inning. Jonathan Villar singled and scored, Corey Dickerson doubled and Jesus Aguilar hit his third home run of the season. He became just the third Marlin to hit three home runs in his first four games with the club, joining Derrek Lee (2002) and Cliff Floyd (1998).

On Wednesday, Anderson provided all the scoring for Game 1 with his solo homer. In Game 2, Villar scored on a sac-fly from Aguilar, and Jon Berti scored on an Anderson RBI single, all in the first inning. From there, the pitching held on.

It took the Marlins five games to connect on eight home runs this season. In 2019, the team didn’t hit their eighth until the ninth game of the season.

Veteran Leaders

The Marlins turned over much of their roster heading into 2020, then had to do so again after three games thanks to COVID-19. Many clubs could have folded under the pressure, but this team has not. Even prior to the shutdown, the Marlins fought back from a five-run deficit in Philadelphia after losing three teammates to the virus.

“In the clubhouse, you could feel the vibe from all the new guys,” Sharp said Wednesday. “They’re just coming in and they want to contribute. We’ve got a good vibe going. Everybody is excited. We want to push forward.”

Veterans like Cervelli and new closer Brandon Kintzler have stepped forward to mentor the younger players on the roster. Lewis Brinson mentioned Dickerson as being particularly useful source of hitting knowledge.

Miguel Rojas is the club’s unofficial captain. Even in quarantine, Rojas has been an uplifting presence for the team. And one of the other holdovers from the 2019 roster, Anderson, has also taken on a leadership role.

“All it’s about for us is trying to get wins,” said Anderson. “Just piecing them together any way we can.”

Defensive Versatility Helps Marlins Win Streak

Anderson demonstrated his leadership and versatility by taking on a new challenge in the second game of the doubleheader. Anderson started at first base for the first time in his MLB career. He said the only time he played first base was in an emergency situation while playing in the Arizona Fall League in 2016.

“We looked at our options at first and Andy was the best one,” Mattingly said. “He did a good job. Andy’s pretty athletic. Obviously, we’ve seen him at third. We’ve put him in right and he looks good. You put him in that crease out there in right-center in the shift and he looks good there. He’s good everywhere.”

This emergency situation necessitated Anderson’s move to first. With Garrett Cooper already on the IL, newly signed infielder Logan Forsythe unavailable and Aguilar taking DH, the Marlins options were limited.

Anderson’s multi-positional flexibility mirrors that of several other players on the roster. Villar can play 2B, SS, 3B and CF, and has appeared at three different positions in six games (as well as DH). Berti has similarly manned three different positions thus far. And newly promoted Eddy Alvarez took two different positions over the doubleheader.

Forsythe can play throughout the infield, and the team can plug Magneuris Sierra in any outfield spot. Once they’re back from the IL, Cooper, Harold Ramirez and Sean Rodriguez all have positional flexibility as well.

This defensive versatility allows Mattingly to optimize the lineup on a game-to-game basis.

Internal Competition

On Monday, Derek Jeter joined the media via Zoom and said: “We expect to be competitive when we take the field.”

That much has proven true, as the Marlins win streak sits at four games. They’ve taken the first three from Baltimore and will look to complete the series sweep Thursday with Jordan Yamamoto starting.

With 18 players moving to the IL, Miami had to reshape its roster on the fly. The players acquired via waivers and trades, and those signed via free agency, were considered cast-offs. But these players have a new opportunity to breathe life into their MLB careers.

They know they need to perform to stick with the club, beyond when the roster is pared from 30 to 28 Thursday. The players who tested positive for COVID-19 are waiting in the wings for their spots as well.

“I expect them to come back. They expect to come back,” Jeter said. “Who knows what that timeframe is, but our players are looking forward to getting back on the field.”

This internal competition can push this group to excel on the field. And that’s already true within the starting rotation.

“Every time you see this rotation, I really get inspired to see the talent that they have,” Elieser Hernandez said through an interpreter on Wednesday. “I really wanted to join the rotation and help the team. Now that I’m here, that’s what we want to do — win some games.”

Despite in the internal competition, this group, 58 strong at present, has a singular goal: to win.

“A lot of new guys with the same goal,” Aguilar said of the new cast of players. “We’re pulling in the same direction. There are a lot of new faces, but the same goal.”

Marlins call up

5 Most Exciting Marlins Call Ups

The Miami Marlins 2020 season resumes in Baltimore this week. They face the 5-3 Orioles for four games in three days after spending more than a week in quarantine. During a Zoom call with media yesterday, Marlins President of Baseball Operations, Michael Hill, made several roster announcements including a number of call ups.

The team’s baseball ops crew scrambled over the last week to piece together a competitive roster. But to fill all of the holes for the 30-man roster, Hill needed to promote from within. Here’s a look at five of the most exciting Marlins call ups.

Marlins Call Ups: Monte Harrison

The road to the big leagues for Monte Harrison has been a winding one. He’ll be the last of the four prospects received in the Christian Yelich deal to reached the bigs. Now 24, Harrison made his pro debut at the age of 18, forgoing a commitment to the University of Nebraska where he would have played both football and baseball.

Harrison comes in as the No. 9 overall prospect for the Marlins via MLBPipeline and his impressive spring/summer had fans clamoring for his MLB debut. At 6’3”, Harrison boasts a unique blend of size, speed and power. He’s a plus outfield defender and wields a cannon arm.

What’s limited him in the past has been inconsistency at the plate. Strikeouts have been an issue, including 215 in 2018 at Double-A Jacksonville. But the Marlins have worked to make mechanical adjustments to Harrison’s approach, including lowering his leg kick and shortening his swing.

At Triple-A in 2019, Harrison dropped his K-rate drop 36.8 (in 2018) to 29.5 percent. Overall, he slashed .274/.357/.451 with nine home runs, 24 RBI and 20 stolen bases. He then hit .300 and posted a .397 OBP in the Puerto Rican Winter League.

Over the summer, Marlins manager Don Mattingly praised Harrison’s work and said: “I think South Florida fans are going to love this guy.”

Harrison should be a fixture in the lineup for the time being, considering the Marlins wanted to have him play every day. This call up is particularly exciting because Harrison has the potential to be a 20/40 guy for the Marlins.

Lewis Brinson

The South Florida native Lewis Brinson was considered the headline prospect return for the Marlins in the Yelich deal. But after struggling for two seasons, Brinson could be on his last opportunity with his hometown club considering some of the other outfield options in Miami’s system.

Brinson struggled in 2019, posting a .197/.247/.263 slash-line with a 34.1 K-rate in 27 games. The team demoted him to Triple-A where he improved (.270/.361/.510 in 81 games) ahead of an August promotion. But his end to 2019 (160/.230/.200 ) was worse than the start.

Brinson is a plus defender with great speed and power potential but contact at the plate remains an issue. With the COVID outbreak, Brinson’s call up for the Marlins should see him patrolling the outfield.

In an interview former MLB OF Xavier Scruggs prior to Opening Day, Brinson called playing for the Marlins a “dream come true.” He admitted his first two seasons “weren’t ideal to start my career” but called this the “best offseason” of his life. Brinson focused inward and remains confident in his abilities. He wants to be “more consistent” and “a leader.”

Brinson said the Marlins are out to “prove people wrong.” He says, “a lot of people sleep on us, but we’ve got a squad.”

Marlins Call Up: Eddy Alvarez

With his call up to the Marlins, Eddy Alvarez is believed to be the first US Winter Olympian to become an MLB player. Alvarez, a Miami native who attended Christopher Columbus High School, won a silver medal as a short track speed skater at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.

Alvarez returned to baseball after his speed skating career and worked his way up through the minor league systems of both the Chicago White Sox and the Marlins. Last year with Miami’s Triple-A affiliate, Alvarez hit 324/.408/.559 with 12 home runs and 12 stolen bases.

The 30-year-old is yet to make his MLB debut, but made a strong impression at the Marlins’ summer camp workouts.

“I like the kid,” manager Don Mattingly said in July. “I think he’s got a chance to help us.”

As a switch hitter with speed and defensive versatility, Alvarez could prove to be a valuable piece for Mattingly off the bench.

When he learned of his call up to the Marlins, Alvarez reportedly drove down to Miami from Jupiter to tell his family in person. He didn’t go into the house, cautious of COVID-19, but yelled the news through the front door.

Jordan Yamamoto

2019’s roller coaster started fast for Jordan Yamamoto but slowed considerably. Yams began his Marlins career with a pair of seven-inning shutouts, posting 12 strikeouts, five hits and four walks in 14 IP.

But Yamamoto struggled in July and August, posting an 8.13 ERA during a seven-game stretch. He finished 2019 strong with a one-hit, 10-strikeout performance over six innings in his final start of the season.

All in all, Yamamoto posted a 4.46 ERA with a 25.2 percent K-rate. His walk-rate (11.1 percent) needs to come down though.

The 24-year-old was in the running for the fifth starter spot, but lost out to Elieser Hernandez. Miami optioned Yams to Jupiter because he doesn’t necessarily profile as a reliever. He sports a six-pitch arsenal, with his slider as his best offering.

With his call up, the Marlins now have three starters set: Pablo Lopez, Hernandez and Yamamoto. He’ll take the mound during Wednesday’s doubleheader after making 15 starts for Miami last season and posting 82 strikeouts and 36 walks over 78.2 innings.

Marlins Call Up: Jorge Guzman

During Monday’s Zoom call, Marlins president Michael Hill announced Jorge Guzman’s name among the team’s call ups. Guzman is considered the Marlins No. 19 prospect overall by MLBPipeline. The 24-year-old sports a live arm and can touch triple digits on the radar gun.

Guzman slots into a bullpen decimated by COVID-19. Eight of the 12 arms in Miami’s ‘pen have tested positive, so Guzman will initially fill one of those holes despite his pedigree as a starter. The Marlins acquired Guzman from the New York Yankees as part of the Giancarlo Stanton deal.

Mattingly didn’t rule out Guzman getting a turn in the starting rotation, though. “Our guys are going to have to be flexible,” Mattingly said, noting Guzman will “get the opportunity to pitch.”

The 24-year-old hasn’t pitched about Double-A, where the Marlins had him in 2019. With Jacksonville, he posted a 3.50 ERA with 127 strikeouts over 138.2 IP.

Guzman’s call up might surprise some Marlins fans who were expecting the arrival of top-end pitching prospects Sixto Sanchez or Edward Cabrera. The Marlins are being careful with both. Cabrera is dealing with an unspecified arm issue (that’s not being portrayed as serious). Sanchez did not make an appearance in Spring Training and Hill noted the team has “been incredibly cautious with him and his workload.”

Marlins Zoom

5 Takeaways from Marlins Zoom Call Featuring Jeter, Hill & Mattingly

The Miami Marlins resume their 2020 season tomorrow in Baltimore, weather permitting. On Monday, the Marlins hosted a Zoom call with CEO Derek Jeter, President of Baseball Operations Michael Hill and manager Don Mattingly. The three discussed the team’s COVID-19 related issues, as well as what’s to come.

Here’s a look at five takeaways from the Marlins Zoom call this afternoon.

Marlins Zoom: COVID Not Result of ‘Salacious Activity’

Over the last week plus, members of the national media have posited irresponsible rumors and wild accusations about the Marlins COVID-19 outbreak. MLB and the team conducted investigations and both determined players were lax with the protocols. No discipline has been levied toward any player or the organization.

Marlins CEO Derek Jeter said on the Zoom call Monday that the affected players are “doing ok.” Jeter reinforced the reports that the players were largely asymptotic or suffered just mild symptoms.

“All things considered, they’re in good spirits,” Jeter said of the 18 players and three staff members who’ve tested positive.

Jeter blamed the COVID issues on a “false sense of security” and said: “Guys let their guard down and as an organization we have to pay the price.”

Jeter flatly denied the rumors surrounding the outbreak, saying there was no “salacious activity.” He admitted a couple players left the hotel in Atlanta, but just to get coffee and buy clothes. One went eat dinner at a former teammate’s house.

“Hopefully, this has been a wakeup call not only for our team but the rest of baseball and sports in general.”

Players are Expected to Return

Jeter also claimed the team expects all 18 players to return at some point this season.

“I expect them to come back. They expect to come back,” Jeter said. “Who knows what that timeframe is, but our players are looking forward to getting back on the field.”

While the team hasn’t officially moved all 18 players to the IL, several have been. Jorge Alfaro, Garrett Cooper, Harold Ramirez and Jose Urena all await their teammates on the injured list. Among those expected to be placed on the list Tuesday: Sandy Alcantara and Miguel Rojas.

One Marlin who will not return in 2020 is Isan Diaz. The second baseman informed the Marlins that he’s opting out for the remainder of the 2020 season and posted his full statement to his Instagram Story.

“This has been a tough week to see so many of my teammates come down with this virus, and see how quickly it spreads. After much deliberation and thought, I have made the difficult choice of opting out for the remainder of the 2020 season. This has been a decision that I have discussed with my family, and I feel it’s the best one for me and my overall well-being. I will deeply miss my teammates and competing on the field. I wish my brothers the best and look forward to taking the field again with them soon!”

Jeter spoke with Diaz prior to the announcement and backs his young star.

“Every player has the right to opt out,” Jeter said during the call. “We support and respect him for making that decision. We look forward to him coming back next season.”

Manager Don Mattingly also had kind words for Diaz.

“We respect Isan and his right to make a choice for himself,” Mattingly said. “We’ll support him through that and look forward to him being back next year with us.”

Marlins Zoom: Some Prospects to Join the Big Club

Marlins President of Baseball Operations Michael Hill also took part in the Zoom call. Hill expressed concern for the afflicted players and reiterated that the team is supporting them in every way possible.

He also called the reality of replacing more than half an active roster over a week’s time a considerable undertaking.

“When you have to put 18 players [on the IL], it’s something that you never really expect,” said Hill. “It’s been a challenge for our entire baseball operations department.”

Hill and his staff have signed several free agents, made multiple waiver claims, completed two trades and purchased a contract from an independent league. Many of those players will join the team in Baltimore.

But, in order to fill all 30 roster spots, the Marlins will also call up a handful of prospects.

Monte Harrison, Jorge Guzman and Humberto Mejia all received a call up, per Hill. Big-name prospects, like Sixto Sanchez, Edward Cabrera and Jazz Chisholm, did not.

“We’re not going to put a player in the big leagues who we don’t feel is ready to be in the big leagues,” Hill said.

Who’s On the Roster Now?

The Marlins roster on Tuesday will look very different from Opening Day’s. Hill revealed on the Marlins Zoom call that, in addition to Harrison, Guzman and Mejia, the team also promoted INF Eddy Alvarez, C Ryan Lavarnway, RHP Josh A. Smith and RHP Nick Vincent.

Alvarez, a Miami native and former silver-medal-winning Olympic speed-skater, will make his MLB debut, as will Harrison, Guzman and Mejia.

The Marlins promoted Jordan Yamamoto from Jupiter and activated Lewis Brinson and Matt Joyce from the injured list.

The team will have several of the recent acquisitions in tow, too. All are bullpen arms, including LHP Richard Bleier, RHP James Hoyt, LHP Brian Moran, RHP Mike Morin and RHP Justin Shafer. Free agent second baseman Logan Forsythe will also be with the club.

Mattingly has yet to meet all of the players acquired but knows some from previous tenures with the team.

Harrison will likely slide right into the starting lineup. Mattingly mentioned one of the reasons for Harrison not making the club out of summer camp was in an effort to get Harrison consistent at-bats.

“I think the South Florida fans are going to love this guy,” Mattingly said of Harrison over the summer.

Tough Road Ahead

The Marlins are faced with a monumental task of piecing together a team on the fly. And these players have a tough road ahead. Miami will play four games in three days versus the Orioles, proceed to face the New York Mets, then travel to Buffalo to play the Toronto Blue Jays. The Marlins aren’t currently scheduled for a home game until August 14th.

Mattingly announced Pablo Lopez will start tomorrow’s game and Elieser Hernandez will start one of the two games for Wednesday’s doubleheader. There was no mention of Caleb Smith, which means he might be IL bound.

The Marlins are currently 2-1 and in second place in the NL East, 1.5 games behind Atlanta. This week, they’re facing an Orioles team that sports the third-best record in the AL (5-3).