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5 Takeaways from Marlins Doubleheader Split with Phillies

The 5-day, 7-game series between the Miami Marlins and Philadelphia Phillies stands as the most important series in recent Marlins history. Meaningful baseball in September is not something Marlins Park has witnessed lately. After a rousing walk-off win on Thursday, the Marlins split Friday’s doubleheader with the Phillies, taking Game 2 5-3 after a 11-0 Game 1 loss.

Here’s a look at five takeaways from the Marlins doubleheader split with the Phillies.

Dontrelle Willis in on Trevor Rogers

The Marlins have a bevy of young arms at their disposal. And while most of the headline these days have been reserved for Sixto SanchezTrevor Rogers has also impressed. Entering Friday’s doubleheader, Rogers posted a 3.00 ERA with 21 strikeouts over his first three starts at the Major League level.

Rogers, a former first-round pick by the Marlins, outdueled two-time Cy Young award winner Jacob deGrom. He then notched a career-high 10 strikeouts in his last outing against Tampa Bay. Perhaps most impressive is Rogers accomplishments come without a single start above Double-A prior to 2020.

Rogers piled up five strikeouts over the first two innings on Friday. Unfortunately, though, the potent Phillies lineup figured him out in the third and fourth innings, putting up nine runs (eight earned) and chasing him from the game. Rogers exited with 26 strikeouts over his first four career starts with the Marlins, matching the franchise record held by Dontrelle Willis.

During the game, Willis voiced his support for Rogers on Twitter.

 

“[Rogers is] a strike thrower with great life but teams can use that to be aggressive (which the Phillies did the second time around) and they swing at everything cause they know it’s going to be in the zone,” Willis said on Twitter. “I was effectively wild so they couldn’t do that to me.”

Rogers will have to make adjustments, like moving the hitters’ feet, which Willis mentioned, if he wants to continue his early-season successes. After Friday’s performance, Rogers’ ERA jumped from 3.00 to 6.50.

Run Differential Doesn’t Mean Much

Entering Saturday’s game, the Marlins team run differential sits at minus-28. That’s the fourth-worst run differential in the National League, but Miami currently sports the sixth-best record in the NL and holds the 7-seed for the playoffs.

Going into their final game in Atlanta earlier this week, the Marlins had an even run differential. What followed over the last four games pushed the run differential to negative-28.

That said, Miami is 2-2 in that span, despite being outscored 45-21.

Wednesday’s historic loss tilted the differential dramatically to the negative. Remove that contest, the Marlins would be minus-8 for the season. Take Friday’s 11-0 game off the ledger and Miami’s plus-3. And that’s just two of the team’s 41 games this season. Even eliminating the Marlins two most lopsided wins of the season (8-0, 8-2) would only move the differential to minus-8.

There’s only one non-playoff team in the NL that sports a better run differential figure at present (Mets, plus-9).

Run differential is often used when judging the likelihood of a team’s sustained success in a season. But with a 60-game sprint, the sample size may be too small. The last time that the team with the best run differential won the World Series was in 2016 (Cubs, plus-252).

Perhaps the most telling part of this might be the fact that Wednesday’s game in Atlanta should not have been such a historic blowout. A seemingly blown call by the umpires in the second inning turned what would’ve been a 2-1 Marlins lead heading into the third into a 11-2 deficit. After that call, and several other borderline ball-and-strike calls in favor of the Braves, the game got out of hand.

What’s more, the Marlins have been better than average in one-run games this season (8-7), after a terrible 2019 (16-28). Miami’s average margin of victory is 2.71, while it’s average margin of defeat is nearly double that at 4.25.

Brinson Breaking Out During Marlins, Phillies Doubleheader

The emergence of Lewis Brinson over the last few weeks has come as a surprise to some, but not to the 26-year-old outfielder.

“It’s not a fluke that I’m here and living out my dream,” Brinson said. “A lot of blood, sweat and tears over the past couple of years. This offseason has been big for me, mentally and physically, being able to trust myself and know that I’m here for a reason.”

Brinson’s third inning home run sparked the Marlins offense in Game 2 of the doubleheader.

“That was big,” Brinson said postgame via Zoom. “Tied the game up against a good lineup. Got momentum on our side a little bit. Obviously after that, we took off a little bit.”

In his last 15 games, Brinson has made strides at the plate. He’s hitting .313 over that stretch with a .989 OPS. In those games, he scored six runs, drove in five and connected on three homers.

“He’s coming along,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. “We’ll keep going with him. He’s getting better. We’ll mix and match him a lot of different ways.”

There’s a Competition Brewing at Second Base

The return of Isan Díaz to the lineup this weekend is a welcome one, too. Considered the Marlins second baseman of the future, Diaz opted out for the season in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak in July. However, after sitting out nearly two months, Diaz opted back in and has been welcomed with open arms.

Playing in his first games since July, Diaz’s RBI single in the fourth inning of Game 2 of the doubleheader put the Marlins up for good.

Prior to the game, Diaz said he’s “very excited to be here again.” He talked about how his decision to opt out was tough and personal. He went on to say he’s appreciative of both the organization and his teammates for welcoming him back.

His return comes after Jon Berti was placed on the 10-day IL. Jazz Chisholm has manned most of the games at second since.

Diaz called Chisholm “a stud” and said he’s “doing a phenomenal job” at second. Diaz revealed he took grounders at third base in Jupiter, something also seen at Marlins park prior to Friday’s games, and claimed he’s ready to play anywhere he’s needed.

Chisholm has manned both second base and shortstop this season. He’s hitting only .160, but in his last two starts, Chisholm has made strides at the plate. He’s 3-for-8 with a triple, a homer, two RBI and a walk in those most recent starts.

In his return, Diaz went 2-for-5 over the doubleheader, driving in one run.

“It’s a good feeling to come back into the clubhouse and see everyone, and see how focused everyone is,” Díaz said postgame. “It’s exciting. I’m ready to go, and I’m happy to be back.”

Is Yimi the New Closer?

Prior to the Marlins doubleheader with the Phillies on Friday, Yimi Garcia said it doesn’t matter to him when or where he pitches.

“I don’t believe in roles,” Garcia said pregame. “I’m ready to pitch from the first inning. I’m available for whatever Donnie needs me and to just get outs.”

Garcia posted a huge shutdown inning during Thursday night’s walkoff win, and on Friday, with Game 2 on the line, Mattingly turned to him rather than the team’s closer, Brandon Kintzler.

Kintzler wound up pitching in the sixth instead of closing. He started the season 9-for-9 in save opportunities but has blown the last two. That, coupled with a fingernail issue that he was having, which Mattingly revealed postgame, may have led to the backend change.

Prior to last night’s save, Garcia’s only other save in his career came with the Dodgers in 2015. His manager then? Don Mattingly.

Garcia surrendered his first run of the season, but shutdown the Phillies to record the save. He’s tallied 12 strikeouts with a 0.93 WHIP this season over 9.2 innings pitched. He certainly has the stuff to be a full-time closer for the Fish.

Marlins Nationals

5 Takeaways from Marlins Series Win over Nationals

The Miami Marlins entered their five-game, four-day wrap around series versus the Washington Nationals having lost five straight. The Marlins arrived in D.C. struggling at the plate, particularly with runners-in-scoring-position. While starting pitching had been the team’s strength thus far, there were a few hiccups with that, too.

However, the Marlins ended their five-game skid and took the series versus the Nationals 3-2. The series win marked Miami’s first in D.C. since 2018, and the team’s first five-game series win since 2004.

Here’s a look at five takeaways from the Marlins series win over the Nationals.

Offense Finally Opening Up

After huge struggles with runners-in-scoring-position during the losing streak, the Marlins offense broke out during this series. On Monday, the team batted around in the fourth inning, seeing eight baserunners and getting six hits.

An inning after leaving the bases loaded (something the team has struggled with this season), the Marlins plated six runs, including four with two outs. Nine of the team’s 11 runs on Monday came with two outs.

All told, the Marlins offense posted 5.2 runs-per-game during the series played in D.C. That’s after managing just 2.2 runs-per-game during the losing skid. With runners-in-scoring-position, Miami went 12-for-37 (.324), versus just 7-for-38 (.184) during the losing streak. Those five extra hits made the difference between winning the series and continuing the slide.

Returns of Alfaro and Rojas Are Key

Its well-trodden territory talking about the COVID-19 outbreak for the Marlins, but versus the Nationals, Miami finally saw some important returns.

Miguel Rojas signaled his return in a loud way. The unofficial captain of the team, who’d been live tweeting games while in quarantine and rehab, connected on a 3-run home run in his first at-bat back. He turned on a 2-0 offering from Patrick Corbin and immediately injected life into the lineup. In the series, Rojas went 3-for-13, with four RBI, three walks and three runs scored.

Jorge Alfaro, meanwhile, made his season debut during this series. Lost prior to Opening Day to COVID-19, Alfaro started as DH on Friday, then took over catching duties once Francisco Cervelli was lost to a concussion. Alfaro’s arrival couldn’t have come at a better time.

Alfaro singled in his first at-bat. He turned on the first pitch he saw and punched it into left field, later scoring on Rojas’s homer. Alfaro also went 3-for-13 in the series and registered his first RBI of the season yesterday.

Big Time Debuts in Marlins and Nationals Series

The Marlins have had 14 players make their MLB debut this season: INF Eddy Alvarez, LHP Daniel Castano, INF Lewin Díaz, RHP Jorge Guzman, OF Monte Harrison, RHP Jordan Holloway, LHP Brandon Leibrandt, RHP Humberto Mejía, C Brian Navaretto, RHP Nick Neidert, OF Jesus Sanchez, RHP Sixto Sanchez, RHP Sterling Sharp and LHP Alex Vesia.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the 14 debuts matches St Louis for most in the Majors this season. Entering 2020, no team in MLB history had as many debuts over a team’s first 25 games. Elias also notes that the 14 MLB debuts matches the second-most for a single-season in Franchise history (14 in 1998 and 16 in 2010). More debuts are to come.

Sixto Sanchez’s debut came with particular fanfare and the team’s top prospect did not disappoint. Sanchez earned the win in his debut in the nightcap of the doubleheader over the weekend. He threw five innings, allowing six hits, three earned runs and two homers. He posted four strikeouts and did not walk a batter.

Marlins manager Don Mattingly said Sanchez will be a fixture in the rotation moving forward.

“He’s gonna pitch every fifth day,” Mattingly said yesterday. “Right now, he’s in this rotation and we don’t plan on him going anywhere.”

Jesus Sanchez also made his much-awaited Marlins debut versus the Nationals. Although Sanchez has yet to break out (1-for-15), he’s demonstrating good patience at the plate. He sees 4.2 pitches-per-plate-appearance and has drawn four walks. He’s only struck out five times thus far, 26 percent of his plate appearances. Harrison, who Sanchez replaced in the lineup, has a strikeout rate of 54 percent.

Bullpen Needs Reinforcements

While the lineup has started to see players return, the bullpen remains threadbare. The Marlins bullpen has the 10th-worst ERA in MLB (5.09) and a negative-1.1 WAR (29th). Since the team’s restart after the outbreak, the bullpen’s ERA is 5.13 (8th-highest).

The biggest problem for the bullpen has been walks. Since August 4th, Miami’s bullpen issues walks at a rate of 4.5 BB/9. They’ve also allowed 1.67 HR/9, 19 in total this season. Justin Shafer has allowed the most runs out of the ‘pen (8), with Stephen Tarpley and Sharp trailing right behind (7).

Brandon Kintzler, though, has been solid as the closer, converting all six of his save opportunities.

With the starters pitching well, it’s important that the bullpen maintain leads moving forward. Kintzler has stabilized the back end, but the bridges from starter to closer need to be sturdier. Nick Vincent, Brad Boxberger and James Hoyt have all had a measure of success, and that will need to continue, especially with Tarpley landing on the IL.

The Marlins expect Yimi Garcia, Ryne Stanek, Vesia and others back soon.

Roster Shuffle Continues

With those bullpen arms waiting in the wings, many of those players lost to the IL due to COVID are near their return. Sandy Alcantara nearly made the trip to Washington, and Jose Urena and Caleb Smith are both readying themselves as well.

The Marlins designated Sharp for assignment after the young reliever’s recent troubles. His Rule-5 designation means he’ll be returned to the Nationals. Richard Bleier returned from the IL, but several other relievers remain unavailable.

Miami elected to recall Lewin Diaz for this week’s series versus the New York Mets, as well as relievers Guzman and Jesús Tinoco. The team reinstated Alvarez from Paternity List and optioned him to the Alternate Training Site in Jupiter. Leibrandt was also optioned after a successful MLB debut.

These moves have been made to prepare the Marlins for a key series versus the Mets. With four games in three days, the Marlins are looking to maintain their hold on a playoff spot while they await the return of the other players on the IL.

Jonathan Villar, right, works with Isan Diaz on the first day of spring training. Villar, an infielder, could end up in center field. (Craig Davis for Five Reasons Sports)

5 Marlins Roster Tidbits as Summer Camp Continues

The Miami Marlins have split their 60-man player pool workouts between Marlins Park and their facility in Jupiter, FL. While there’s been some movement back-and-forth by a few players, for the most part, players expected to be on the 30-man Opening Day roster are practicing at Marlins Park. There’s nothing set in stone yet, but there’s certainly growing clarity for the Marlins roster.

Here’s a look at five tidbits from recent media availabilities that are clues to the Marlins roster on Opening Day.

Jonathan Villar’s Versatility

The Marlins roster received a significant upgrade when the team landed Jonathan Villar this offseason.

In 2019, Villar slashed .273/.339/.453 and posted a 4.0 WAR over 162 games for Baltimore. He started 158 of them at either second base or at shortstop. Villar brings durability, defensive acumen and consistent offensive production.

“When you trade for Jonathan, that’s one of those moves as a manager that you’re like ‘Yes’ right away,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. “He gives you a guy up top. He’s a switch-hitter, power and average, steals bags. A guy that’s exciting up top.”

Defensively, though, it’s unclear what position Villar will man day-to-day.

According to Mattingly, Villar could bounce “back and forth between centerfield, second base, shortstop and DH.” He also has experience playing third base.

Villar said he’s “here for the team” and the possibility of playing multiple positions is one he’s ready for.

“You have to prepare mentally and physically every day. I’m prepared for whatever comes.”

Villar admitted some discomfort working in centerfield and said judging line drives has been particularly difficult early on. However, his spot in the lineup is all but assured.

“I still like him up top in the order,” Mattingly said, citing Villar’s combination of power and speed. The addition of the DH to the National League simplifies things for the Marlins, as Villar is an option there.

Marlins Roster: Fifth Starter Competition

Prior to Spring Training’s COVID-19 shut down, the frontend of Miami’s pitching rotation seemed set. While he hasn’t announced the Opening Day starter, Mattingly admitted they’ve settled on one.

The assumption at this point is that 2019 All-Star Sandy Alcantara will get the Opening Day nod in Philadelphia. From there, it’s likely that Caleb Smith, Pablo Lopez and José Ureña will follow in some order.

Mattingly mentioned the team leans toward a regular five-man rotation. They’ve kicked around the idea of piggybacking but have ruled out a six-man set.

“I think we will probably try to settle on five [pitchers] and feel good about that, knowing that we have depth moving forward with the other guys,” Mattingly said of the staff.

The fifth spot candidates are: Jordan Yamamoto, Elieser Hernandez, Robert Dugger and Nick Neidert.

While most seemed to view it as a two-man race, Mattingly was quick to add the 23-year-old righty into the mix. He said Neidert’s in a “position to stay.”

In five minor league seasons, Neidert sports a 3.20 ERA, 1.14 WHIP and an 8.1 K/9 rate over 460.2 innings pitched. He features a 90-93 mph sinking fastball that pounds the bottom of the zone. His deceptive delivery can fool hitters.

In six innings pitched this spring, Neidert gave up only one earned run. Yamamoto surrendered three earned runs over eight innings pitched. Hernandez gave up six earned runs in his 11 innings. Dugger was the best of the bunch this Spring, not giving up any runs over 9.2 innings of work.

Isan Diaz

Don Mattingly came out on Wednesday in support of Isan Díaz as not only the Marlins current second baseman, but also the second baseman of the future.

“He’s the guy,” Matting said. That’s reassuring for the 24-year-old Puerto Rico native, especially considering his struggles in 2019.

After a rousing debut that saw Diaz connect on a home run against Jacob DeGrom, much to the delight of his father in the stands, hitting didn’t come as easily for him as it did in Triple-A. Diaz finished his 2019 stint with the Marlins with a .173 batting average and .259 on-base percentage in 201 plate appearances.

The struggles continued this spring, as he managed to slash just .103/.235/.103 over 34 plate appearances.

“We look at Isan as our second baseman,” said Mattingly. “Not only now, but we think he’s going to be the second baseman of the future.”

This vote of confidence comes after the Marlins brought in a productive offensive force in Villar that could play Diaz’s position.

“His track record shows that he’s gonna hit” Mattingly said. The manager acknowledged that it wasn’t great for Diaz last year, but that he “had spurts, had moments.”

Mattingly likened Diaz to Brian Anderson as some who “sees the ball well, gets himself good pitches to hit. Sometimes maybe a little too passive, but knows the strike zone, is capable of using the whole field, has got a clean swing.”

Learning from these experiences will be key for Diaz. He’s viewed as the second baseman right now, but an extended struggle may force Mattingly’s hand in a truncated season.

Marlins Roster: Bullpen Shakeup

Last season, 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.

“You look at our overall bullpen performance, and it was not good,” said Marlins president of baseball operations Michael Hill in December.

The biggest addition for the bullpen in 2020 was 35-year-old Brandon Kintzler. The 11-year MLB veteran signed a one-year, $3.25 million deal with the Marlins.

Kintzler has taken a mentor role with this young group. He’s stressed value of routines and expressed that “this generation throws way too much” and that they’ll have to “figure out how to be a bullpen guy the big leagues.”

The bullpen turnover has also seen the addition of 31-year-old Brad Boxberger. Boxberger has 77 career saves, 3.59 ERA and 1.30 WHIP over MLB eight seasons, including a league-leading 41 with Tampa Bay in 2015. In 2018 with Arizona, he registered 32 saves.

Among the other additions stands Yimi Garcia. The 29-year-old five-year MLB vet posted a 3.61 ERA and 0.87 WHIP over 62.1 innings pitched with the Los Angeles Dodgers. A power arm, Garcia throws strikes and avoids walks, two things that will help this bullpen.

These veterans will help the development of younger arms like newcomers Stephen TarpleySterling Sharp, Alex Vesia and Nick Vincent. They’ll join incumbent relievers Jeff BrighamAdam ConleyRyne Stanek and Drew Steckenrider.

Kintzler is the presumptive closer come Opening Day. Mattingly also heralded Boxberger as one of the experienced arms in the ‘pen. Garcia impressed this spring, and Sharp is a Rule 5 pick who will need to be on the Marlins roster to be kept.

Mattingly also seems high on Vesia, the left prospect who sported a 41 scoreless inning streak recently.

“There’s plenty to like. Everywhere he went he had success.” Mattingly said Vesia “pitched with confidence” & “has some moxie about him,” noting “He’s on the attack. He’s not afraid. He’s a strike thrower.”

Monte Harrison

Heading into Spring Training, Monte Harrison stood among the options for centerfield. He competed with Lewis Brinson and Magneuris Sierra, among others, for the spot.

Over 27 plate appearances before the COVID-19 shut down, Harrison swung the bat well. He slashed .364/.481/.500, had six RBI, three doubles and a team-leading six stolen bases.

“Monte looks good,” Mattingly said. “He’s swung the bat good here. Plays with energy, plays fast. He’s aggressive.”

Mattingly called Harrison a “mega-talented kid.” The 24-year-old came to Miami as part of the Christian Yelichdeal and has a lofty ceiling. His combination of speed and strength reinforce his all-around tools. He has an 84 percent success rate with stolen bases over his minor league career and could be a 30-30 guy at the Major League level.

“Monte’s worked really hard to continue to improve,” Mattingly said.  “And he’s going to continue to improve and get better. We’re happy with the strides he’s been making. Obviously, the new summer camp puts him back in the equation.”