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5 Takeaways from Marlins Series Win Over Phillies

The Miami Marlins put MLB on notice this weekend. Long considered also-rans, door mats and ‘bottom-feeders’, the Marlins continue to buck those traditional epithets in lieu of a different one: playoff contenders. The evidence has never been more obvious, and the Marlins 7-game series win over the Phillies now stands as Exhibit A.

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

Sixto’s an Ace in the making

The start to Sixto Sanchez’s career continues to turn heads in baseball. In five starts, Sanchez has posted a 3-1 record with a 1.69 ERA, 0.91 WHIP and 29 strikeouts over 32 innings pitched. He worked six innings against Atlanta allowing three hits, no runs and striking out six for his

second career win. He followed that with a complete game effort allowing one run on three hits while striking out four.

Sanchez has the second most strikeouts (29) for a pitcher in his first five MLB games, all starts, with an ERA less than 2.00. RHP Steve Busby of the 1972 Kansas City Royals had the most (31). Even Sixto’s idol, Pedro Martinez, has come away impressed.

 

Sanchez split the 2019 season between Single-A Jupiter and Double-A Jacksonville, going 8-6 with a 2.76 ERA and striking out 103 batters while walking only 21. He went undefeated in his final eight starts of the year, posting a 0.95 ERA over the stretch.

So far this season, he’s stabilized the Marlins rotation at a time it was teetering. His performances continue to show that the Marlins have a future ace on their hands.

Bounce Back from Lopez Key for Marlins in Series Win Over Phillies

Against the Phillies on Monday, Pablo López found his early season form. After a pair of starts where Lopez struggled mightily, the 24-year-old RHP settled in and provided the Marlins with a huge bounce-back performance.

In his previous two starts, Lopez surrendered a combined 12 earned runs over 5.2 innings pitched against Tampa Bay and Atlanta. He struggled to find the strike zone consistently and gave up too many hard hits. Against Philadelphia, though, Lopez regained his ace-like form.

Lopez tossed seven innings, allowing just one earned run on Andrew McCutchen’s homer in the first. He was able to throw his curveball for strikes consistently, then paired his changeup with his 4- and 2-seam fastballs to great success.

“Biggest thing for me, I was more in sync and trying to stay on top of the ball more frequently,” Lopez said after the game. He found a rhythm with catcher Chad Wallach, which also seemed to help.

Lopez finding his early season form means the Marlins have three high-end starters in their rotation, a must for any playoff team.

Marte May Be Most Important Midseason Pick-up

The deal to bring in Starling Marte may ultimately become one of the most important mid-season acquistions in Marlins history. The team has a storied history of adding difference makers, but in recent years, that hasn’t been the case. Initially, Marte’s performance left some concerned. He hit just .200 through his first eight games. But since, he’s embarked on a torrid stretch.

Versus the Phillies, Marte posted a .400 batting average. He went 10-for-25 with seven RBI, six runs scored, four doubles and a home run. He’s repeated come through in the clutch for the Marlins, with most of his RBI either tying the score or giving the team a lead.

Over the years, the Marlins have added big talents midseason, like Gary Sheffield in 1993, Darren Daulton in 1997 and Jeff Conine in 2003. Ugueth Urbina also came in 2003. Paul Lo Duca and Juan Encarnacion both came midseason in 2004.

Marte’s addition could be among the most important in franchise history if he helps lead the team into the postseason and more.

Veteran Bats Coming Alive During Marlins Series Win Over Phillies

One of the biggest concerns for the Marlins as the starting pitching has rounded into form was the lack of offensive punch. Miami acquired Marte to provide a boost to the lineup, and he’s largely done that of late. But what was also clear during the Marlins series win over the Phillies was the veteran bats coming alive as well.

Miguel Rojas owns Philadelphia this season. In nine games against the Phillies, Rojas went 14-for-26 (.538) with eight RBI, eight runs scored, three doubles and two home runs. His ability to consistently provide a lift for the Marlins offense helped spur the team’s series win over the Phillies.

This homestand has also seen Jesus Aguilar and Brian Anderson make meaningful strides at the plate. Aguilar, who went 1-for-3 with a double and two RBI on Monday, sees his batting average up to .375 over his last nine games. Over that span, he tallied eight runs scored, seven RBI, five doubles, five walks and a home run.

Anderson, meanwhile, is hitting .481 (13-for-27) over the last 10 games. He driven in seven runs and the Marlins have won seven of those 10 games.

Marlins: Legitimate Playoff Contenders

The Miami Marlins series win over the Philadelphia Phillies vaulted them into second place in the NL East. That’s a guaranteed playoff spot in 2020. The 7-3 stretch over their last 10 has positioned the Marlins to make a playoff push. The team is playing meaningful baseball in September for the first time in a long time.

The Marlins have all the makings of a successful playoff team: elite starting pitching, solid backend of the bullpen, and timely offense. This season Miami’s batting .264 (129-for-488) this season with two outs, the fourth-highest mark in the Majors and second in the National League behind San Diego (.267). The Marlins’ .360 OBP with two outs is the best in the Majors in 2020. The team has stolen 21 of their 38 bases with two outs. They’ve scored 45.8 percent of their runs this season with two outs (93-of-203), the highest such percentage in the Majors.

“I kind of hope people are giving us more credit because we do have a good team. You kind of get labeled & branded something because of the past. It’s not the same team, not the same organization,” Matt Joyce said after the game yesterday.

 

The Marlins are looking to end MLB’s second-longest playoff drought this season, and if they get in, they will compete and be a hard out for any team.

Marlins Phillies

5 Keys to the Marlins, Phillies Series

The Miami Marlins need to shrug off last night’s historic drubbing at the hands of the Atlanta Braves. And they need to do that quickly, because the Marlins return to Miami to face the waiting Philadelphia Phillies for seven games in five days.

The Marlins’ playoff push stands a stout test in the second-place Phillies. At 19-19, Miami enters with an opportunity to not only solidify its playoff position, but also overtake Philadelphia in the standings.

The Marlins are 5-5 over their last ten games. Philadelphia’s play has improved of late, as they’ve rattled off 12 wins in their last 16 games to vault up the standings, passing the Marlins in the process.

Marlins, Phillies Start Seven-Game Series

The Marlins and Phillies are playing a seven-game series thanks to the COVID-19 outbreak that affected the club back in July. MLB scrambled to rearrange the schedule and settled on this 7-game series (a first in Marlins history) which includes a pair of doubleheaders.

The Phillies will start veteran RHP Jake Arrieta (3-4, 5.67 ERA) on Thursday. Arrieta marks the ninth former Cy Young Award winner to start against the Marlins this season. Miami is 3-5 in those starts, including recent wins against Jacob deGrom and Blake Snell.

But Arrieta has had success in Marlins Park before, going 6-1 in seven career starts with a 3.40 ERA. In his career against the Marlins, Arrieta holds a 8-1 record with a 3.55 ERA in 11 starts.

This season, the Marlins are 2-1 against the Phillies. On Opening Day, RHP Sandy Alcantara (2-1, 3.78 ERA) beat the Phillies 5-2. He allowed three hits, two walks and two runs while striking out seven over 6.2 innings. Alcantara landed on the IL shortly thereafter, but he regained his rhythm in his last start. Against Tampa Bay, Alcantara went six innings and allowing just three hits and one run while striking out eight.

Keys to the Marlins, Phillies Series

The Starters

The Marlins enter this crucial seven games in five days stretch with one of their top pitchers on the mound. In five career starts against the Phillies, Alcantara has been really good, posting a 4-1 record with a 2.51 ERA.

As a staff, Miami’s starters have a 4.11 ERA this season, 11th-best in MLB. They were top-10 in ERA prior to Pablo Lopez‘s struggles last night. Former Philly farmhand Sixto Sánchez has allowed his opponent to score in just three of his 25.0 innings this season. He’s struck out 25 batters combined over his first four starts.

In Marlins franchise history, only Dontrelle Willis (26) has fanned more batters through his first four career starts. That said, Trevor Rogers has 21 strikeouts through his first three starts, so we’ll see.

Phillies starters have posted a 4.01 ERA overall. But if take out Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler, the other starters (Jake Arrieta, Zach Eflin, Spencer Howard and Vince Velasquez) have a combined 5.34 ERA.

The Bullpen

Where the Marlins have a clear advantage is the bullpen. Prior to last night’s game, Miami had a 4.29 bullpen ERA, which was 13th-best in baseball. After Jordan Yamamoto’s implosion, though, the ERA sits at 5.27 (26th). All told, Marlins relievers coughed up 22 runs (20 earned) in last night’s debacle.

Even so, it’s the Phillies who sport MLB’s worst bullpen this season with a 7.24 ERA. Despite making a number of trades for bullpen arms at the deadline, Philadelphia still struggles in that department.

If the Marlins can post runs against Philly starters, they’ll be in great shape. And comebacks are certainly possible against Philadelphia relievers.

Finding Some Offense at Marlins Park

Miami holds a 17-10 record on the road this season, but they’ve struggled to win at home (2-9). The Phillies are 6-8 on the road this year. For the Marlins, they’ll need to find a way to put up five runs. The team is 11-2 this season when scoring at least five runs.

Miami hits just .234 at home, with a .288 on-base percentage and a .622 OPS. Not great. Jesus Aguilar has reached base safely in 9-of-10 career games at Marlins Park, going 10-for-40 (.250) with five walks, and there are several Marlins players who have performed historically well against Philadelphia.

The Phillies have hit .249 on the road, with a .288 on-base percentage and a .659 OPS. While Rhys Hoskins has been the offensive engine of late, Bryce Harper has struggled. In his last 15 games, Harper is batting .143 and slugging .163 with no homers and a .502 OPS.

Clutch Two-Out Rallies

The Marlins are batting .268 (114-for-426) this season with two outs, the fourth-highest mark in the Majors and second in the NL behind the Padres (.269).

Miami’s .366 on-base percentage with two outs is tops in the Majors in 2020. The Marlins have scored 48.5 percent of their runs this season with two outs (82-of-169), the highest such percentage in the Majors.

Rivalry Bringing Out the Best

The Marlins are 2-1 against the Phillies this year after they went 10-9 against them in 2019. All told, Miami is 12-12 against NL East opponents in 2020, while the Phillies are 17-9 against the division. Winning this series would hurt a division rival and solidify Miami’s playoff position.

And no one has enjoyed playing the Phillies more than Miguel Rojas. He sports a nine-game hit-streak against the Phillies, going 18-for-37 (.486), including a 3-for-4 effort with a home run and four RBIs in his last game against Philly on July 24.

Jorge Alfaro also plays well against the Phillies. He owns .432 (19-for-44) batting average in 13 career games versus Philadelphia, with two doubles, three homers and five RBI. Brian Anderson, meanwhile, has posted a .349 batting average (22-for-63) and a 1.128 OPS (4 2B, 1 3B, 5 HR, 13 RBI) over his last 17 games versus the Phillies.

One player who needs to get going is Starling Marte, who’s managed just a .200 batting average (7-for-35) with two home runs and four RBI in the eight games since the trade deadline.

Marlins Braves

5 Takeaways from Marlins Series Loss to Braves

The Miami Marlins entered their weekend series against the Atlanta Braves with an opportunity to extend their unlikely lead in the NL East. Despite having 20 players on the IL, Miami sat atop the division in August for the first time in franchise history. The Braves rolled into town down one game in the standings, but they’ve owned the Marlins of late. In 2019, Miami dropped 15 of 19 games to the Braves. The Marlins haven’t taken a series from Atlanta since 2017.

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

Marlins Loss to Braves: A Missed Opportunity

The Marlins hosted their home opener with control of the NL East. This unexpected development came despite losing more than half of the Opening Day roster to COVID-19. Miami welcomed in the Braves, who’ve won the division for the last two seasons.

Atlanta arrived minus keys players, with Ronald Acuna Jr. and Ozzie Albies missing from the lineup and three-fifths of their starting rotation out. Despite that, the Marlins were unable to extend their lead in the division.

Ahead of the homestand, Miami’s schedule featured 15 straight games versus NL East opponents. After going 1-2 versus Atlanta, the Marlins will face the Mets for four games before a five-game weekend series in Washington. They’ll finish their 15-game NL East stretch in New York with three more against the Mets.

If the Marlins are serious about making a playoff push in 2020, they’ll need to win these series.

Bats Went Silent

On Friday night, the Marlins piled up eight runs on 10 hits, but eight of those 10 hits were singles. Miami used speed to pressure the Braves, including stealing home for the second straight game. Eight of the 10 hits on Friday were singles, and most of those came from the bottom of the order.

After a rousing 8-2 win on Friday, the Marlins proceeded to score just one run over the next 18 innings.

Between Saturday and Sunday, the Marlins went 0-for-6 with runners-in-scoring-position. On Sunday, they saw just two pitches with a runner in scoring position. For the series, Miami managed three extra base hits, and one of those came thanks to aggressive baserunning from Magneuris Sierra, who stretched a soft single to right into a double.

Over their last three losses, the Marlins are a combined 1-for-14 with runners-in-scoring-position and a grand total of two extra-base hits.

Starting Pitching Solid

The Marlins wasted a pair of excellent starting pitching performances over the weekend. On Saturday, Daniel Castano tossed a career-high six innings, allowing just four hits and one earned run. He lowered his ERA to 4.35 with the outing.

Castano threw 80 pitches and made just one mistake. To start the seventh inning, he surrendered a home run to Marcel Ozuna on a changeup left out over the plate. Otherwise, he was sharp in what was his second career MLB start.

On Sunday, Elieser Hernandez continued his solid stretch to start the season. He went five scoreless innings, allowing just three hits and tying a career-high nine strikeouts. 57 of his 81 pitches went for strikes and he lowered his ERA to 1.84. In three starts this season, Hernandez has pitched 14.2 innings and has allowed runs in just one of those. He’s posted 19 Ks and only two walks thus far.

On Friday night, Pablo Lopez went a season-high six innings, surrendered two earned runs on seven hits and piled up eight strikeouts. He remained sharp throughout. His ERA in 2020 stands at 2.25.

Mattingly Finally Fed Up

Marlins manager Don Mattingly lost it with home plate umpire James Hoye in the fifth inning of Sunday’s game. Mattingly argued vehemently about the strike zone and was ejected. His profanity-laced tirade was caught by the Braves TV broadcast.

After the game, Mattingly did not address the altercation, saying the discussion about umpiring was “not worth getting into.” He revealed there had been many complaints from players regarding the zone, but shrugged and said: “It is what it is.”

The Marlins had the same umpiring crew for the last three series (Hoye, Roberto Ortiz, Mike Estabrook and Mark Carlson). Before Friday’s game, Mattingly admitted they “do get frustrated with the zone,” particularly the inconsistencies from day-to-day.

“I think the biggest thing you look for is that consistency of the zone. That’s one thing that seems to be missing,” Mattingly said on Friday. He also admitted that there’s not much to do about it.

Reinforcements Needed, And Potentially on the Way

After having their roster decimated by COVID-19, the Marlins scrambled to assemble a competitive roster. To their credit, the team emerged from quarantine and ran off five wins in a row. But since that streak, the team is 2-5. While most assumed the difficulties would come from a makeshift bullpen, it’s actually been inconsistencies in the lineup that have hurt the most.

Versus the Braves, Miami’s best hitters failed to come through. Brian Anderson did not record a hit during the three-game series. Jesus Aguilar went 2-for-11 and Jonathan Villar went 3-for-12. Those two combined to drive in four runs no Friday, but nothing on Saturday and Sunday.

One day after coming through with big hits, both Monte Harrison and Lewis Brinson were hitless Sunday. Harrison’s game-tying home run on Saturday proved to be a wonderful moment for the young man, but he followed that with a 0-for-3 performance with two strikeouts. Brinson tallied two hits on Saturday but went 0-for-2 with two Ks Sunday.

Word came out of Marlins camp yesterday that all 18 players affected by COVID-19 have been approved for reinstatement by the joint MLB/MLBPA committee. The players have reported to Jupiter for training and rehab. This lineup needs an injection of life, and that could come from Jorge Alfaro, Garrett Cooper, Harold Ramirez and Miguel Rojas.

The pitching staff could have Sandy Alcantara back as early as next weekend. Craig Mish reported Alcantara has thrown a bullpen session already and will progress to a sim game this week.

Marlins

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 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 breakout candidates

5 Marlins Breakout Candidates for 2020

For the Miami Marlins, the 2020 season arrives with new faces and renewed hope. While not the normal spring beginning by any means, this optimism feels real and is largely tied to a number of potential Marlins breakout candidates.

The 2020 MLB season arrived last night in rainy Washington, D.C. For the Marlins, they’re a few hours north in Philadelphia awaiting their first tilt of the truncated season. The landscape of MLB transformed this year thanks to COVID-19, new rules and an eleventh-hour agreement to expand the playoffs. Everyone has a chance, and for Miami, their opportunity to break a 17-year postseason drought could be decided by a handful of players.

So here’s a look at five Marlins breakout candidates for the 2020 season.

Marlins Breakout Candidates: Sandy Alcantara

Miami’s Opening Day starter is 24-year-old Sandy Alcantara. A first-time all-star in 2019, Alcantara finished 6-14 with a 3.88 ERA, 151 strikeouts, 81 walks and two complete-game shutouts. His best work came over an 11-game stretch to end the season. Over his final 74.1 innings, Alcantara posted a 2.74 ERA and 1.05 WHIP with 62 strikeouts. He hit seven innings in seven of his last 11 starts.

“I think that’s the biggest thing in my life, being the Opening Day starter. I feel great about that,” Alcantara said. “I’m ready to go.”

In 2019, Alcantara went 2-1 with a 3.86 ERA versus Philadelphia. He sports a five-pitch arsenal which includes a solid fastball-sinker-slider combo. His changeup and curve are weapons versus lefties.

“His stuff is as good as anyone,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said recently. “I don’t care who you want to put out there. His stuff is as good as anyone’s.”

For the Marlins, if Alcantara can ascend to top-line starter level, the 2020 season will be a success.

“I think we’re going to surprise a lot of people,” Alcantara said. “They want me to be a leader. That’s what I’m trying to do. Keep preparing myself. Keep getting better. Become an ace.”

Marlins Breakout Candidates: Pablo Lopez

If the Marlins are going to contend for a playoff spot, they’ll need Pablo Lopez to make a leap. In 2019, Lopez sported a 4.23 ERA through mid-June, allowing four earned-runs or less in 13 of his 14 starts. But after he went down with strained right shoulder, he wasn’t the same pitcher.

Marlins pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre Jr. has been impressed by Lopez throughout the spring and summer, particularly considering the tragic passing of Lopez’s father recently. He said Lopez is the pitcher he’s “most excited about.” And Lopez has worked tirelessly to develop his game, adding a cutter to his arsenal, which already includes a top-level changeup.

Following an impressive performance during a simulated game last Thursday, Mattingly noted that it was “the best I’ve ever seen Pablo look as far as being that aggressive guy.”

Lopez also looked good against the Braves. He dispatched Ronald Acuna Jr., Ozzie Albies and Freddie Freeman on six pitches in the first inning of that game. Lopez will start the home opener versus the Baltimore Orioles next week.

Starting him in Marlins Park is a nod to Lopez’s struggles on the road in 2019, where he went 2-5 with a 7.36 ERA and 1.44 WHIP. At home, Lopez was much better, going 3-3 with a 3.39 ERA and 1.08 WHIP.

Marlins Breakout Candidates: Isan Díaz

The hype surrounding Isan Díaz seemed well worth it when he took Jacob DeGrom deep in his MLB debut. That memorable moment, though, was followed by uncharacteristic struggles at the plate for the 24-year-old. Díaz finished his first year in the Majors with a .173 batting average, five home runs and 23 RBI.

“There were a lot of things going on mentally,” Díaz said of the struggles. “I wasn’t allowing my ability to evolve in the game. Those are things that happen.

“I had a great group of guys here who told me to take it as a learning curve and come back ready for next year,” he said. “Here we are for this 2020 season and already there’s a big difference with how I’m mentally feeling and how I’m going at this. I think that last year’s failure actually is going to help me for this year.”

Mattingly sees Díaz as the team’s second baseman now and of the future. He said Díaz’s “track record show that he’s gonna hit.”

Díaz should find the addition of new bench coach/offensive coordinator James Rowson hugely beneficial. Díaz has raw power but was too patient as a rookie, falling behind often. He’s already demonstrated strides at the plate in the exhibitions versus Atlanta. Although he only had one hit and one walk, there were productive at-bats.

Marlins Breakout Candidates: Jorge Alfaro

The player who could enjoy the most gains from the addition of Rowson is Jorge Alfaro. The 27-year-old catcher flashed his potential with the bat in 2019, connecting on 18 home runs, 14 doubles and 57 RBI. What hurt Alfaro was a 38.4-percent swing-and-miss rate, a 48-percent chase rate and a 33.1-percent strikeout rate.

Rowson says he wants Marlins hitters to take “swings to do damage,” and Alfaro can certainly do that. He sported a 44.8 percent hard-hit rate (a ball with an exit velocity of at least 95 mph) last season.

Alfaro demonstrated the new aggressive approach on Tuesday when he punched the first pitch he saw over the leftfield fence at Truist Park. In the two games, Alfaro went 3-for-5 with a homer and two RBI.

He’ll also need to improve defensively. Alfaro posted the fourth-most errors by a catcher (11) and the third-most passed balls (11). He’ll be mentored this year by Francisco Cervelli, who’s well known for his defensive acumen.

Marlins Breakout Candidates: Brian Anderson

Although the Marlins added higher profile names to their lineup (Jesus Aguilar, Corey Dickersonand Jonathan Villar), Brian Anderson remains a key component to this offense. Anderson’s second year ended in August after a hit-by-pitch fractured his left hand. He slashed .261/.341/.468 with 20 home runs, 33 doubles and 66 RBI.

“I think he’s been getting better and better,” Mattingly said. “I think he’s got all the attributes. I’ve talked about him a lot from the standpoint of he sees the ball good and controls the strike zone. He’s got a good swing. He uses the whole field. Everything’s there in place.”

Anderson does have the tendency to get frustrated at the plate, evidenced by his 0-for-4 performance in the first exhibition versus the Braves. But Anderson bounced back with a solid 2-for-3 outing, including a double and run scored.

Adding Villar, Dickerson and Aguilar around Anderson should also provide the 27-year-old third baseman with lineup protection he’s never received in Miami.

“Those types of guys are definitely gonna make our lineup just more well-rounded and just tougher to pitch to,” Anderson said. “For me, I’m hoping that means I get more pitches to hit. It’s my job to make sure that I get those good pitches and I hit them.”

Recent reports indicate that Miami and Anderson have discussed a long-term contract extension.

“They’ve obviously given me an incredible opportunity here so I would love to stay here,” said Anderson, who the Marlins drafted in 2014 (third round).

“I love the direction that we’re going. I love getting to hear Derek talk about expecting to win,” he said. “That’s something that can grow and build and we can start making something special here.”

Los Shifting Marlins de Miami

Shifting. La palabra que ha inundado el vocabulario de quienes seguimos el beisbol día a día.

Los Marlins de Miami han estado haciendo shifting (formaciones defensivas especiales) desde el propio primer pitcheo de la temporada 2019.

De hecho, Leandro Soto mostró su molestia con cuando vio moverse a Brian Anderson hacia el terreno corto del jardín derecho justo antes del lanzamiento inicial de José Ureña.

Ambas tendencias continúan su curso. Los Marlins haciendo shifting, y Leandro Soto, quejándose por ello.

André Fernández, de The Athletic, escribió sobre el aumento del uso del shifting defensivo, y cómo esto se han vuelto mucho mas común en lo que va de temporada para Miami.

Los Marlins están haciendo muchas mas formaciones defensivas en comparación con lo sucedido en años anteriores.

Decidimos irnos al Marlins Park para debatir con Andre al respecto, y esto fue lo que nos dijo:

Opiniones en el terreno

Mas allá de lo que podamos decir los analistas que seguimos al equipo, lo primordial es saber la opinión de los protagonistas, quienes son los que en la práctica se ven beneficiados o afectados por estas nuevas medidas.

Visitamos el clubhouse de los Marlins y conversamos con JT Riddle y Brian Anderson, quienes vienen jugando juntos subiendo por el sistema de ligas menores del equipo.

Los peloteros vienen trabajando con los shifts desde el Spring Training y dicen que lo principal es acostumbrarse a los nuevos ángulos en los que la pelota está saliendo del bate.

Tanto para Riddle como para Anderson, las grandes jugadas seguirán ocurriendo, pero en diferentes áreas del terreno.

Vea la entrevista completa a los infielders de los Marlins:

Escucha todos los podcasts de Cinco Razones haciendo click aquí.

¿Qué opinan? ¿Están de acuerdo con la estrategia de los Marlins de Miami?

Vea qué nos dijo Brian Schneider, coach de receptores de los Marlins, sobre el uso del scouting report y la manera en que los receptores llaman el juego usando las nuevas formaciones defensivas:

Brian Anderson: “We feel confident”

Brian Anderson was the only consistent bat the Miami Marlins had during the 2018 season.

This year, Marlins fans hope to continue to see the growth of this player, who was involved in the Rookie of the Year race, especially up to the All Star Break, and before Acuña and Soto just blew away.

For Anderson, it has been a hard start of the season.

But don’t worry. He’s really not doing anything bad…

Brian Anderson on his first at bat of the season on Opening Day against the Colorado Rockies / Photo by Alejandro Villegas

He’s just been unlucky, if you can talk about luck in baseball. So far, he’s 4 for 24, with a double and an RBI.

Both of those came on last night’s game, right after I had this conversation with him about hitting the ball hard, and not being rewarded about it.

“I feel good. I have barrelled a couple of balls. It’s a grind when you’re not getting those hits, but there are a lot of good things to take away from this start of the season,” Brian Anderson said, before the 6-5 loss against the Mets on Tuesday.

No Pressure, yet

It’s still early in the season, but as numbers keep piling up, it gets harder and harder to recover from a “slow” start. For Anderson though, there’s no pressure. “If anything, I just feel pressure to help my team. If I’m going out there and getting good at bats, I am helping my team. It’s not always about getting a hit”, Anderson said. “Being there defensively, talking to my teammates, there are a lot of things I can do to help.”

Here’s what Anderson had to say about the renovated Marlins Park, and the team being in such a hard division, with four contenders for the National League title: