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Marlins series Phillies

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

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 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.