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5 Takeaways from a week of Marlins Baseball

The Miami Marlins took two out of three versus the first place New York Mets this weekend, cementing their place in the NL East. They now stand only 2 games behind the Mets, with another division rival in the Phillies looming this week. The Fish are now 53-53 over their last 106 games, proving that last year was not a fluke. As Jazz Chisholm said, “[The Marlins] have the most swag in baseball.” The pieces are finally coming together. 

 

Here’s 5 key takeaways from a successful weekend of baseball:

 

Cody Poteet deserves the rotation spot

 

After being called up from Triple-A for a spot start versus the Diamondbacks a little over a week ago, Poteet has dominated. He doesn’t have overpowering stuff, which results in low strikeout numbers, but he gets outs: and a lot of them. He now has a 1.06 ERA through his 3 starts, and he is the second Marlins starter in history to not allow 3 runs through his first 3 starts (the other is now-Met Jordan Yamamoto, who he beat today). Poteet was quoted after the game saying, “You never know when your last day in the MLB is going to be.” As of now, he shouldn’t have anything to worry about.

 

Garrett Cooper found his swing

 

Cooper has struggled to start the season, and for an injury-riddled Marlins, this was a source of early panic. Clearly, any doubt was premature, as Coop has not only started to hit for average again, but also hit the long ball. He homered to tie the game in game 1 of the Mets series and hit a 2-run walk-off homer in game 2. Last year, he had the 2nd best OPS on the Marlins, and his bat is essential if the Marlins want to make a run for the playoffs. 

 

Sandy, Pablo, Trevor

 

Guys. I’m taking these three guys over anyone at the moment. With Poteet emerging as a strong option, and Sixto and Elieser in the wings, we could be looking at the best rotation in baseball. 

 

Sandy Alcantara struggled in LA, but bounced back with a dominating performance versus the Phillies. 6 innings, 9 strikeouts, no runs. His ERA is at a 3.63, and without the one bad performance versus the Dodgers, would be much lower. 

 

You have to feel for Pablo Lopez. It has felt like every outing he has had throughout this season, he has deserved the win. Last night versus the Mets was no different. 7 IP, 8 strikeouts, no runs. And still, the Marlins found a way to give him the no decision. He has been brilliant, per usual, lowering the ERA to 2.73.

 

Trevor Rogers: the unexpected ace and frontrunner for NL Rookie of the Year and Cy Young. It feels like every time he takes the mound, the Marlins are going to win. Unlike the other two stars, the Marlins have had no trouble giving him run support. His win versus Philadelphia improved him to 6-2 on the year with a 1.74 ERA. Wow.

 

And Sixto Sanchez isn’t even here yet.

 

Bullpen woes?

 

In the Phillies and Mets series, the Fish lost 2 games. Both losses can be credited to the bullpen; however, there is no reason to get stressed about it. Bullpens have off nights, and you have to deal with them throughout the course of a season. It is when those off nights become consistent that an issue arises. The Marlins bullpen has been relatively dominant on every other night. 

 

Floro, Bass, Garcia, and the boys have given the Marlins great innings over the past few weeks and are doing exactly what is needed from them. Floro had one bad outing that cost the Marlins a win in Philly, but that came after a multitude of good ones that led to wins. The bullpen loss on Friday was more due to running out of options than a failure on the bullpen’s end of things. As Anthony Bass comments on seemingly every Miami Marlins Instagram post, “Keep the faith. I promise we will figure this out.”

 

This squad is NOT a fluke

 

For anyone who has tuned into my coverage of the Marlins over the past year or so, you know that I am very upfront about how I believed last season to be the lucky result of a small sample size. 

 

With the 46 games played this season, the Marlins are now 53-53 in their last 106. Maybe, just maybe, the Marlins were no fluke last season and were actually a .500 team that benefitted from an extended playoffs. What does that mean for this year?

 

Well, it means that the Marlins can get to the playoffs: this time by winning the NL East. In an extremely condensed division that is separated in total by 2.5 games, it is anyone’s to win.

 

Why not the Marlins?

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Takeaways from the Marlins Homestand

After a disappointing road trip that culminated in a sweep and an 11-16 record at the hands of the Washington Nationals, the Marlins went home to play the Diamondbacks and Brewers. They started hot, winning the first 4 of the homestand before dropping two to Milwaukee. The Marlins, now 15-18, sit 3 games back of the first place Mets, looking back at a lost opportunity to make up some ground while banged up. 

 

Recency bias pointed towards the last two games are sure to overshadow some clear positives from this past week, so rather than delving into the negatives, let’s take a look at what Miami did right. Because, with a 10-game road trip looming against the Diamondbacks, Dodgers, and Phillies, they will need every bit of help they can get.

 

Starting Pitching

 

Well, well, well. It’s no shock that the biggest positive in Miami is the starting pitching. But it sorely underappreciated just how good it has been. 

 

Sandy Alcantara, the sure ace (based on tenure and consistency) of this rotation, put together two gems in his outings at home: a combined 13 innings pitched allowing only 3 runs. These performances were good enough to net him 0 wins. The Marlins did win his first outing after Anthony Bass allowed the tying run to score in the 8th, but failed to win on Mother’s Day after Anthony Bass allowed the game winning run to score in the 10th. 

 

Pablo Lopez is not a flashy pitcher, and with gunslingers like Trevor Rogers and Sandy Alcantara behind him, his impact has been sorely unappreciated. He now has a 2.04 ERA this season, with 0 wins to show for it. He has been silently evolving into an elite starting pitcher, and a present and future consistency on the Marlins. His outing against the Diamondbacks showed that yet again, as he went 5 innings on no earned runs. 

 

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And finally, the NL Rookie of the Month in April Trevor Rogers continued his winning ways, going 5 innings of one run ball to lower his ERA to 1.89 on the season. He continues to show that his start to the season is no fluke, and that he will only continue to develop with time. 

 

The only thing more consistent than these guys are the Marlins lack of run support for each pitcher. Rogers leads the team in wins with 4, but with Pablo and Sandy having ERA’s below 3 and only 1 total win to show for it, there is a problem in Miami.

 

Timely hitting

 

Early on in the homestand, the Marlins put together timely hits in key situations. After losing the lead in game 1 in Arizona, the bats put together a 6-run 8th to win. In game 2, they scored consistently. In game 3, they had timely hits in the 7th to complete the sweep. Playoff teams win those types of games, but against Milwaukee it was a different story. 

 

Most notably in their final game, they failed to produce any runs outside of a Lewis Brinson solo homer in the 7th off J.P. Feyereisen. They missed key opportunities that could have sparked a much needed win.

 

On the bright side, the bats are putting together more clutch hits than they previously were. They are not hitting juggernauts, but have shown that there is a possibility for them to pull out close games with 2 out hits and early pressure. 

 

Overall

 

Look, this Marlins team is special on certain nights. They have energy and youth on their side, but those two attributes also bring immaturity at the plate. Even with a terrible run differential last season, the Fish made the playoffs on their ability to win close games. The Marlins won games when they were leading, and with the bullpen struggles of Anthony Bass and others late into the game, that has not been the case this season. With 10 extremely challenging games ahead, and a Jazz Chisholm Jr return impending, the Marlins need to win some close games to get back on track the rest of the way.

 

This team has the capability to do so, but only time will tell if they can figure it out.

Jazz or Trevor?

It comes as no surprise that a Marlin is the frontrunner for the April NL Rookie of the Month Award. Starting the season, it was clear that this ball club was ripe with the untapped potential of countless candidates. Jazz Chisholm emerged as an early frontrunner.

 

How could it not be him?

Jazz has been solid

Through 22 games, the Bahamian posts a .279 average, 4 home runs, 4 doubles, 6 stolen bases, and a whopping 150 OPS+. There is no doubt the kid can swing the bat, but his biggest competition is on his own team: Trevor Rogers.

Rogers has been even better

In his few outings last season, Trevor Rogers performed just about how you would expect a rookie to perform. In the shortened season’s entirety, Rogers posted a 6.11 ERA over 28 innings pitched. The extra year of growth looks to be all he needed to elevate his game. In his 28 innings this season, he has a 1.29 ERA, topping the league in multiple categories such as K/9, ERA, and Whiff%. 

 

These stats are dominant, but his resume is what boosts him over Jazz Chisholm. Rogers has now had to pitch against Jacob deGrom and Corbin Burnes. Both of these starters have had monstrous starts to their seasons, breaking records left and right. But Burnes and deGrom have more in common than their fiery fastballs: they have both lost to Trevor Rogers.

 

Rogers’ quality of starts in this young season resembles that of an ace. Sandy Alcantara is still the ace, but Trevor Rogers is showing that he has the potential to become the “guy.” Competing against two of the best pitchers in baseball is no easy feat, and one that should not be overlooked around baseball.

 

As the season continues, expect both Jazz Chsihom and Trevor Rogers to compete monthly for the Rookie of the Month Award. Both will have slumps, but both will have very high highs. 

 

This month, however, the award is rightfully Trevors.

 

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5 Takeaways from a week of Marlins Baseball

After taking 3 of 4 from the Atlanta Braves early last week, the Marlins came home and took 2 of 3 from the San Francisco Giants. This caps a week of positives for the Fish, as they look forward to a much easier schedule in the coming weeks. After a slow and demoralizing start, the pieces are starting to come together in Miami. 

 

Here are 5 takeaways from a successful Marlins run:

 

Marlins Win When They Score

 

I know, isn’t that the basics of baseball? You score and you win, simple. For the Marlins, it hasn’t been so easy. With a consistent lack of production from the bats earlier in the season, the Fish put together a strong set of games offensively. The Marlins are now 5-1 in games where they score 5 or more runs and a whopping 2-7 in games where they don’t. Regardless of who is on the mound, the bats are determinant of when and how the Marlins win.

 

Especially with the talent the Marlins have in pitching, it makes it more strange that this season will come down to how well the bats can perform consistently. Nevertheless, the Marlins found a way to win low scoring games last season, and they need to start doing so this year to keep the pressure off of an inconsistent lineup.

Jorge Alfaro is a fine option

 

Out of 54 qualified catchers in the early 2021 season, Jorge Alfaro ranks 16th in framing. Obviously, he is no Russell Martin behind the plate, but he is actually performing well-above expectations defensively. The passed balls he has allowed have skewed the narrative on his performance. Now, with his bat finally waking up, he may be the best option the Marlins have at the catcher’s position. He is not a juggernaut offensively or defensively, but all he needs to be is average.

 

Trade rumors have circulated for months about Wilson Contreras replacing Alfaro/Wallach in Miami. Contreras, although a superior hitter, is 41st among qualified catchers in framing. At this point in the year, the Marlins should focus on putting their young pitchers in the best situation possible. A good defensive catcher gives them even more leeway to develop further. 

Adam Duvall can carry an offense

 

It is no secret that the former Brave can swing the bat. He terrorized his old team in Atlanta, especially in Tuesday’s game where he went 4-5 with 2 home runs and 7 RBIs. He is still trying to figure out how to hit elsewhere, but once he does, he can carry this Miami offense on nights where the rest of the lineup is faltering. His bat alone almost won that game in Atlanta on a night where the Braves scored 8 runs, as he accounted for half of the runs in a 14-8 win. Duvall getting his bat consistent is a central key to this Marlins team’s future. 

Starling Marte is… clutch

Marte is central to every operation on this Miami Marlins team. He is invaluable offensively and defensively, and he is the guy who picks up the important hits in key situations. In Friday’s win versus the Giants, his 3-run homer in the 8th sealed the deal. On Saturday, his 2-out RBI single in the 9th tied the game, leading to an eventual win. In Sunday’s 1-0 loss, Marte elft the game with an apparent injury in the bottom of the 9th. In Don Mattingly’s post-game interview, he expressed the “Next man up” mentality that the Marlins have.

 

There may not be a next man up to replace anything near what Marte provides. Hopefully, for the Marlins sake, it isn’t that serious.

Marlins compete versus good teams

 

It is no easy feat to start a season versus the defending AL Champs, the presumptive NL Central winners in St. Louis, a revamped first place Mets team, and a Braves team that was one game away from the World Series. The Marlins left those games just 2-games under .500, and now sit one game under heading into a much easier schedule. They play the Orioles, Giants (again), Milwaukee, Arizona, and Washington. 

 

This set of games may be the most important of the season for the Marlins as they try to take advantage and gain ground in the standings. They don’t play the Mets until late-May and the Braves until early June, so this is the time for the Marlins to show what they are capable of. 

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Marlins Overall Takeaway

 

There is something special brewing in Miami (and not just Marlins Lager from Biscayne Bay Brewing). This team feels different from even last year’s squad. Baseball is fun to watch again in Miami, and this Marlins team still has a lot to prove. Enjoy a fun week of Marlins baseball ahead, Marlins fans.

 

5 Takeaways from Marlins 14-8 Win in Atlanta

Last night, the Marlins showed the baseball world that they can compete. After sporting one of the worst offenses through 9 games, the “Bottom Feeders” broke out at just the right time to take game 2 versus Atlanta 14-8. For the first time this season, the bats carried the starting pitching in a nice turn of events for the floundering Fish bats. Former Brave Adam Duvall led the way, going 4-5 with 2 home runs and 7 RBIs. 

 

Although this is one game (and I’ll be the first to say one game means nothing), if certain aspects are continued, this Marlins team will be able to compete this season. Here are my 5 takeaways from the Marlins explosive win in Atlanta:

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Marlins CAN Compete in the NL East

 

The NL East is one-of, if not the best division in all of baseball. For a young Marlins team, competing versus the juggernauts in New York, Atlanta, Philadelphia, and even Washington seems daunting and near impossible. Regardless of how you order the rest of the division, the Braves are the top of the food chain. The Fish have now matched up with Atlanta twice in this young season and won. That’s not to say that the Braves won’t win every other game in the season series; however, if the Marlins can continue to play as they have the last two nights, they will be able to compete with the best.

 

The Marlins took the season series versus the Nationals and Phillies last season, while dropping the season series to both the Mets and Braves. If this team can figure out one of those matchups, they will be in good shape to maintain a steady place in the division once the Braves figure things out.

 

Marlins bats aren’t bad, they were just cold

 

There was a huge misconception spreading that the Marlins bats were not capable of much. That is simply an overgeneralization of 8-9 games of baseball in my opinion. This team boasts 6 hitters that are statistically above the league average in many categories consistently throughout their careers. 

 

Games like these show that the bats just needed to find consistency after a long offseason and inconsistent lineups. The bats are starting to see the ball better, which is the best news a Miami Marlins fan can receive. Don’t expect consistent 14-run games out of this offense, but when they are on, expect them to give solid run support to the starters.

Starting Pitching can have off nights

 

It is ironic that 3 of the 4 Marlins wins to-date have come on days where the starters are not on their A-game. Elieser Hernandez was hurt in win 1. Sandy Alcantara had his B+ stuff at best last night. Pablo Lopez was shelled last night. 

 

Last night is evidence that the Marlins don’t have to have their starters pitch like they did to start the season (led the MLB in total starters ERA) to win games. Rather, the starters just have to match an awakening offense.

 

It should be extremely exciting when the Marlins can combine the awakened bats with the stellar starting pitching.

 

Adam Duvall could be “the guy”

 

The Marlins have needed “the guy” on offense for years. We all thought it was going to be Starling Marte, Brian Anderson, or even Garrett Cooper. But it may just be Adam Duvall. He has been this guy throughout his entire career, and my guess is, it won’t be changing anytime soon. 

 

Duvall has powerful bursts of offense that can pilot a Marlins team through close games the rest of the season. Nights like last night will be few and far in between, but if he can consistently produce as he has been lately, the Marlins will finally have “the guy” they need carrying the weight of the offense. 

 

Duvall is no Mike Trout or Freddie Freeman, but he is the best power option the Marlins have had since Giancarlo Stanton and Christian Yelich. Progress? You decide.

Marlins are making adjustments

 

The Fish are starting to make adjustments at the plate. This was evident last night , not against Max Fried, but rather against the Braves bullpen. Last season, this bullpen was kryptonite to Marlins bats in both the regular season and postseason.

 

Clearly, these arms like Tomlin and Dayton have struggled out of the gate, but it is important for the Marlins to be able to capitalize on those situations and get better with time. The Fish have gotten periodically better over time at damaging bullpens late in the game. The last two nights in Atlanta, they have put up 10 runs alone.

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Overall

 

The first two games in Atlanta have been a positive twist to an unfortunate start for Miami. They sit at 4-6 now with 2 more games to go in this series. Tonight, Nick Neidert takes the mound looking to win the series versus veteran Charlie Morton. 

 

Player Spotlight: Sandy Alcantara

Sandy Alcantara: Elite

There is no doubt in the world that Sandy Alcantara is the ace of the Miami Marlins. Over the course of just a few seasons, Sandy has elevated his game higher and higher with each passing start… and that is not an exaggeration. When looking at every basic and advanced analytic in the book, it is clear that Sandy is evolving at an extremely fast pace. Let’s take a look at what has allowed this progression:

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Changeup Usage

 

Arguably, the best pitch in Sandy Alcantara’s arsenal is his changeup. Between 2017 and 2020, Alcantara threw a changeup on just 12% of his pitches with it maxing out at 13% in 2018. However, in 2021, Sandy has thrown his changeup on 23% of his pitches. The result? Through his first 2 starts of 2021, Sandy is posting career highs in K%, BB%, xBA, xSLG, and xWOBA. With Sandy being in the top 6% of pitchers this season in three of the stats (xBA, xSLG, xWOBA), Sandy is becoming recognized around the league as a dominant force. His trust and confidence in his changeup has allowed quicker progression as a young starter, posting career lows in ERA, xERA, and WHIP in 2020 and to start 2021. 

 

Pitch Location

 

For any power pitcher, location becomes the attribute that differentiates between the deGroms and the rest of the pack. In his young career, Sandy has had opponents get the “sweet spot” of the bat on the ball at a relatively higher clip (Sweet Spot % 2017-2019: 69.6, 32.5, 29.9). His growth as a pitcher is most evident in 2020 and the start of 2021, where batters are getting the sweet spot on the ball just 21% of the time. He was transitioned to working out of the zone, being effectively wild. A high proportion of his pitches are thrown out of the zone inside and low to righties and up and into lefties. This shift in approach has created a career high in chase rate over the past two years, putting him in the top percentiles of Major League Baseball.

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Spin Rate

 

In his 2017 debut season, Sandy’s fastball came out of the gate averaging 98 MPH with a relatively low spin rate for that kind of velocity. In his next few seasons, Sandy lowered his fastball velocity (around 95 MPH in 2018) and focused on raising the spin on his pitches. Now, he has combined an average velocity of 97 MPH (92nd Percentile in 2020) and a spin rate in the 75th Percentile. This change has allowed him to control his elite fastball more effectively, posting dwindling numbers in batters Hard Hit %. With just 28.2% of balls in play hit hard in 2020 and 15.4% in early 2021, these numbers continue to get better as the spin rate and velocity of Sandy’s pitches increase. 

 

Sandy will continue to grow

 

This growth in such a short amount of time in the baseball world is quite rare. The loss of Jose Fernandez a few years ago was demoralizing, but the Marlins have finally found an elite arm to take up the “Ace” duties. Alcantara should be a dark horse for NL Cy Young this season. Regardless, he will be a mainstay on a dangerous Marlins rotation for years to come. The sky’s the limit.

 

Shoutout to Fangraphs, Baseball Savant, and Sports Info Solutions  for the data.

Follow me on Twitter @chasechrisjr for daily Marlins coverage.

Positive Takeaways from Struggling Marlins

Yesterday’s contest between the Miami Marlins and New York Mets ended in quite the unorthodox way. With the game tied at 2 in the bottom of the 9th, the Mets threatened to win the game with the bases loaded and only one out. Michael Conforto stepped into the box against a struggling Anthony Bass, looking to give the Mets a win on their Home Opener. With 2 strikes, Conforto leaned into the pitch drawing, what looked to be, a game winning Hit By Pitch. The pitch, clearly a strike on the inner half of the plate, was ruled to be the end of the game by Home Umpire Ron Kulpa. 

 

As an enraged Don Mattingly and Marlins’ team-leader Miguel Rojas argued the blatantly incorrect call, the umpires walked off the field, unable to correct a “judgment” call. The Fish left the ballpark in defeat, officially starting the season at 1-6. The Mets, on the other hand, improved to 2-2, and still remain much better odds to compete in the National League East according to VW Sports Betting

 

It is easy to point towards that moment as the key factor in yesterday’s loss for the Marlins, but doing so overshadows the countless other missed opportunities throughout Thursday’s game for the Marlins. The Marlins “Why not us?” mentality that pushed them through last season looks to have evaporated in early 2021. But rather than dwelling on what could have been through the first week of the season, here are the positives that the “Bottom Feeders” can build on to find their way back to a winning mentality.

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Marlins Starting Pitching

Sandy Alcantara

Sandy Alcantara continues to be the ace that the Marlins need. In his 12 innings of work, he has allowed just 3 runs (2 ER) on 17 strikeouts, 6 hits, and 4 walks. He has been everything that the Marlins could ask for in his first two starts. With only a total of 2-runs of support from his offense in innings which he has pitched, Sandy has simply gotten the short end of the stick. He’s the guy. The Marlins haven’t had anything near this level of production since Jose Fernandez. 

 

Pablo Lopez

In an even better turn of events, Pablo Lopez has continued to surprise the baseball world. He has thrown 11.2 innings this season, only allowing 2-runs off the bat of a Yadier Molina home run. Pablo has been nothing short of brilliant in his outings this season, eliciting a 57.1% groundball rate, the highest of his career. He, much like Sandy, has gotten a grand total of 0 runs of support while he is on the mound.

 

Keeping it close

In the Marlins 6 losses to date, they have only lost by 4 or more runs one time (Wednesday’s 7-0 loss to STL). It is clear that the bats have not woken up yet; however, in a positive twist, when they do wake up, it could be enough to put the Marlins over the top. The Marlins played close baseball all of last season and won close ball games at a higher clip than most teams throughout the league. The bats are performing below expectations at the moment, preventing close games from going in the Marlins favor. It is a long season, and when the bats put the pieces together, things will change.

 

It’s a long season!

Did you know that in last season’s 60 games, there were not one but two sets of 7 games where the Marlins went 1-6? Even with a shorter amount of time, the Marlins managed to finish the season with a 31-29 record. Although a similar record may not make the playoffs this season, all the Marlins are looking to do is grow as a team. There is still plenty of time for the Marlins to go on 6-1 runs to even their record back to .500 and beyond. And there is still plenty of time for the Marlins to go on more 1-6 runs. 

 

In a 162 game season, expect we can expect this to happen multiple times. There is no need to panic. Statistically, this Marlins team is around that of a .500 ballclub. The law of large numbers is a mathematical/statistical fact, and one that will play in the Marlins favor going forward.

 

Overall for Marlins

 

To players, coaches, and fans, this start may feel like rock bottom especially in comparison to last season’s 7-1 start. But this start will not last for long, and the Marlins will find their way back to the team they truly are. They really are the “Bottom Feeders” right now, but as we all know, that hasn’t held them back before. 

 

Marlins/Mets Series Preview

After a disappointing 1-5 start to the season, the Miami Marlins start their first road trip of the year in New York versus the new look Mets. Throughout the first 6 games, the Marlins have been plagued by an inability to hit with RISP and with 2-outs: both key elements of last year’s playoff run. It will not get any easier in the Big Apple, as the Mets are lined up to pitch Taijuan Walker, Jacob deGrom, and Marcus Stroman. 

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Game 1 (Thursday 1:10 PM EST): Nick Neidert (0-0, / ERA) vs Taijuan Walker (0-0, / ERA)

Keys for Marlins: Neidert, Bats getting back on track

Neidert takes the mound for his first career start for the Marlins. After posting solid numbers throughout his career in the minors, Neidert hopes to continue a positive start for Marlins starting pitchers this season. Every starter, barring Elieser Hernandez’s injury-shortened outing, has been able to keep the bats they have faced at bay. There, however, has been nothing to show for it through 6 games. LoanDepot Park has not been a friendly sight for Marlins hitters, and weirdly enough, there is an expectation that pitchers will get more run support on the road this season. A 24-year-old Neidert is matched up against an extremely potent New York Mets lineup, which serves as a tough obstacle on start 1.

Keys for Mets: Walker having a Quality Start

His counterpart Taijuan Walker was 4-3 last season with a 2.70 ERA pitching for the Mariners and Blue Jays. Walker was injured throughout 2018 and 2019, but in seasons where he was healthy, has been a steady innings eater with a consistent ERA in the high 3s. Walker, although a solid arm, will be the lowest quality starter the Marlins will face in this series. It is important that the bats break out in this game to set the tone for games 2 and 3.

Game 2 (Saturday 1:10 PM EST): Trevor Rogers (0-1, 4.50 ERA) vs Jacob deGrom (0-0, 0.00 ERA)

Keys for Marlins: Rogers settling in, Late-inning magic

After a shaky first inning in which he allowed 3 runs on Monday versus the Cardinals, Trevor Rogers settled in to throw 3 shutout innings to finish his night. In those 3 innings, his fastball looked electric and he looked much more settled in. In his post game press conference, he mentioned that he was too “amped up.” With the first start with fans out of the way for Rogers, he is looking to continue to grow from his stellar Spring Training this season. The Mets offer another difficult lineup to navigate as a pitcher, but Rogers did just that last year. Two of his better starts came against the Mets last season, both of which resulted in Marlins’ wins. 

Keys for Mets: deGrom doing deGrom things

In his first start of the season, deGrom was stupendous (per usual). He will once again be rightfully in Cy Young talks as his game continues to get better with age. However, over the course of his career, he has struggled somewhat versus the Marlins. The Marlins got a win when he was on the mound last season, but with the bats continuing to struggle, the most likely hope for Miami this season lies in the late innings. Much like the Marlins’ starters, deGrom has had infamously low run support throughout his career. If Rogers can keep it close with deGrom, the Marlins can piece together a win, just like the Phillies did against the Mets on their Opening Day.

Game 3 (Sunday 1:10 PM EST): TBD vs Marcus Stroman (1-0, 1.50 ERA)

Keys for Marlins: Bullpen

Don Mattingly mentioned that the Marlins will most likely not start Sandy Alcantara on Sunday, even though technically it is his turn in the rotation. Whoever the Marlins go with, this will be a game decided on their bullpen. With a weak start in comparison to expectations this season, the Marlins’ new-look bullpen will have a chance to get back on track this game and series. With two young arms in Games 1 and 2 and the makings of a bullpen game in game 3, there will be plenty of chances for a bullpen to right the sinking ship in Miami.

Keys for Mets: Stroman

The Mets will counter with Marcus Stroman, a consistently solid starter over the course of his career. Stroman put together 6 masterful innings of 1-run ball in his first outing in route to a Mets win. The former Blue Jay has been the definition of consistent in his time in the MLB as he continues to bounce back after a poor 2018 season. Stroman has ace-quality stuff, and will bring his normal on Sunday.

Overall for Marlins

 

The Marlins starting pitching has been everything Marlins’ fans have asked for. Every other aspect of this team has dwindled in comparison. With an extremely tough task ahead in the Mets, the Marlins need their bats to break out (or at least play small ball in key situations) or they can easily be swept away by a good Mets team. This task becomes even harder when the Marlins aren’t expected to pitch Sandy or Pablo. 

This series is extremely important for the Marlins to bounce back before they head to Atlanta, where they have consistently struggled over the past few years. Sitting at 1-5, the Marlins could easily finish this series at 1-8 if the adequate changes are not made heading in. 

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Marlins vs Rays Takeaways

Miami Marlins baseball is back! On Opening Weekend, the Fish found themselves slated against the defending AL Champion Tampa Bay Rays. Although the Marlins dropped 2 of the 3 games at home, there is a lot to be excited about in Miami going forward in 2021. Here are my main takeaways from the first weekend of Marlins baseball:

 

Marlins Pitching

With high amounts of well-deserved hype surrounding the Marlins young pitching staff, they somehow exceeded expectations. Let’s take a look at the 3 starters who got the ball this weekend and the revamped bullpen.

Sandy Alcantara

Sandy proved his ace status this weekend, pitching 6 strong innings giving up just 2 hits and no runs. He dominated an extremely potent Rays lineup on Opening Day, leaving the game tied up 0-0 going into the 7th. He looked to be in midseason form, as he generated 7 strikeouts during his outing and 15 strikes swinging. It’s a shame such a masterpiece had to go down as a no-decision, but his counterpart Tyler Glasnow pitched just as well. If Sandy continues to pitch on this level, the Marlins will be in great shape going forwards

Pablo Lopez

Pablo Lopez is not a flashy pitcher, but he gets the job done continuously. Much like Sandy, Pablo shut down the Rays over his 5 innings of work, allowing 0 runs on 2 hits with 4 strikeouts. I would have liked to have seen him work for another inning or two, but with the Marlins held scoreless through 14 innings at the time, the pinch hitter seemed almost necessary. If Pablo can pitch past the 5th inning consistently this season, he will show his continued development as a number 2 man on a playoff team in the future. 

Elieser Hernandez

Hernandez allowed 2 runs in his 2.1 innings on a 2-run bomb off the bat of Mike Zunino. A simple cross up between Wallach and Hernandez allowed this to happen the pitch before, so his actual pitching isn’t too worrisome. What is worrisome is that he left the game early due to bicep inflammation. It is unclear how long he will be out due to this injury, but hopefully he can get back to his normal form soon.

Bullpen

Oh boy. The “revamped” Miami bullpen is the sole reason this team is not 2-1. In their combined 10.2 innings of work, they have allowed 11 runs, including the 4-run blown save by Anthony Bass in game 2. Look, these numbers aren’t great, but it is not too alarming. It takes time for a bullpen to become a cohesive unit, especially when most of the guys are in new situations. On a positive note, after poor performances in their first outings, Yimi Garcia and Anthony Bass bounced back in their next games. As they settle in, this bullpen will get more and more stable as time progresses.

 

Marlins Hitting

In what seemed to be a flashback to the early Miami days, the Marlins were shutout for the first 14 innings of the 2021 season. Their offensive struggles seemed to carry right on over from 2020. In the 6th inning of Friday’s ballgame they finally woke up. So much so, that the Marlins actually outscored the Rays 16-14 through the 3-game series. Starling Marte, Jazz Chisholm, and Garrett Cooper led the way. 

Marte

After going 0-4 with 4 (!!!) strikeouts on Opening Day, Starling Marte showed why he is the main bat in this lineup. In games 2 and 3 he went 7-10 striking out 0 times. A full season of Starling Marte means a full season of games like these. He has been this player his entire career and will be the backbone of this offensive force going forwards.

Chisholm

The blue-haired phenom. The face of a young Marlins team. Jazz Chisholm may be 2 for 10 to start the season, but his impact is much greater than what is visible on the stat sheet. He brings energy to a lineup that was previously lacking. He fits in with the small ball mentality Mattingly continues to utilize (evident through his magical trip around the bases on Saturday night). As he continues to get more at-bats and become more and more comfortable as an every day MLB player, the sky’s the limit.

Cooper

After all of the controversy regarding how Cooper would fit in the lineup going into this season, he made his name known on Saturday. A very poor performance Friday night in which he left 5 runners on-base going 0-4 with a K started his season on a bad note; however, on Saturday we saw the real Garrett Cooper: 3 for 5 with 3 RBIs and a solo homer. The decision at first base may get tougher and tougher if he continues to produce like this. 

 

Outlook for Marlins

 

Regardless of the result, the Marlins look better than expected. The lineup looks strong, the starting pitching is as advertised, and the bullpen is developing. They went head-to-head with one of the best teams in baseball and completed all 3 games.

 

Now, the Marlins look forward to a 3-game set against the Cardinals. The Fish start Trevor Rogers, Sandy Alcantara, and Pablo Lopez versus the Cardinals’ Ponce de Leon, John Gant, and Jack Flaherty. With an extremely tough schedule lined up at home versus Saint Louis, and away against the Mets and Braves, this will prove to be the first test of many. The “Bottom Feeders” will be ready.

 

Follow me on twitter @chasechrisjr for more Miami Marlins coverage.

Pablo Lopez impresses in Marlins loss

Opening Day came and gone, but for the other pitchers in the Miami Marlins starting rotation, like Pablo Lopez, that feeling still persists.

“A lot of excitement, a lot of butterflies going on,” Lopez said.

Lopez started the 2021 season by shutting out the defending American League champion Tampa Bay Rays for five innings, allowing only two hits with two walks and four strikeouts. The Rays ended up winning 6-4 on Friday after a four-run rally in the ninth inning.

“Once I was able to get through the first inning I was able to settle down a little bit more and it was about executing pitches.”

Lopez showed a lot of improvement last season, dropping his ERA from 5.09 in 2019 to 3.61 and struck out more batters than innings pitched for the first time in his young career.

The next step for him is to establish a better breaking ball and have five pitches to work with. He’s trying to do that with a cutter, sinker, and curveball.

“It’s gonna help a lot,” Lopez said. “You’re going to face teams that have very good balance like the Rays. They got five lefties, four righties, so it’s good to have pitches that have both movements to both the arm side and glove side.”

Lopez threw 77 pitches after five innings. He said he felt good physically but with the season going from 60 to 162 again, managers will likely be hesitant to keep starting pitchers out for long especially when there is a desire to give the relieves on the mound for the first time.

Back & Forth

The Marlins bullpen gave up a pair of home runs to the Rays in the next two innings. Austin Meadows homered off Richard Bleier’s cutter in the sixth inning and Manuel Margot hit a 400-foot bomb off Justin Curtiss in the seventh inning.

The Marlins came back and took a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the seventh inning after Jazz Chisholm hit a triple to spark a three-run rally capped by a two-run double by Miguel Rojas.

The Rays scored four runs off newly signed Marlins closer Anthony Bass in the ninth inning, including a three-run home run by Joey Wendle.

“The guys battled tonight and showed you after not scoring for 15 innings that all of a sudden things start to roll,” Miami manager Don Mattingly said. “We felt a little better about ourselves offensively after this game. We’re gonna be fine.”

All that Jazz

Chisholm’s rally-sparking triple in the seventh may be a sign for things to come. He was the top-rated prospect in the Arizona Diamondbacks system in 2019 when the Miami Marlins traded emerging ace Zac Gallen for him at the trade deadline.

Two years later, he beats Isan Diaz for the Opening Day second base job and is starting to prove that he is a star on the rise.

Jazz is one of those guys, he plays with a lot of energy,” Mattingly said. “Hold on, Jazz is starting his thing.”

Up Next

Elieser Hernandez starts in the series finale against Rays, who are sending out Rich Hill. Hernandez started all six games and posted a 3.16 ERA with 34 strikeouts in 25.2 innings pitched.

Hill is starting his season with his 10th MLB team. Hill posted a 3.03 ERA in eight starts in his one season with the Minnesota Twins last year.