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The Marlins Maintain Playoff Hopes With Win

With the season on the brink, amid pouring rain in Atlanta, GA, the Miami Marlins turned to Pablo Lopez. After much heralded pitching prospects Trevor Rogers and Sixto Sanchez failed to get the Marlins back on track, the 24-year-old veteran in his third season settled the Marlins on the mound and gave the team the opportunity to stop the skid and maintain their hold on a playoff spot. The Marlins managed a 4-2 victory over the Braves in what was the latest most important game of the topsy-turvy 2020 season.

Lopez went five innings and surrendered only two hits while piling up six strikeouts, including the 200th of his MLB career.

“Obviously, every game is important in a short season like this one,” López said. “We knew coming into today that this is the biggest game yet. We’ve seen the Braves the last three days. Obviously, it’s a tough matchup.”

The Marlins entered Thursday night’s matchup losers of four straight and watched their lead in the playoff race dwindle to 0.5 games. With the Phillies nipping at their heels, Miami turned to Lopez, who’s been one of the few constants this season, and he turned in one of the biggest performances of the season.

But he wasn’t alone. The offense, which has sputtered of late and has been maddeningly inconsistent throughout the season, found just enough of a rhythm. The bullpen also turned in a critical performance.

The Marlins Offense Came Through in the Clutch

In the sixth inning, tied at zero, the Marlins offense went to work. Brian Anderson reached on an error, then Garrett Cooper singled, moving Anderson to third. A pair of strikeouts followed and the Marlins seemed like the same old story of lackluster offense would hold true in this spot. But backup catcher Chad Wallach came through.

Wallach, starting thanks to his recent chemistry with Lopez on the mound, punched an 2-0 offering from Ian Anderson into right field. That scored Anderson and moved Cooper to third.

Jon Berti came to the plate and continued Miami’s two-out magic by ripping a two-run double to left. The Marlins held a 3-0 lead entering the top of the sixth.

The Bullpen Held On

Marlins manager Don Mattingly turned to Yimi Garcia earlier than usual when he summoned the right-hander from the ‘pen in the sixth. Garcia walked Marcell Ozuna, but proceeded to get Travis d’Araud to line out, then registered a pair of strikeouts of Ozzie Albies and Adam Duvall.

In the seventh inning, Jesus Aguilar extended the Marlins lead with a home run off AJ Minter. It was Aguilar’s eighth homer of the season.

James Hoyt and Richard Bleier combined work through a tense seventh before Marlins closer Brandon Kintzler entered in the eighth to attempt a six-out save. Brad Boxberger had loaded the bases without recording an out, and although Kintzler surrendered a pair of runs on a Dansby Swanson single, he limited the damage to two.

“He comes in a tough spot,” Mattingly said of Kintzler after the game. “I’d trade outs for runs at that point. Obviously, a great job getting us through there, and he had to go through their top of the order in the ninth.”

Kintzler notched his first career six-out save and the 60th save of his career with the Marlins win.

“That was a really big win,” Wallach said afterwards. “We’ve been doing that all year. When we’ve gotten down and may have lost a couple of games, we’ve battled back when we’ve needed to. We played a great game, and that’s just something we’ve done all year. Hopefully, we can continue it going on.”

Playoffs on the Line in New York

The Marlins (29-28) head to New York for a crucial three-game series against the Yankees. Miami holds a slim one-game lead over the Phillies (28-29) for second place in the NL East and a guaranteed playoff spot. The Phillies are in St Petersburg to face the Tampa Bay Rays this weekend. The Marlins hold the tiebreaker over Philadelphia and their magic number to clinch a playoff spot is down to two.

The Marlins have Sandy Alcantara (3-2, 3.12 ERA) taking the mound against the Yankees in an effort to possibly clinch their first postseason berth since 2003.

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.

Rays Sweep Marlins

5 Takeaways from Rays Sweep of Marlins

The Miami Marlins entered their three-game Citrus Series tilt against in-state rivals, the Tampa Bay Rays, above .500 in August for the first time in a long time. They were coming off taking two of three from the Mets in New York, then working with the Mets to stage a walk off. Back in Miami, though, the Rays dominate the Marlins over three games, en route to the series sweep.

Here are five takeaways from the Rays sweep of the Marlins.

Elite Starting Pitching

Any Marlins fan would have taken a pair of games where the starting pitchers combined to throw 14 innings, allowing just two earned runs and one walk while posting 15 strikeouts. Sixto Sanchez and Pablo Lopez were dominant in their starts, but they received literally zero run support.

Sixto’s start was particularly encouraging, as the 22-year-old tore through the Tampa Bay lineup and demonstrated his potential as an ace.

“He was really good,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said of Sanchez after the game. “He was in control all night. Used his changeup a lot. Was able to elevate. He gives you seven innings of scoreless [work].”

Lopez was nearly as good. He posted his sixth straight start of at least five innings and no more than two earned runs. That ties the best such start in Marlins history with Josh Johnson (6 games) in 2011 and Anibal Sanchez (6 games) in 2012. Lopez is one of just 10 pitchers in MLB to post as many such starts this season.

“I felt like this is the best Pablo has thrown,” Mattingly said. “He gives up the run on a Díaz chopper, just unfortunate. … He was able to use all of his pitches. His sequences were good. I thought he did a great job all night. He was really good.”

On Sunday, the Marlins welcomed back ace Sandy Alcantara from the IL. Sandy looked to end the Marlins skid and avoid the sweep at the hands of the Rays. Unfortunately, he wasn’t as sharp as he needed to be and Tampa Bay jumped on him early.

“Today, this is my first start,” Alcantara said after the game. “It was like Opening Day. It was a little different for me. My first two innings, I was too quick. I could feel it [with my] four-seamer. I had to calm down and try to make a pitch.”

Although he ultimately surrendered eight runs (five earned), Alcantara’s return means the Marlins are closer to throwing elite arms at opposing lineups every day.

Dormant Offense During Most of Rays Sweep of Marlins

Perhaps the most frustrating element of the Rays sweep of the Marlins was the lack of production at the plate. Veteran hitters failed to convert in key opportunities and the Marlins were shut out on back-to-back nights.

Before Corey Dickerson’s fourth inning home run on Sunday, the Marlins went 39 straight scoreless innings in Marlins Park against the Rays.

On Friday night, the team managed just five hits. On Saturday, just three. The Marlins were a combined 0-for-5 with runners-in-scoring-position during those games, both very winnable contests.

Mattingly lamented the lack of offense after Sanchez’s performance: “He gives us a chance to get on the board. We just weren’t able to get on the board for him.”

After Saturday’s game, Mattingly admitted the team’s frustrations.

“Any time it’s happening in a short run like this, it’s frustrating,” he said. “You know you’re getting good outings, and you’re not really able to do anything with it.”

On Sunday, the offense came to life some, but too late. Dickerson’s homer in the fourth made it a 5-1 deficit, but the Rays put up seven runs in the fifth. The Marlins did post seven runs over the span of four innings but couldn’t continue any of their rallies to truly threaten the Rays.

After the game, Mattingly said the offense showed “some decent signs. Hopefully we can kind of get this thing rolling and get back a little bit more of a groove as you get into this final month.”

Return of Garrett Cooper Provide Life

One of the bright spots from the Rays sweep of the Marlins was the return of Garrett Cooper to the lineup. Cooper went 4-for-13 with two doubles, a home run and four RBI. His bat clearly lengthens a lineup that has struggled at times this season to score runs.

“Getting him back, you obviously see what you missed,” Mattingly said on Sunday. “Coop, that’s the one thing, he’s always been able to hit. It’s good to have him back. Hopefully, we can get everybody going around that.”

With Jesus Aguilar dealing with back issues, Cooper should be a fixture in the lineup moving forward. His versatility to play first base, right field or DH provides Mattingly with a veteran bat to deploy in the middle of the lineup.

Unfriendly Confines of Marlins Park

Normally, teams perform better at home than on the road. In 2020, that has not been the case at all for the Marlins. The Marlins are 13-7 (.650) on the road this season, the fourth-best road winning pct. in the Majors (second in NL behind the Dodgers: 14-5, .737); only the Dodgers have more road wins. They have outscored opponents 97-86 away from home.

At Marlins Park, however, they’re 1-8, with eight straight loses.

“I can’t explain home, why we haven’t played as well,” Mattingly said. “I can guess at stuff, and I would just be guessing. On the road, you have nothing else but going to the ballpark. You’re stuck in a hotel. The only time you get out is when you’ve got to go to the ballpark. It’s the one time you have a little freedom.”

With 17 of their final 30 games at home, the Marlins will have to figure out these struggles quickly if they want to make a playoff push.

The biggest struggles have come offensively, as the team is hitting just .212 at Marlins Park. Miami’s home OPS is .568, whereas on the road their OPS is .711 with a .247 batting average.

Prior to Sunday’s offensive outburst, the Marlins had connected on only three home runs in Marlins Park. Sunday saw three leave the park, as Dickerson, Cooper and Lewis Brinson all connected on big flys.

Struggles Lead to Uncertainty at Trade Deadline

This Rays sweep of the Marlins, and four-game losing skid overall, has come at a difficult time for the front office. As Monday’s Trade Deadline approaches, the Marlins are below .500 for the first time this season (14-15), but they are still clinging to a playoff spot.

Being in the pennant race might dictate an out-of-character move from the Marlins.

“Traditionally, we have not been a team in the last few years that has been buying anything,” Mattingly said prior to Sunday’s game. “I’m not sure we’re going to be giving any prospects away to get one piece.”

The Marlins are poised to end a 17-year playoff drought with a solid September. A key contest looms against the New York Mets this afternoon, then 12 of their final 30 against either the Philadelphia Phillies or Washington Nationals. If the Marlins can win each of those series, they could end MLB’s second-longest playoff drought.

It’ll be interesting to see if the Marlins decide to move any of their veterans. Teams have called about closer Brandon Kintzler and utility player Jonathan Villar. The Marlins could also part with young veteran starters in Jose Urena and/or Caleb Smith.

It’s hard to imagine the Marlins giving up one of their prized prospects to rent a bat for a month. Unless the deal is similar to the one with Arizona last season (where Zac Gallen was flipped for Jazz Chisholm), it’s unlikely Miami parts with a top-end prospect.

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 beat Braves

Marlins Beat Braves 8-2, Maintain NL East Lead

The Miami Marlins entered Friday night’s home opener as unlikely NL East leaders. While most thought the Marlins would occupy the cellar of the division, Miami sits atop the NL East in August for the first time in franchise history. They’ve done so without more than half of their Opening Day roster. Friday night, the Marlins beat the Braves 8-2, thanks to aggressive baserunning, solid pitching and timely defense.

Marlins manager Don Mattingly credited the win to “a little bit of everything.” He called it “a well-rounded game,” and said: “We kind of got contributions from all over the place.”

Game Changing Speed

The most obviously difference for the Marlins was the game-changing speed at the bottom of the order.

“Speed is a difficult thing to deal with,” Mattingly said. “It just puts a little bit of pressure everywhere. You have to have guys who can get on base, who can hit, and then you can use that speed.”

Eddy Alvarez, Jon Berti and Magneuris Sierra, the 7-, 8- and 9-hole hitters, reached base six times and accounted for six of Miami’s eight runs. Jonathan Villar, the lead-off hitter, also used his speed to make plays.

The team swiped four bases for the second straight game, something they’ve only done three times in franchise history. Another franchise first occurred when Berti stole home in the fourth. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Miami stole home in consecutive games for the first time in club history and is the first team to do so since the Kansas City Royals on May 22-23, 1996.

Mattingly said postgame that Sierra is “bouncing around and creating havoc.” That’s certainly true, especially when he can turn a roller into right field from a single to a double.

In his last three games, Sierra is 3-for-9 with six runs scored, three RBI, three walks, two stolen bases and a double. He’s played well defensively, and the team is now 6-0 with him in the starting lineup.

Pablo’s Performance Helps Marlins Beat Braves

Pablo Lopez has proven to be the most important pitcher for the Marlins this season. Not only did Lopez’s shutdown performance against the Orioles coming off of quarantine inspire, his consistent ability to throw strikes and shut down opposing lineups has helped propel the Marlins to the top of the NL East.

“Pablo’s worked hard,” Mattingly said, “really just kind of making strides.”

Lopez went six innings, scattered seven hits (one home run), with two earned runs and a career-high eight strikeouts.

“With these last three starts, [I’ve been] trying to have a good rhythm. Trying to work the count, stay ahead. Minimize mistakes,” Lopez said after the game. “Me and Cervelli were on the same page. Mixing pitches, mixing eye-levels.”

Despite missing Ronald Acuna Jr. and Ozzie Albies, this Braves offense still sports potent bats and Lopez knew he and Francisco Cervelli would need to use a variety of strategies. He gave up a first-inning home run to Travis d’Arnaud, but settled in nicely from there.

Lopez didn’t issue a walk and said after the game he was happier about that than the eight Ks. He has focused on his mechanics and developing a good rhythm and credits his chemistry with Cervelli.

Timely Defense

Lopez was aided by timely defensive plays as well. Brian Anderson made a bare-handed play to throw out Marcel Ozuna with the bases loaded in the fifth, ending a potential run-scoring opportunity for the Braves. Matt Joyce also secured timely outs with diving plays in left field.

“You’ve got a bunch of grinders,” Joyce said after the game. “You’ve got a bunch of fighters. You also have a bunch of guys that are having fun. Right now, we’re on a good roll, and we’re having fun doing it.”

Prior to this game, the Marlins had largely relied on the home run for offense. They didn’t hit one on Friday and still managed eight runs. The combination of speed, pitching and defense proved to be the difference.

Joyce credited the win to that diversity. “Where you can go out there and win in different types of ways,” Joyce said. “I think that’s what good teams do.”

The Marlins will look to beat the Braves again tonight, but have Atlanta’s best pitcher, LHP Max Fried (3-0, 1.59) to deal with. Miami will counter with LHP Daniel Castano (0-1, 8.31), who’s making his second big league start.

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.”

Marlins split

Marlins Split Exhibition Series, Beat Braves 6-2

The Miami Marlins bounced back after a disappointing loss on Tuesday night with a 6-2 win on Wednesday afternoon. The Marlins split the two-game exhibition series and, other than one bad inning, looked pretty good doing it.

The task for the team now is to trim the 41-players who traveled to Atlanta down to 30. Miami has until Thursday afternoon to pare down the roster ahead of Friday’s Opening Day tilt in Philadelphia.

What stands out the most from these two games is the improvement at the plate. In 2019, the Marlins were last in home runs and second-to-last in runs scored. Versus the Braves, Miami registered 15 runs and pounded out five homers in two games.

“We have a group that is talented,” Marlins CEO Derek Jeter said on a Zoom conference call Wednesday morning prior to the game.

“We’ve added some guys that are professional hitters,” Jeter said. “They add a little depth to our lineup. It’s no secret and it goes without saying that we struggled to score runs last year. You hope that these guys are going to help us score a little more.”

On Tuesday, those additions provided a huge lift. Jonathan Villar went 3-for-4 with two runs scored, a home run, an RBI and a stolen base. Jesus Aguilar chipped in with a pair of hits and an RBI and Corey Dickerson plated two on a single.

On Wednesday, Dickerson continued to impress. He reached base on all three plate appearances, including drawing a walk on an 11 pitch at-bat where he started down 0-2. He scored twice in the game.

The real star on Wednesday, though, was Harold Ramirez. The 25-year-old right fielder demonstrated the changes he made in the batter’s box by going 2-for-3 with a home run and a double and three RBI. His adjustments at the plate and his improved conditioning and defense have earned him a regular spot in the lineup.

Pablo Lopez started the game for the Marlins and impressed. Lopez pitched three innings and struck out three, only allowing one hit (a home run to Austin Riley). This performance lines up Lopez to make the start for the Marlins in their home opener versus the Baltimore Orioles next week.

Marlins pitching coach Mel Stottlemyer Jr. has been impressed by Lopez throughout the spring and summer, particularly considering the passing of Lopez’s father recently. His solid outing versus the Braves followed an impressive performance during a simulated game last Thursday.

Marlins manager Don Mattingly noted after that performance that it was “the best I’ve ever seen Pablo look as far as being that aggressive guy.”

After Lopez, Elieser Hernandez entered and had a similarly solid stretch. The presumptive fifth starter tossed three innings, walking one and giving up one earned run (another Riley homer).

Prospects followed Hernandez after that. Jordan Holloway pitched the seventh and gave up two hits but induced an inning-ending double-play. Stephen Tarpley and Sterling Sharp combined to pitch an uneventful eighth (other than a Garrett Cooper error). Ryne Stanek impressed with a pair of strikeouts in the ninth.

Despite the offensive outbursts, the Marlins split the exhibition series. In this one, Monte Harrison responded after a bad strikeout to double in the top of the ninth. Cooper drove him home with a single. Utilityman Eddy Alvarez padded Miami’s run total with an RBI single of his own later in the ninth.

Harrison will start the season in Jupiter but he could be with the Marlins before long.

The Marlins will need to pare down the roster to 30 men as they prepare to leave for Philadelphia. Miami opens the 2020 season versus the Phillies on Friday, when Sandy Alcantara faces off against Aaron Nola.

Pablo Lopez Returns to Marlins

Prior to tonight’s game, the Marlins activated RHP Pablo Lopez from the 10-Day IL and optioned LHP Jose Quijada to Triple-A New Orleans. Lopez has been on the injured list since June 19th with a right shoulder strain. Tonight, he finally makes his return after more than two months out of Major League action.

Before being put on the injured list, Lopez accumulated a 5-5 record with a 4.23 ERA and 73 strikeouts in 76.2 innings pitched. Those are not terrible numbers, in fact, he would have a sub-4 ERA if it weren’t for his disastrous start against the Mets back in May where he allowed 10 earned runs in three innings of work.

Pablo’s time rehabbing in the minors was definitely rough. In five games started, he has an 8.79 ERA and only 14.1 innings pitched. However, he did finish his time in the minors on a positive note. His last start, he logged six innings, allowing one earned run with five strikeouts.

Shoulder injuries are one of the toughest injuries to come back from. Pitchers have to get a feel for their pitches again and have to make sure their mechanics are in sync. It’s definitely a tedious journey but Pablo can definitely bounce back from this injury, he done it before.

In order to make room for Pablo on the roster, Jose Quijada had to be optioned to Triple-A New Orleans. Quijada has been struggling lately at the Major League level. In his last seven games, he’s pitched five innings of relief and allowed 8 earned runs with 7 walks. His last appearance against the Phillies didn’t do him any favors. He pitched 0.2 innings, walked four and allowed two earned runs. He has good stuff, just needs to work on his control, like many young pitchers.

Let’s see if we see the same Pablo Lopez tonight who throws pitches like this… (via @IanPostPL)

What Should Marlins do With Surplus of Starting Pitchers in MLB?

The Miami Marlins have one of the strongest starting rotations in baseball. They currently own the 7th best rotation ERA in the league, not just National League, but in all of Major League Baseball. With a 3.92 rotation ERA, they place behind the Rays, Dodgers, Nationals, Reds, Twins, and Astros. 

With the current rotation doing as well as they have, what should the Marlins do when Jose Urena and Pablo Lopez return from the IL?. Personally, I think the Marlins should trade Trevor Richards before/at the deadline. 

Between the staff, Richards has the fourth highest ERA behind Jose Urena, Zac Gallen, and Pablo Lopez. Jose Urena and Pablo Lopez have been on the injured list so they haven’t had a chance to lower their ERAs. Zac Gallen only has twelve major league innings to his name so there’s not much to go off of there. Gallen has shown a lot of promise, just needs to limit his walks.

  • Jose Urena (4.70 ERA)
  • Zac Gallen (4.50 ERA)
  • Pablo Lopez (4.23 ERA) 
  • Trevor Richards (4.18 ERA)

Let’s say Richards has been traded at the deadline, and Urena and Lopez are back from the IL, what should the Marlins do now? Well, there are now seven starting pitchers that could get a rotation spot, but there are only five spots. I say move Urena and Elieser Hernandez to the bullpen.

Urena has the stuff to be in a middle relief type of role and Hernandez already has bullpen experience so I don’t think this is a bad situation

What Could The Rotation Look Like?

Use the rotation that will give the club the best opportunity to win a game, and in my opinion that rotation looks like this:

  • Caleb Smith
  • Sandy Alcantara
  • Jordan Yamamoto
  • Pablo Lopez
  • Zac Gallen

I could make the argument that Yamamoto should be the number one starter or the “Ace” of the staff because of how amazing he has been but he only has 29 innings pitched. As a result, Caleb Smith seemed like the more obvious choice as the front of the rotation pitcher. 

This is a Top 10 in the league rotation, possibly even Top 5. I mean they’re already Top 7 so Top 5 is definitely doable. All the team needs now is some run producing bats and in fact, they’re on their way. A trade for a very highly regarded Cleveland Indian (I won’t say any names) may be possible this offseason if Cleveland decides to sell.

Some impactful free agent bats are also on the Marlins’ radar this offseason as well. Players eligible for free agency this offseason that could be targeted by the Marlins include:

  • Jose Abreu
  • Didi Gregorius 
  • Marcell Ozuna
  • Yasiel Puig
  • Nicholas Castellanos

It’s going to be a fun offseason and the trade deadline is only the beginning.