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Marlins series Phillies

5 Takeaways from Marlins Series Win Over Phillies

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

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

Sixto’s an Ace in the making

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Marte May Be Most Important Midseason Pick-up

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

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

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

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

Veteran Bats Coming Alive During Marlins Series Win Over Phillies

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

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

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

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

Marlins: Legitimate Playoff Contenders

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

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

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

 

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

Marlins Move to 2nd in East

Six games later, the Marlins took a 4-2 series lead on the Phillies in this 7-game series, moving to 23-21 on the year. This pushes the Marlins to 8-2 in double-header games and propels them into the 2nd place spot in the division. Regardless, they are currently in a good playoff spot with only 16 games remaining this season. 

Oh boy, the pitching

On Sunday, we took another good look at Sixto Sanchez and our first look at Braxton Garrett. Wow. Sixto pitched a 1-run complete game en route to a 1-run win. What continues to impress me is his ability to pitch to contact in stressful situations. 100 MPH plus craftiness is in most cases untouchable. Sixto looks more like the future of Miami Marlins baseball every time he steps on the mound. Sixto’s dominance may have overshadowed Braxton Garrett’s first start, although it shouldn’t have. Braxton (our 2016 first-round pick) went 5 innings, allowing only 1 earned run on 3 hits, striking out 6. I have repeatedly mentioned both the current strength of this rotation, as well as the future strength. This outing hopefully signifies another addition to what is shaping to be one of the best rotations in baseball.

Can’t lose when the pitching allows 1 run

The pitching gave the hitting a big cushion most of these two games, whereas normally the opposite happens. Corey Dickerson and Starling Marte’s RBI singles were enough to get the job done in game 1, but the bats broke it wide open in game 2. The whole squad put together nice at-bats, with the icing on the cake being Chad Wallach’s first homer of the year. 

Special shoutout to Brian Anderson for making a Manny Machado-Esque play at third base. Braxton Garrett’s reaction was priceless. 

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Secure the bag.

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Looking ahead for the Marlins

The Marlins are now 2nd in the division, but obviously this could be short-lived as the Marlins play the Phillies today again at 4:10 pm. Pablo Lopez (3-4, 4.50 ERA) takes the mound for the Marlins against Vince Velasquez (0-0, 5.85 ERA) of the Phillies.

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 Nationals

5 Takeaways from Marlins Series Win over Nationals

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

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

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

Offense Finally Opening Up

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

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

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

Returns of Alfaro and Rojas Are Key

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

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

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

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

Big Time Debuts in Marlins and Nationals Series

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bullpen Needs Reinforcements

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

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

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

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

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

Roster Shuffle Continues

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

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

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

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

Sixto Sanchez

Meet the Marlins: Sixto Sanchez

The Miami Marlins, coming off a five-game losing skid, shuffled their roster ahead of a five-game, four-day series versus the Washington Nationals. This roster shuffle included the return of two players from the COVID-19 IL, as well as the promotion of two of Miami’s top prospects, OF Jesus Sanchez and RHP Sixto Sanchez.

For the Marlins, despite losing three-fifths of the rotation, the starters have not been the problem. Pablo Lopez and Elieser Hernandez have stabilized the starting group, posting a combined 2.35 ERA and 49 strikeouts in 42 IP.

After a rough first outing, Daniel Castano held the Braves to just one run on four hits over six innings. The real problem spot in the rotation came with Jordan Yamamoto’s turns. Yams, who was recently optioned to Jupiter, surrendered 11 earned runs and four homers over 8.2 IP in three starts. Sanchez would slot into his place in the rotation.

Prospect: Sixto Sanchez

Sixto Sanchez came to the Marlins as the centerpiece of the deal with Philadelphia for J.T. Realmuto. Considered No. 16 overall prospect by Baseball America and No. 22 by MLB.com, his arrival put him at the top of Miami’s system. In 2019 Sanchez posted a combined 2.76 ERA with 8.1 K/9 against 1.7 BB/9 in 114 IP between Class-A Advanced and Double-A.

In Double-A Jacksonville, the 21-year-old threw 103 innings with a 2.53 ERA across 18 outings. Over his final six starts, he posted a 0.53 ERA, .161 batting-average-against and .405 OPS, with 28 strikeouts and only five walks in 34 IP. In his Minor League career, Sanchez has a 23-18 record with a 2.58 ERA in 68 games (59 starts), registering 294 strikeouts and 64 walks in 335.1 IP. He only surrendered nine home runs over that span.

Sanchez relies on a two-seam sinking fastball and a four-seam fastball that can touch triple digits. He pairs those pitches with a devastating changeup and an above-average slider.

Marlins manager Don Mattingly praised Sanchez’s stuff and his ability to throw strikes.

“I can tell you he has a good arm, and he’s been throwing the ball good,” Mattingly said.

Marlins shortstop Miguel Rojas, recently reinstated from the IL after his COVID-19 stint, spent time in Jupiter rehabbing and faced Sanchez. Rojas likened Sanchez to MLB veteran Johnny Cueto.

“For a guy that young, he already knows what he’s doing on that mound,” Rojas said. “He can mix up some fastballs. He’s got a cutter, and he’s got a really good changeup. He kind of reminds me of a really good Dominican pitcher, Johnny Cueto.”

Fan expectations for Sanchez are through the roof, but he could very well be the Marlins’ future ace.