The Marlins took two of three from the Washington Nationals following their disappointing opening series, but the Fish were not without their own disappointments in this series. After taking two to start the series, the Fish dropped the final game despite sending Josh Johnson to the mound in what should have been the team’s easiest win.
Marlins let stellar Johnson start slip away
The third game of the Marlins / Nationals series appeared to be lined up for the Fish to take the sweep. Josh Johnson went on the mound and was excellent as always. In six innings, he recorded six strikeouts without walking anyone and allowing a solitary home run scattered among four hits. Johnson allowed seven grounders in 15 balls in play total, which is a pretty typical percentage for him. He was lighting up the gun with his fastball, averaging around 94 mph on the heater while throwing his usually strong secondary stuff.
As you can see by the location chart from last night, Johnson was pounding the strikezone against a lineup that was split evenly in terms of lefties and righties. Johnson was able to induce at least nine swings outside the zone out of his 94 total pitches (excluding pitches that were outside the traditional zone but would have been called strikes against lefties) and got them to miss on four of those swings. In total, he induced seven swinging strikes out of 25 swings, a strong 28 percent whiff rate. Against the even lineup, Johnson pounded the lefties on the outside of the zone and stayed very close to the traditional zone, playing the edges well. Against the righties, he mixed it up more with similar success.
The Marlins unfortunately tossed out Johnson‘s good start by being sloppy on offense and in the field. In the first inning, the Fish had a situation with a runner on third and just one out following an RBI groundout by Gaby Sanchez. The Fish brought up Logan Morrison and John Buck, and neither could drive Hanley Ramirez home from third. Morrison in particular fanned on a couple of sliders that made him look silly against John Lannan (not the most traditional of strikeout artisits). Going into the Morrison plate appearance, the Marlins held a 77 percent chance of winning the game, but they threw away the opportunity and dropped that chance to 70 percent with those two consecutive outs.
The only other time the Marlins threatened in the game was following a Buck single and Wes Helms double. Again, the Marlins were faced with a situation with runners on second and third with no one out and drove in the run via groundout, this time by the hapless Bonifacio. The team followed that up with two consecutive strikeouts by lefties Greg Dobbs and Chris Coghlan against the righty Tyler Clippard.
The Marlins did not help themselves on defense in last night’s game either. Though Johnson turned in a marvelous performance, he was hindered by two consecutive miscues by Ramirez on the field that eventually led to two runs. Catcher Wilson Ramos got on board on a throwing error by Ramirez, and a ground ball by Rick Ankiel which should have gotten at least one out instead skipped past Ramirez’s glove and into center field for a single.
This isn’t the first time this has happened this season. Already the supposed hard work that the Marlins have done to better themselves defensively is not looking pretty. The team has committed more than its fair share of errors, and they all seemed mostly elementary. Ramirez in particular has been to blame on this, as he has three throwing errors and a few miscues to his name. The team already seems to be lacking in actual fielding talent in terms of range, and the club can’t afford to give up additional runs with the glove on manageable plays. It’s still early in the season, but it’s something to watch for.
Donnie Murphy has been a big part of the Marlins’ season early on this year, even with his initial struggles at the plate. Even though Murphy is only batting .188/.235/.250 to start the season, I wouldn’t expect to hear Marlins fans griping about putting him in the lineup, especially given the alternative of Emilio Bonifacio. But Murphy has helped his case by coming up big in the clutch; even if clutch performance isn’t something we would project into the future, it helps to garner favor when you rack up game-winning hits like the single from Tuesday night’s affair. An inning that started with an innocent Omar Infante popup led to a Chicago Cubs eighth-inning, Game 6 of the 2003 NLCS-style meltdown as Werth dropped the popup, followed by a wild pitch advancing Infante to second base. Eventually the Marlins had the bases juiced and no one out but still failed to capitalize, with Morrison and Buck again failing to make contact against Sean Burnett.
Of course, then this hit happened to send the fans home happy. Murphy’s bases loaded single elicited a “DONNIE BLEEPIN’ MURPHY” exclamation from play-by-play announcer Rich Waltz, and with good reason. That plate appearance had a Leverage Index (LI) of 6.39, meaning that that trip to the plate was worth almost six and a half times more than the average plate appearance. Murphy’s swing and the resulting hit were worth 0.341 WPA, the second biggest play of the series (behind Adam LaRoche‘s game-winning home run last night), meaning Murphy’s swing alone was worth more than a third of the Marlins’ eventual victory. Bleepin’ Murphy indeed.