It will take more than COVID-19 to slow down the Miami Marlins in 2020.
When we last saw the Miami Marlins play a game of regular season baseball, they had left the field with a 2-1 record and a share of the National League East lead.
Since then, they’ve lost 19 players to COVID-19, that’s 18 players who tested positive, plus Isan Diaz, who opted out of the season. Seemingly countless roster moves later, and the Miami Marlins return with a three-hit shutout victory against the Baltimore Orioles.
Miami Marlins starter Pablo Lopez and his opposing foe, John Means, traded zeroes through the first four innings, combining to allow two hits while striking out eight between them. Francisco Cervelli put an end to the dual shutouts with two outs in the fifth inning.
After the Orioles half of the fifth, starting pitcher Lopez would hit the showers. He ended up putting 43-of-61 pitches over the plate for a 70.5 percent strike rate, whiffing seven and surrendering two hits, no walks, and no runs over five innings of work.
In the sixth, Jonathan Villar hit a one-out single and advanced to second on a wild pitch, then scored on Jon Berti‘s single. Berti came home on a fielding error by Orioles third baseman Renato Nunez. The bottom of the frame would see new Marlins reliever James Hoyt surrender a hit and strike out two batters.
Recent ex-Orioles pitcher Richard Bleier pitched a perfect seventh inning, striking out one, and Brad Boxberger allowed a hit and collected a strikeout in the eighth. Number three Marlins hitter Jesus Aguilar also put his stamp on the scoreboard in Miami’s half of the frame:
With the Miami Marlins comfortably in the driver’s seat by four runs going into the bottom of the ninth, manager Don Mattingly sent out Brandon Kintzler in a non-save situation.
Pitching Wins Ballgames
Every Marlins pitcher was pretty good. an 11:1 K/BB ratio is not sustainable, but Miami’s combined 67.5 percent strike-rate could be a positive sign of change. Aside from Lopez’ 70.5 percent clip, Hoyt plated 10-of-16 (62.5 percent), Bleier put seven-of-10 in the zone (70 percent), Boxberger had 13-of-23 (56.5 percent), and Kintzler parked eight-of-10 (80 percent).
The Yelich Return
The return on the Christian Yelich deal has continued to flummox the Miami Marlins faithful. Despite the victory, tonight’s combined 0-for-7 performance from Monte Harrison (three strikeouts) and Lewis Brinson didn’t really surprise anyone. Factor in Diaz opting out of the 2020 campaign and suddenly Jordan Yamamoto’s possible success becomes even more important.
With Cervelli’s first homer and Aguilar’s third, the Miami Marlins now have a total of seven this season over their first four games — a 1.75 HR/G rate which would see them total 105 over a 60-game season and 284 over a full 162-game schedule. I know we shouldn’t really get excited over a still-small-sample-size, but isn’t this what we were hoping for when the Marlins hired James Rowson away from the Minnesota Twins coaching staff?
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A game behind the division-leading Atlanta Braves, the Marlins still have just a 13.4 percent chance of making the playoffs, according to Fangraphs. The only NL team with a lower projection at this point is the 2-9 Pittsburgh Pirates, who have just a 2.2 percent chance of advancing past the regular season. Despite that, the Marlins and Braves are the only teams with winning records in the NL East.
Fangraphs Heroes & Zeroes
Lopez’ .304 WPA easily leads every other player on the field from either team. The only other player over .100 was Orioles starter Means, who finished at .143. The only player to suffer the indignity to finish at or below -.100 was Orioles reliever Paul Fry, who faced two batters, allowed both to get on base, and earned a -.117 for his troubles.
Thanks for reading. Tune in tonight as the Marlins and Orioles reconvene for a double-header.