The Marlins proved their offensive consistency by scoring zero runs for the second consecutive game to open the season, failing to back pitcher Kevin Slowey in his first start in the major leagues since 2011. Now, I shall make some observations:
Marlins Offense Makes Like Krispy Kreme, Puts Up More Donuts
Even in an offense that features famed Ruthian-esque slugger Placido Polanco as its cleanup hitter, it's no secret that this lineup isn't exactly expected to destroy opposing pitching staffs. And even though that Nationals have arguably the best pitching staff in the National League, the complete absence of an offensive presence in the first two games is still probably more of a trend than it is an outlier. Through the first two games of the season, Miami has put up a whopping total of seven hits. They've had opportunities to score runs, but have seen every "rally" evaporate in some way.
Take what happened in the fifth inning, for example. After a leadoff double from Justin Ruggiano and a four-pitch walk to Miguel Olivo (the most rare of all baseball events), Casey Kotchman proceeded to ground into a double play on a comebacker to Gio Gonzalez. Not only did Kotchman ground into the double play, however, he also proceeded to pull his hamstring in the process.
Luckily, the team says Kotchman is just day-to-day at this point, but that play exemplifies how the 2013 season has started for the Fish's offense. Just about the only thing that the offense did right in this game was push Gonzalez's pitch count up, but all that is for naught when you can't find a way to score in the first place. The bottom line is that this team is going to have to walk a ton and find creative ways to score if they want to remain competitive on a game-to-game basis.
Side note: a lot will probably be made about the struggles of Giancarlo Stanton, particularly after he had some ugly strikeouts in this game, but I don't think this is anything to worry about. As long as Stanton stays healthy this season, he'll put things together as he always has and remain one of the most dangerous hitters in the National League. Gio Gonzalez is a very good pitcher and got Stanton on two very good breaking balls in the dirt. The reality is that there aren't too many guys who would be able to lay off those pitches anyway.
On Kevin Slowey's Debut
The main storyline for the Fish coming into this game was the return of pitcher Kevin Slowey, who was making his first big league start since September 2011. Slowey, a 2005 draftee of the Minnesota Twins, has seen his career derailed by injuries over the past couple years. The Fish signed him as a minor league free agent in January and after the injuries to Nathan Eovaldi and Henderson Alvarez, Slowey was moved up in the rotation.
Slowey looked pretty impressive, especially for someone coming off such a long layoff and facing a lineup as potent as the Nationals' lineup is. Early in the game, he got away with leaving his breaking ball up in the zone at times but as the game wore on, Slowey settled into a nice groove. Location is going to have to be the name of the game for Slowey if he wants to have success, and even though he did walk three batters (two to former teammate Denard Span), he was able to keep the ball down enough to limit any major damage. The most impressive stretch of the game for Slowey came in the third inning against Bryce Harper. Slowey fell behind 3-0, but managed to battle back to a full count before striking out the 20-year-old with a good, running fastball on the inside half. We'll have to wait and see what Mike Redmond does with the rotation once Eovaldi and Alvarez return, but Slowey will certainly prove he belongs in it with more starts like the one he had tonight.
MarLOLins Moment of the Night
Frank Forte was interviewing a Marlins fan in the stands of Nationals Park, who remarked "I've been a die-hard Marlins fan since 1995." Right after she finished that sentence, pitcher Gio Gonzalez homered to left field off of Slowey for the Nationals' first run of the game. It's gonna be a long year for die-hard fans, y'all.