The 23 year old, making his 2016 debut under the bright lights of Dodger's Satdium, was not phased at all as he allowed one batter to reach second base in his 7.1 innings of work. Pitching to contact most of the night, the Marlins defense was flawless behind Nicolino, even though the majority of plays were routine. He allowed 4 baserunners (2 H, 2 BB) and struck out only 2 batters while throwing 58% of his pitches for strikes.
I mentioned in the Game Thread that the expectations for Nicolino were somewhere between the success of Adam Conley and the struggles of Jared Cosart, but this start edged on the side of dominance when you look at his performance as a whole. Another positive was Nicolino's ability to mix all 4 of his pitches effectively. With young arms like his, one or two pitches may often be lacking on a given night, yet he appeared comfortable with all of his pitches and stuck diligently to his game plan with a majority of the hitters he faced in a Dodgers lineup that cannot be taken for granted.
A start like this locks him up for a few more looks at the back end of the Marlin's rotation. Unless something changes, expect Nicolino to start the first game of inter-league play with the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field next Tuesday.
While they mustered eight hits, the runs remained dormant for the entire game save the first inning. After back-to-back singles to lead off the game from Dee Gordon and Martin Prado, Giancarlo Stanton and Marcel Ozuna soon after netted themselves a pair of RBI singles which remained the difference in the game. Prado himself was 3-for-4 on the day, while Stanton was pitched around most of the game, earning himself two walks.
Scott Kazmir on the other side of things spun the best game of his 2016 campaign so far, after he escaped without massive damage in the first inning. He eclipsed 100 pitches for the first time and also allowed 3 or fewer earned runs for the first time this year.
Christian Yelich, whom the great Vin Scully has praised throughout this series on both side of the ball, was 0-for-3, leaving four runners on base in the process. This snapped the 7 game hitting streak Yelich had coming in, as he now has two, 7+ game hitting streaks just in the month of April. While his BABIP is about 100 points above his career average and last years mark, it is obvious that Yelich's approach early has been working, something the Marlins are savoring as they currently sit in the top 10 among all of baseball in both team AVG and OBP.
This game had no shortage of 'heart attack' moments late, as Marlins fans knew their bullpen was tired after a few consistent days of work on this extended West Coast road trip. So after a brief sigh of relief when Don Mattingly summoned David Phelps for what looked like a five-out save, the clenching of fists quickly resumed after he and his manager were tossed from the game after questioning a call just off the inside of the plate to lefty Joc Pederson.
There are a few angles to look at this situation from...
First, according to both the pitch tracker on the Dodgers broadcast (Sorry, I had to listen to Vin Scully guys!) and Pitch FX, the fastball Phelps questioned was just off the plate. It was also an identical pitch to the previous one, which was also called a ball. So as much as we may have wanted that call, Todd Tichenor (the home plate umpire) was consistent on that pitch, in that specific spot, during that at bat.
Second, although Phelps came off the mound after the walk with his hands up in displeasure, you could argue that Tichenor may have been a bit premature in tossing Phelps from the game. While umpires often strongly dislike any mannerism on the mound that edges on the side of 'showing them up', Phelps was not, in my humble opinion, being very disrespectful in his asking of why the pitch was called a ball.
In the end the ejections meant little as Jose Urena, notorious for his finicky control, got the job done without walking a batter and tallying two strikeouts.
Oh, and let's just say Justin Nicolino was as giddy as he looks in this picture, trying to bunt with a giant bat, after the Marlins bullpen held its ground...
The Marlins go for the sweep tomorrow. On the mound are Jose Fernandez and Kenta Maeda - definitely a must watch for baseball fans looking for a great pitchers duel!
Hero of the Game: Justin Nicolino (.441 WPA)
Goat of the Game: David Phelps (-.121 WPA)
Play of the Game: 8th inning, bases loaded, 2 outs, Jose Urena pitching, Adrian Gonzalez flies out to RF (-.146 WPA)