David Phelps pitched 1.2 perfect innings, striking out three batters in a nail biter as the Marlins edge the Pirates by a score of 3-2, buoyed by a clutch RBI double in the 8th inning off Adeiny Hechavarria's bat. While A.J. Ramos came on and successfully converted a save opportunity in the 9th inning after walking one batter, Phelps induced a double play with two runners on in a tie game, and then proceeded to strikeout the heart of the Pirates order in the 8th inning. He earned his fourth win of the season with this effort. Ramos notched his 17th save - moving him into a tie for 1st place across baseball with fellow NL East closers Jeurys Familia and Jeanmar Gomez.
Adam Conley's Gem
Conley toyed with a no hitter deep into a game for the second time this year. Eventually finishing with a line of 6 IP, 2 H, 3 BB, and 9 Ks. Andrew McCutchen broke up the date with history on a sharp single to center field with two outs in the 6th inning. Conley, a little distressed after the hard contact, then allowed a double to David Freese, but eventually navigated his way out of danger after a broken bat groundout by Starling Marte. While it was pretty clear that the 6th would be Conley's last inning of work, as his pitch count surpassed 100 for the third time this season, it was great to see a developing pitcher like himself keep his composure and get Marte after a couple loud foul balls on misplaced pitches. Definitely a productive start for the Marlin's lefty, Conley will likely get the Twins on the road early next week in his first look at inter-league play this season.
The Tale of Two Bullpens
While you may have expected me to delve into the three innings each bullpen pitched, the point I would like to make here is the 'uneasiness' that exists before getting to the clear 8th and 9th inning guys David Phelps and A.J. Ramos, a problem many teams face. Even though the perceived momentum may have shifted back to relatively even after Conley stymied the Pirates rally in the 6th, Kyle Barraclough and newly activated lefty Mike Dunn erased the chances of Conley's 4th win of the young season after combining for two hits, two walks, and two earned runs.
While three clean innings would have been much appreciated to ride a 2-0 victory into game four of the series, the Marlin's 28th win required a bit more elbow grease than expected. In the 7th, Barraclough walked Francisco Cervelli, allowed Josh Harrison to reach on a single, and then walked the bases loaded after striking out Sean Rodriquez on a 1-2 slider. Mattingly then went to the newly activated lefty Mike Dunn with the bases loaded and he relinquished a Matt Joyce two run single through the right side on an inside 3-2 fastball (The runs would be charged to Barraclough).
It's clear that the pieces are there for this bullpen to work, but for the time being, it hasn't been smooth sailing for the Marlins, even though they have been greatly successful in close games this year. With that being said, David Phelps has been an unbelievable addition to this team. When he steps on the mound, there is confidence that the lead will be upheld or the game kept even, which is exactly what he did tonight, mixing his cutter and fastball to dominance. The leash extends slightly for Ramos as he found his control after walking the leadoff batter in the 9th inning on 5 pitches. The slider that kept the fish in the game last night is what Ramos turned to in this bout after his fastball location yet again seemed to be slightly off in these pressure situations.
One More Thing...
It's great to see the Marlin's batting order back to normal, but Giancarlo Stanton is still visibly struggling after going 0-for-3 with two strikeouts and a walk in his return to the lineup. The most jarring incident was a very tough call on a 2-strike changeup that was clearly below his knees, to which he yelled twice in displeasure (I think at the umpire). While calls like this never seem to go your way in a slump, it would have been great to see a 2-for-4 night with a couple of bleeders to simply get Stanton's confidence back up. You may laugh, but to me he looks lost at the plate to some extent and tonight didn't help. Hopefully his bout with 'side soreness' is behind him, but unfortunately only time will tell.
Hero of the Game: Adam Conley (+.336 WPA)
Goat of the Game: Mike Dunn (-.223 WPA)
Play of the Game: 8th inning RBI double by Hechavarria with two men out off lefty Tony Watson (+.317 WPA)