In the wake of swirling trade rumors, Jeremy Hellickson of the Philadelphia Phillies spun an eight inning gem, holding the Marlins to just one run on five hits. Marcell Ozuna and Derek Dietrich both struck out twice versus the Phillie's righty, who racked up eight punch outs in total on 102 pitches.
Despite the loss, the Marlins still maintain sole possession of the second National League Wild Card with a 51-43 record. With a 10-5 mark in the month of July, the fish have also not lost back-to-back games in the month, a nice feat that they hope to keep in tact tomorrow.
Chen v Hellickson
A tale of two pitchers would be the best title for a game recap solely from a pitching perspective.
Marlin's hitters were off balance for each of the eight innings Hellickson worked through. His changeup - which I mentioned in the game preview as one of the best pitches in all of baseball this year - was used early and often, but only accounted for one of his eight strikeouts on the night. Hellickson's four-seam and two-seam fastballs stole the show, tallying six combined Ks on the night. His ability to throw his best off-speed pitch for a strike throughout the game, mixed in with his other pitches was masterful and one of the main factors to his success. Moving to 7-7 on the season, this will surely increase Hellickson's stock slightly as teams - like the Marlins - seek some pitching depth for the final two months of the season.
Wei-Yin Chen on the other hand did not look great. He finished with a line of 5.1 innings, 11 hits, 4 earned runs, and 5 strikeouts on 94 pitches, 70% of which resulted in strikes. Command wasn't the issue, as it has been for some other Marlin starters this season, but the ability to miss bats was. The biggest blow of the game came early, an opposite field homer off the bat of light hitting Tyler Goeddel. The play was reviewed and confirmed as a home run after some speculation of fan interference. Only two of the 11 hits went for extra bases, but the hit total still does not bode well for a pitcher with hopes of turning it around in the second half.
Analyzing the blow a bit more, Chen started the game with three fastballs to Peter Bourjous, eventually turning to a changeup on a two strike count that led to a single up the middle. After missing with a fastball to Goeddel, he turned to another heater and left it up, which the young Philly got a very good piece of the other way. Goeddel then came back up in the second and after seeing a first pitch slider, Chen again turned to heaters in succession, the second he lined to right for an early three run lead.
Chen has not been good this season, that's a fact. And as Neil Weinberg of Fangraphs wrote about in late June, '16 Chen has been pretty different than his career averages. To me one of the more concerning things is his inability to get left handed hitters out this season, a staple of many southpaw's game. His wOBA against versus righties has maintained steady for the most part this season, while his wOBA against versus lefties coming into the month of July jumped 50 points, from .250 to .300 when compared to last season. Oddly enough, this has come with a 7% drop in the amount of lefties he has faced (Pete Mackanin still stacked his lineup with all righties and switch hitters tonight). This on top of a dip in fastball velocity and slider depth makes for concern considering the Marlins have Chen locked up through 2020.
Nick Wittgren then allowed the fourth run charged to Chen in the sixth inning on a sacrifice fly by Peter Bourjos. This was the first inherited runner all season that Wittgren allowed to score. No doubt an impressive feat for a piece of the Marlin's bullpen that has arguably been overlooked. The 25 year old righty has an 84% strand rate and a 2.45 ERA in 29.1 innings.
Other Things to Note...
- Since little offense was produced in this game by the Fish, my usual breakout to talk about the Marlin's bats will be shortened to praise for Chris Johnson's ability to turn on an inside fastball. Even though the ball he hit out was only 90 MPH out of Hellickson's hand, it was an inside pitch, which looked initially like it would eat Johnson up. Instead, he parked it into the left field seats. His single two innings prior was the first baserunner of the game for the Marlins, as his average now sits at .244 for the year.
- Johnson's semi-regular playing time has been due to the absence of Justin Bour, who looks to be back sometime very soon. The Marlin's are leaning towards a rehab assignment, which would likely be a few games, making the earliest date he would return July 22nd, give or take a few days (I wouldn't be surprised to see an update on his status before Friday's game).
- The Marlin's finish up this four game series with the Phillies tomorrow at 7:05pm ET as Tom Koehler squares off against another young Philly pitcher, Jared Eickhoff. The Fish then travel back to Miami for a weekend series with the Mets, where Saturday's marquee matchup of Jacob deGrom versus Jose Fernandez should be a great one to watch.
Hero of the Game: Chris Johnson (+.107 WPA)
Zero of the Game: Wei-Yin Chen (-.185 WPA)
Play of the Game: Tyler Goeddel's 2-run HR in the 1st inning off Chen (+.158 WPA)