The Miami Marlins started the 2020 season on a high note after winning two out three games on the road against the Philadelphia Phillies. The Fish started the season with their first Opening Day win since 2014. It was also the first Opening Day win for the Marlins in the Bruce Sherman-Derek Jeter era.
The Phillies tied the series with a 7-1 win on Saturday in which the Phillies clubbed four home runs. The Marlins then had an opportunity to steal a series from a division rival with one of their most experienced pitchers. However, that did not end up happening.
Less than two hours before the first pitch, news broke that José Ureña tested positive for COVID-19 and couldn’t pitch in the series finale. It also came out that infielder Garrett Cooper and outfielder Harold Ramirez also tested positive for COVID-19. The Fish had four players test positive on this trip when including starting catcher Jorge Alfaro, who got the news prior to Friday’s game.
Nonetheless, the Marlins were able to win the series over the Phillies. There were a number of positives to take away from the first series of the 2020 season.
1. Sandy Alcantara was stellar
The Miami Marlins named All-Star right-handed pitcher Sandy Alcantara the team’s ace just days before the season started. Alcantara had often shown his nasty stuff but just needed to work on command. The 24-year old Dominican pitcher did just that on Opening Day by pitching a gem against a very talented Phillies lineup. Alcantara threw 6 2⁄3 innings, allowing three hits, one run, two walk and seven strikeouts.
He threw his sinker much more than the season before, and it got tons of swings and misses. Alcantara’s sinker can get up to 98 mph with tons of arm-side movement. The pitch can be deadly against right-handed hitters as the ball cuts away from the barrel and gets in on their hands. His changeup, slider and fastball were also working in this game.
He made one mistake in the game, and newly-acquired shortstop Didi Gregorius made him pay for it with a solo home run to right field.
If the Marlins can get more of that Sandy, it’s going to make them tough to beat with the 2019 All-Star on the mound.
2. The Marlins’ bats came alive
Miami spent most of its offseason picking up veteran bats that could help improve their offense. They also hired James Rowson as the team’s “offensive coordinator” and promoted Eric Duncan to hitting coach.
The James Rowson Effect could immediately be felt as the Fish had an offensive series to remember. During the series versus the Phillies, the Marlins scored 17 runs and also hit five homers. Power was one of Miami’s biggest weaknesses in 2019, but the team really relied on it in the comeback series-clinching win on Sunday.
The veterans definitely made an impact for the Marlins during the series. Jesús Aguilar went 3-for-12 in the series including two home runs, three RBIs and two walks. Corey Dickerson also had a solid series as he went 4-for-13 with a double, solo home run and a .923 OPS.
Brian Anderson had a productive series as he went 3-for-10 with a three-run home run in the series finale and also walked twice. There was also another starter that had an absolutely terrific start to the 2020 season.
3. Miguel Rojas is on fire
One of the reasons for the Marlins strong 2020 start is the play of their starting shortstop Miguel Rojas. The 31-year old Venezuelan was outstanding against the Phillies. He batted .700 with seven hits, a three-run home run and a 2.050 OPS over the three games.
Rojas also made a web gem in the second game to turn a double play. After fielding the ball, he took it himself to second and made a jump throw to first to compete the twin killing. The picture of Rojas’s jump throw shows him with his legs spread open reminiscent of the Air Jordan logo. It’s pretty fitting since Rojas is a Jordan guy and wears his cleats.
In the series finale, Rojas was just a double away from completing the cycle which has never been done in Marlins history. Rojas had two opportunities to complete the cycle, but he was hit by the pitch the first time and struck out the next.
The Marlins were very pleased with Rojas’s performance in Philadelphia as the series win might have not happened without him. There’s a reason Jeter and the Marlins front office extended Rojas for two more seasons—he’s a player that can produce with the glove and bat. Rojas is also one of the team’s leaders and does a good job of showing the rest of the young players what it takes and how to act like a professional baseball player, both on and off the field.