It was bound to happen one of these days. The bullpen, already projected to be a weakness for the Marlins entering the 2020 season (when nearly everybody healthy), was hit especially hard by last month’s COVID-19 outbreak. The front office scrambled to fill out the active roster with waiver claims, trades and call-ups, but those arms were available for a reason: untrustworthy in major league games, unprepared for the challenge or both.
Painfully but predictably, the reinforcements imploded Wednesday night against the Blue Jays at Sahlen Field in Buffalo. AND YET the Marlins overcame their mistakes to split the series with a 14-11 win in 10 innings, snapping a three-game losing streak and padding their lead atop the NL East standings.
Marlins win?!??! Barely but yeah— Fish Stripes (@fishstripes) August 13, 2020
20% of the regular season in the books and the Fish are still in first place! RT if you're ready for them to get back to Miami. pic.twitter.com/5WGR7VdQKj
The first three innings were extraordinarily successful for the Fish. Blue Jays top prospect Nate Pearson “didn’t have it” in his third career MLB start, unable to locate his fastball precisely and seldom getting chases on his secondary pitches. Brian Anderson blasted a 97 mile-per-hour heater to left field in the top of the first to plate three runs.
The floodgates opened in the third. Pearson loaded the bases, then forced in a run by walking Eddy Alvarez (the former speed skater’s first career run batted in). Down 4-0, the tall right-hander exited having only struck out one of the 16 batters he faced. With two outs in the inning, Magneuris Sierra kept the rally alive with a sharp grounder to Vladimir Guerrero Jr. first base, beating him to the bag on what was ruled a fielding error (but Sierra’s elite speed undoubtedly played a role). Miami stretched the advantage to 8-0—building their largest lead of the season—before the final out was recorded.
Then, Jordan Yamamoto allowed a home run. And another one. Nick Vincent relieved him in the fourth, initially taking care of business, but allowing a long ball of his own in the fifth. Brian Moran got taken deep. So did James Hoyt. Rock-solid Brad Boxberger, in the span of three pitches, served up back-to-back jacks to Bo Bichette and Travis Shaw, which tied things up at 11-11.
It was 8-0...— Toronto Blue Jays (@BlueJays) August 13, 2020
Then, we circled the wagons pic.twitter.com/tjcvGyxKya
Well-rested Brandon Kintzler notched four outs to restore order and force extra innings for the second consecutive night.
Ironically, in a game where homers nearly fueled a historic comeback, the decisive runs scored via small ball. Jon Berti’s bunt single, Sierra’s soft liner into the gap, Jonathan Villar’s sacrifice and Jesús Aguilar’s knock to the opposite field combined to make it 14-11.
With few alternatives, Don Mattingly tasked Josh A. Smith with closing duties (a week removed from starting a game for them in Baltimore). He settled down after a leadoff walk to seal the victory.
Next up, an off day to travel back to Miami for Friday’s true home opener. That matchup between the Marlins and Braves will feature probable starters Pablo López and Kyle Wright. First pitch at 7:10 p.m. ET.