Twenty-five days after leaving Miami for an exhibition game against the Atlanta Braves, the Marlins finally returned home to Marlins Park, and wasted no time in re-acclimating themselves to their friendly confines. Working off another gem of a start by Pablo López, the Marlins retained their spot atop the NL East standings with an 8-2 win.
López, who is one of only two starting pitchers remaining from the original Opening Day roster, had another extraordinary outing. Despite giving up a first-inning home run to Travis d’Arnaud and a fourth-inning RBI-double from Adam Duvall, López cruised through six innings. For the second time all season, he allowed zero walks, and threw 72 percent of his pitches for strikes. His changeup was literally unhittable. Not only did he allow zero hits off of that pitch, but he also induced 10 swinging strikes off that pitch (21 total).
WHAT A NIGHT FOR PABLO LOPEZ— Alex Fast (@AlexFast8) August 15, 2020
21 whiffs (career high)
10 whiffs on the change (ties career high)
8 Ks (career high)
Every one of these strikeouts is a masterpiece. pic.twitter.com/uBusccVbTW
The Marlins offense looked a tad quiet against Atlanta starting pitcher Kyle Wright for the first two innings. But things started to look up when Jonathan Villar drove home Magneuris Sierra on a bloop RBI-double to tie the game at 1-1. But that was just the beginning of the trouble for Wright. He walked the next two batters to load the bases for Brian Anderson, who also got walked to drive another run home.
Wright was pulled from the game in the next inning after opening the frame with a four-pitch walk to Eddy Alvarez. Overall, he issued six walks with just 3 completed innings. But the Fish were able to open the floodgates against an Atlanta bullpen that had ranked in No. 5 in Major League Baseball with a 3.22 ERA entering Friday.
With runners on first and third, and nobody out in the 4th inning, Sierra laid down a sacrifice bunt to try scoring Alvarez from third base. But when third baseman Johan Camargo looked like he was going to throw home, Alvarez retreated. Then, when he retreated, Camargo threw Sierra out at first base, allowing Alvarez to run home, breaking the tie once again. The Fish, up by a score of 3-2, would not let go of that lead for the rest of the night. Later in the inning, the Marlins had another situation with runners at the corners. Marlins manager Don Mattingly called for a double steal, which saw Villar steal second base. When d’Arnaud threw down to second base, Jon Berti stole home while the ball was still traveling across the diamond.
That wouldn’t be the end of the Marlins’ adventures on the basepaths, though. In the 6th inning, Sierra hit a routine line drive into right field, and stretched it out into an easy double. Sierra would later score on a single by Corey Dickerson. Although the Marlins have found success with the long ball this year, they have also been able to manufacture productive innings with small ball and heads-up baserunning.
“I think that’s what good teams do,” said Matt Joyce, who also had a couple of web gems out in left field on Friday. “You have to have multiple ways to be able to win a ballgame. Not just hit big home runs.”
After the stressful 14-11 victory on Wednesday night that saw their bullpen allow seven earned runs, the Marlins’ relievers answered on Friday night with three scoreless innings, combining to allow just two hits.
The Marlins and Braves go at it again on Saturday night at 6:10 p.m. Daniel Castano will make his second Major League start against left-hander Max Fried. Fried comes into the night with a 1.59 ERA in 22.2 IP.