With back-to-back shutouts in the series opening doubleheader in their rear-view mirror, the Miami Marlins were looking to make a statement in game-three of their four-game set against the New York Mets on Wednesday.
With his fifth start of the season and 26th overall, starting pitcher Elieser Hernández came in with 25 strikeouts in 19 2⁄3 innings of work in 2020. He had allowed a dozen hits, an opposing batting average of .153, and only walked three for a 0.763 WHIP, boasting a 2.29 ERA and a 3.36 FIP. A Venezuelan native, Hernández is still only 25-years-old.
The Marlins entered the game with a 36.3 percent chance to make the postseason at 14-11, per FanGraphs. The same system has the Mets, at 12-16, with a 53.3 percent chance. A lot of that is due to the remaining strength of schedule, which still has the Marlins with one of the toughest. With an opposing win percentage of .524, the Marlins trail only the Colorado Rockies, at .532 in the category.
The Marlins went down harmlessly in the first to two-time defending National League Cy Young Award winner Jacob deGrom, including a Jon Berti strikeout. Hernández wasted little time adding to his seasonal K-total, whiffing Brandon Nimmo on a full count. After allowing back-to-back one-out singles to Michael Conforto and J.D. Davis, he seemed on the verge of escaping the jam by inducing an infield fly from Dominic Smith. Robinson Canó had different plans.
The Canó ground-rule double plated Conforto, but Hernández stranded Davis and Canó on a Pete Alonso grounder to limit the damage to one run. So much for a series-shutout.
deGrom continued to have the Marlins’ number in the second, collecting another pair of strikeouts. Although he walked two in the first two innings, the Marlins were unable to collect so much as a single. Hernández got a strikeout and allowed a hit in the second, but the score remained 1-0.
deGrom opened the third frame with three strikeouts on 12 pitches. Conforto doubled the Mets’ lead in the bottom of the inning with a leadoff home run on the eighth pitch of his at bat. With the Marlins struggling to get as much as a hit off deGrom, it was beginning to look like a bad night for the good guys.
Matt Joyce opened the fourth inning for the Marlins by getting the first safe base-hit off deGrom. He popped a ball out to short-left field, where four Mets converged but none could make the catch. Joyce took second on the play, and later made them pay by coming home on a Corey Dickerson groundout. It was Dickerson’s seventh RBI of the campaign, to go along with his slowly rising batting average, .262 to start the game.
With a 2-1 lead, the Mets added another when Nimmo led off the fifth inning with a homer off Hernández. For those keeping track, it was his eighth earned run allowed in 2020, and the fifth home run surrendered. Hernández walked Conforto, then struck out Davis. Davis, however, got to first when Jorge Alfaro couldn’t corral the final strike of the at-bat. With runners on the corners, one in and still no outs, Marlins manager Don Mattingly turned to the bullpen in the guise of Brandon Leibrandt.
Leibrandt’s very first pitch was hit by Smith, a tailor-made double-play ball to to Villar. He didn’t come up with it cleanly, and instead had to go to first. Conforto scored on the play to make it 4-1. Cano then flew out, and Alonso was intentionally walked to get to Jeff McNeil. The small bit of strategy worked nicely, as McNeil flew out on his first pitch. In total, Leibrandt threw three pitches for three strikes and got three outs, not counting the intentional walk.
In the meantime, deGrom continued to mow the Marlins down, collecting a dozen by the end of the sixth inning. Jesús Tinoco came on in relief for the Marlins to face New York’s 8-9-1 in the order. He issued a walk but only faced three batters. deGrom struck out two more in the seventh, finishing his night with 14 in total. He put 67-of-104 offerings over the plate, a 64.4 percent strike-rate.
Justin Wilson opened the seventh for the Mets, and allowed as many hits through his first two batters as deGrom did in seven innings. It seemed that all the Marlins needed was a pitcher who isn’t deGrom. Alfaro and Villar opened the inning with consecutive singles, and after a Miguel Rojas lineout, Berti singled into right field to load the bases.
Pinch-hitter Jesus Sánchez, just one for his first 20, came in to pinch hit for Joyce and struck out on three pitches. Aguilar followed with a grounder straight to the shortstop, but was awarded an RBI-single when Amed Rosario couldn’t get a handle on it.
Bases still loaded, Dickerson pushed the run home with an easy RBI by drawing a walk. Would you believe the Marlins tied it when Anderson drew a walk right after that?
Lewin Díaz ended the unlikely rally by flying out to center field for the final out.
Unfortunately for the Marlins, the Mets came back against reliever Nick Vincent in the bottom half of the eighth, scoring a run on a pair of hits to retake the lead. Brad Brach struck out Alfaro to start the ninth, then walked Villar on four pitches to give the Marlins a glimmer of daylight. Villar quickly attempted a steal of second base and was initally called safe. On review, it was taken away, leaving the Marlins with one chance left.
Jonathan Villar easily arrives at 2B in time to steal the base, but doesn't TAG the base. McNeil's foot got in the way. pic.twitter.com/quZjzOTdq6— Fish Stripes (@fishstripes) August 27, 2020
Miguel Rojas then drove a 2-1 pitch into left-center field for out number three, ending the chance of a Marlins comeback. The loss drops the Marlins to 14-12 and raises the Mets to 13-16. Miami gets another shot to claim the four-game set tomorrow night at 7:10 PM EDT.
Nobody on the Marlins collected multiple hits, and the only extra-base hit was Joyce’s to lead off the fourth inning. The Mets out-hit the Marlins, nine-to-six. Although he allowed four runs in total, Hernandez did strike out seven in four innings. He gave up seven hits and a walk, while placing 68-of-96 in the zone for a 70.8 percent strike rate. Tinoco and Leibrandt combined for three innings of zero-hit relief, and Alfaro showed off his arm with a solid throw to nab Conforto trying to steal second base in the eighth.