The Miami Marlins returned to the field on Tuesday for the first time since July 26, and pulled off one of the most improbable victories of the Derek Jeter era. Despite missing 18 players due to COVID-19, the Marlins shut out the Baltimore Orioles 4-0, thanks in large part to a dominant performance by pitcher Pablo López.
López, making his 2020 debut, threw a nearly flawless five innings. He struck out seven and allowed just two hits and zero walks.
Although López consistently tested negative for the virus, he and the rest of the healthy members of the team were disadvantaged—they had to stay isolated at their hotel in Philadelphia for six days prior to coming to Baltimore.
In the absence of his usual routine, López had to think of creative ways to stay physically sharp. He would throw socks into mattresses, pillows, and couches at max effort, for example. However, the 24-year-old said the hardest part was being alone in the hotel room for several days.
Prior to the season opener, López lost his father unexpectedly. He has spoken previously about how important his father was in his life both on and off the field.
Addressing the media postgame, López credited him with continuing to be a valuable resource in spirit:
“Finding myself alone in a hotel room in Philadelphia, I mean that really wore me out mentally. But it was also thinking about him that kept me going through it. I kept having conversations with him inside my head, and I know he was pushing for me while i was there, making sure I stay ready, and stay sharp. I owed it to him coming into today.”
Orioles pitcher John Means was also cruising through his start, until Francisco Cervelli launched a solo home run to right field to put Miami on the board. Jesús Aguilar had a home run of his own in the eighth inning, and Jonathan Villar scored on a Jon Berti single.
Those insurance runs weren’t even needed, however. After López was taken out after the fifth inning, recent acquisitions Richard Bleier and James Hoyt combined for two innings, no runs, one hit, and three strikeouts. After that, familiar faces Brad Boxberger and Brandon Kintzler shut the door in the final two innings to preserve the shutout for Miami.
“We knew we had a good group of guys,” manager Don Mattingly said. “This one felt good—we’ve been though a lot.”
In total, the Marlins placed 11 players on the injured list prior to Tuesday’s game, called up 10 players from their Jupiter squad, and made seven acquisitions via trades, waivers, or free agency. Five players made their Miami debut tonight, including the long-awaited arrival of Monte Harrison. Although his night at the plate was a tad disappointing (0-for-3, 3 K), he had a good game in the field, including a diving catch in center field to end the second inning.
The Marlins and Orioles continue their series Wednesday with a doubleheader beginning at 5:05 p.m. It is important to note that doubleheader games for the remainder of the 2020 season will only be seven innings each.