Direly needing a shot in the arm on the heels of losing three-of-four, the Miami Marlins woke up to the tune of 14 runs in the second game of their doubleheader against the Washington Nationals.
The big bat, of course, would have to be Brian Anderson’s three homers in game two. Anderson now leads the team with nine for the season. But first things first.
After fighting their way tooth-and-nail into the National League playoff race, the Marlins seemed to be on the verge of losing their footing. After losing two-of-three to the bottom feeding Boston Red Sox, they dropped the first game of their five-game series against the defending Major League Champion Washington Nationals by a 5-0 final.
In that first game, the Marlins managed only a pair of base hits, a single each from Garrett Cooper and Jesús Aguilar. Sixto Sánchez (3-2) was uncharacteristically hittable, surrendering all five runs, all earned, on eight hits and a pair of walks in four innings. He struck out two, but his ERA climbed by more than a run, from 1.69 to 2.75. On the positive side, Josh A. Smith pitched two innings of perfect relief, striking out a pair of Nationals.
After that first contest, the Marlins stood just a game above .500, at 25-24 with 11 games remaining in the regular season. Their estimated playoff odds, recently as high as 80 percent after starting the regular season near zero, had tailed off to 60.6 percent, according to FanGraphs.
Game two didn’t start out swimmingly for the Marlins. Daniel Castano, making his sixth major league start, coughed up a two-spot before Miami got their first turn at the plate. Trea Turner and Juan Soto opened the game with a pair of singles, each eventually scoring (Turner on a Kurt Suzuki sacrifice fly, Soto on a Josh Harrison single). Corey Dickerson got one back in the bottom of the frame with a leadoff homer, his seventh of the year. Brian Anderson turned the trick as well, leading off the second with his seventh homer as well.
With the score knotted up at two each, the Marlins really poured it on in the third inning. Dickerson and Starling Marte hit back-to-back one-out singles, and Cooper loaded the bases with a walk. Nate starter Wil Crowe then walked Aguilar to force Dickerson home. Then lifted in favor of Kyle McGowin, Crowe was still on the hook for the three runners on base. Miguel Rojas knocked a run home, then Lewis Brinson collected a two-run single to make it 6-2.
BRIAN ANDERSON. WITH. THE. HAAATTYYYY. pic.twitter.com/Qa4Coekwgq— Miami Marlins (@Marlins) September 19, 2020
The Nationals got a run in the fifth on another Soto single, but Miami had an answer in the bottom of the frame. Cooper led off by getting HBP, and Aguilar drew a walk. Anderson then clocked his second homer of the night and eighth of the season to make it 9-3, good guys. In the next inning, he went deep again with another three-run shot. The blast gave him seven RBI in the game, and the Marlins scored twice more before the Nats got their final chance in the seventh. It was Anderson’s first career three-homer game, joining Mike Lowell and Cody Ross as the only players to ever accomplish that feat with the Marlins.
Castano was charged with all three Washington runs, on five hits in 4 1⁄3 innings. He walked zero and struck out three. Brad Boxberger pitched a perfect sixth inning, striking out a pair of Nats, and Nate Vincent got through the seventh even though he allowed a leadoff walk. Merely a flesh wound in the grand scheme of things.
The Marlins are now firmly in charge of their own playoff fate, sitting in second place in the tough National League East by a game over the Philadelphia Phillies. The Atlanta Braves, still three games ahead, need to face the Marlins four more times as the season comes to a close. As to a possible first-round matchup, it seems most likely Miami winds up with the coveted eight-seed and a date with the N.L. leading Los Angeles Dodgers. Now at 26-24, the Marlins should probably be expected to finish out within a game of 31 wins, one way or the other.
The story changes with a bit of a hot streak to end the season. The Marlins could end up as with the third seed and draw the San Francisco Giants or St. Louis Cardinals in a best-of-three series. Still, it bears repeating that in a best-of-three set, anything can happen. It also bears repeating that every time the Marlins have managed to get into the postseason they’ve also won the World Series.