We begin this Thursday recap with the controversial ending. Attempting to wriggle out of a bases-loaded jam in the bottom of the ninth and keep the Marlins alive for extra innings, closer Anthony Bass spotted his two-strike slider to Michael Conforto on the inside corner of the plate. Conforto couldn’t take the bat off his shoulders, but he extended his front elbow just enough to make contact, forcing in the decisive run.
Home plate umpire Ron Kulpa messed up and admitted as much afterward (h/t Anthony Rieber, Newsday). Conforto made no attempt to avoid the pitch—which was in the strike zone—and it should’ve been a called strike three. The play went to a review...but only to confirm that it was a HBP. The “judgement call” aspect of this is non-reviewable.
Everybody on the Marlins is understandably pissed about the outcome, including Sandy Alcantara:
this is unacceptable! F .... k https://t.co/aXIrskBVJk— Sandy Alcantara (@sandyalcantar22) April 8, 2021
However, the lion’s share of the responsibility for this loss falls on Bass (allowed game-tying solo homer to the slumping Jeff McNeil, then loaded the bases for Conforto) and the Marlins offense which couldn’t muster a single hit until halfway through the game.
- Nick Neidert—4.1 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 5 BB, 3 K (85 pitches)
- Taijuan Walker— 6.0 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 4 K (87 pitches)
What a shame that this overshadows Nick Neidert’s intriguing performance. Making his first-ever MLB start, Neidert faced a veteran-laden Mets lineup, arguably the toughest that we’ve seen from any Marlins opponent so far this season. He didn’t take any matchup for granted, mixing each of his pitch types—fastball, changeup, slider and curveball—multiple times during the very first inning.
The five walks he issued (25% of all batters faced) were uncharacteristic of Neidert. The former Marlins Minor League Pitcher of the Year has been acclaimed for his command, posting a miniscule 5.5% walk rate during his MiLB career. On this day, he frequently missed his location to the arm side with fastballs and changeups and rarely had success enticing the Mets to chase outside the zone.
However, Neidert kept New York off the scoreboard by avoiding the heart of the plate. In a pleasant surprise, his velocity peaked at 94.5 miles per hour.
Taijuan Walker posted zeroes on the scoreboard and in the hits column through 4 1⁄3 innings until Brian Anderson knocked a single to right field. But the Fish left him stranded.
Ross Detwiler replaced Neidert in the bottom of the fifth and Don Mattingly turned it into a double-switch, removing Jazz Chisholm Jr. in favor of Jon Berti at second base. The move initially looked like it would backfire when Detwiler hit a batter with a pitch, walked the next one and allowed a deep line drive to Dominic Smith.
Fortunately, Starling Marte came to his rescue.
Starling Marte saves the Marlins from disaster with a leaping catch pic.twitter.com/GRPzvgTwGb— Fish Stripes (@fishstripes) April 8, 2021
Trailing 1-0 entering the sixth, Berti wasted no time making his presence felt. He singled on the first pitch he saw from Walker, then scored the equalizer on Corey Dickerson’s double. With a 2-for-4 contribution, Dickerson quietly raised his wRC+ to 123 (similar to his pre-Marlins career mark). Batting with two outs, Jesús Aguilar ripped a go-ahead single to left.
Detwiler, Richard Bleier and Yimi García made quick work of the Mets in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings, respectively.
As was the case last week, Bass couldn’t locate his stuff. Betrayed by his splitter in his previous blown save against the Rays, the veteran right-hander declined to use it this time. The Jeff McNeil solo blast that evened the score at 2-2 was a sinker intended for the outside corner that mistakenly drifted into his wheelhouse.
- Anthony Bass, 2020: 2 HR in 25.2 IP
- Anthony Bass, 2021: 2 HR in 2.2 IP
Overall, the Marlins have been out-homered 10-2 by their opponents this season. This club is “better” than the 1-6 record would imply, but there is no quick fix. We discussed this topic further on the latest Fish Stripes Live.
The upcoming schedule is unkind to the Fish. Following Friday’s off day, they’ll pray that perennial NL Cy Young contender Jacob deGrom wakes up Saturday on the wrong side of the bed. Marcus Stroman is the Mets’ probable starter for the series finale while Miami is expected to try neophyte Paul Campbell.