MIAMI, Fla. — The day-to-day rollercoaster that Marlins fans have been riding this season isn’t something that the team is unaware of. Prior to Tuesday night’s game, Marlins CEO Derek Jeter, GM Kim Ng, and manager Don Mattingly referenced the team’s inconsistent production this season. The last few games have captured this perfectly.
- Friday (1-0, L): The bullpen was lights-out, but the bats were fast asleep.
- Saturday (3-2, W): Pitchers were strong, Cooper came alive at the plate. Marlins win.
- Sunday (8-7, L): Starter pitched well, bats came alive, bullpen faltered late.
- Monday (5-4, W): Rogers kept the Dodgers to two runs, situational hitting, aggressive baserunning, Alfaro homers, bullpen holds the lead. A true team effort win.
In talking with the media pre-game, Ng said: “Last night was a good example of the team we think we can be.” They’re sitting under .500 but they feel like they’re better than the end results. If the NL East wasn’t in the state that it currently is, the Marlins optimism could be called foolish. But, like manager Don Mattingly noted pre-game, the division is still up for grabs if a team can string wins together.
Coming into Tuesday, the Marlins were just 9.0 games back from the division lead. The Mets are the only team in the division above .500, but they have the lowest winning percentage of all first-place teams. The NL East hasn’t lived up to the preseason expectations of being one of the best divisions in baseball, but that’s a good thing for this Marlins team who is taking it one game at a time.
In a pitching duel against the defending champion Los Angeles Dodgers, the Marlins finally got some luck to go their way. Thanks to a misplay and errant throw by the Dodgers’ defense, the Marlins squeaked out a 2-1 win against Los Angeles, their second win against them this series.
On the Mound
Not counting that one low-90s fastball in Atlanta, Pablo López had 10 days between his last start and tonight’s game. When asked after the game about starting tonight after an extended rest between regular outings, López said that while his normal routine was disrupted, he was able to make adjustments that helped him show up today feeling good and he was able to “throw 91 pitches with good conviction and confidence.”
The right-hander came out pumping 94 MPH fastballs to Dodgers’ lead-off man Mookie Betts, then put him away with an 88 MPH changeup that Betts had no chance with.
Pablo López, 94mph Fastball and 88mph Changeup, Overlay. pic.twitter.com/UHYXrIXVx5— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) July 6, 2021
That strikeout was the first of eight for López against the Dodgers on Tuesday. He struck out the side twice over his four innings of work, but neither were clean one-two-three innings. In the second, Gavin Lux reached base when Jesús Aguilar’s lob to first base sailed over López’s head.
The basepaths were much busier in the fourth inning. Coming into the inning, López had thrown 55 pitches. On the 12th pitch of the at-bat, Cody Bellinger singled to center but, with an assist from a Garrett Cooper two-base error, the 2019 NL MVP ended up on third base with no outs. Bellinger on a base hit and although no other runs scored, the bottom of the Dodgers’ order worked the count and fouled off pitches in what would prove to be López’s final inning. He struck out the side, but faced a total of seven batters in the fourth inning and threw an additional 36 pitches. At 91, his night would be over.
Of his eight total strikeouts, six of them came on the changeup. López was feeling the offspeed pitch. He threw it 36% of the time, higher than his average usage of 26% on the season. The changeup got two called strikes and nine whiffs. 33% of López’s changeups were either a called strike or whiff (CSW%), which was the highest rate for any of his pitches on Tuesday.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the right-hander’s at-bat in the third inning. He drove a double into the right field corner for the team’s first hit of the game. The double had a 110.5 MHP exit velocity, good for the hardest hit ball of the night and his first barrel of the season.
Out of the ‘Pen
The bullpen has been running on empty the last few games, but they were able to churn out productive innings and wait for the offense to break through. After a four-inning start on Tuesday, six bullpen arms each took an inning and pitched fantastic:
- Steven Okert pitched a clean fifth inning.
- Anthony Bass walked and struck out one batter in the sixth inning.
- Dylan Floro allowed one walk, one single, and struck out two in the seventh inning.
- Richard Bleier allowed a single, issued an intentional walk, and struck out one batter in the eighth inning.
- Yimi García allowed two hits and walked one batter, but got the help of his defense for a double play in the ninth inning.
- David Hess allowed one hit and evaded the extra-inning inherited runner in the tenth inning.
At the Dish
It was another low-scoring affair for the Marlins on Tuesday. The first time through the order was uneventful until López got the team’s first hit. Through five innings, the Marlins had only reached base three times and all were left stranded.
A spark of offense came from Starling Marte in the sixth inning. He singled, stole second base, and scored on a Jesús Aguilar single. The Marlins threatened further with a double by Miguel Rojas in the sixth and with a few singles in the ninth inning, but they couldn’t break the tie.
Marte’s aggressiveness on the basepaths was the turning point for the team. He stole his 15th and 16th bases of the season, but the aggressiveness continued into the bottom of the tenth inning.
After making the last out in the ninth, Marte started the tenth inning on second base. With two outs, he took off for third on a 1-0 low slider that catcher Will Smith couldn’t handle. Smith, rushing the throw, bounced it by the third baseman and Marte took off for home. The walk-off wild pitch and throwing error gave the Marlins the win in game two of their series against the Dodgers.
It was another example of a full team effort win for the Fish, and it snapped the Dodgers’ streak of winning 30 consecutive games when leading after five innings.
Game three of this four-game series resumes Wednesday night, at 7:10 pm. Both teams have said it will be a “bullpen game.” Using six relief pitchers apiece in this previous contest could make things interesting and complicated.