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CHC 2, MIA 3; Miami gets first walk-off win of the season

An unlikely hero drove in the winning run to push the Fish back above .500.

Miami Marlins third baseman Jean Segura (9) celebrates after hitting a walk-off single during the ninth inning against the Chicago Cubs at loanDepot Park. Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

After dropping three out of four against the Atlanta Braves, the Marlins headed back to South Beach with Jesús Luzardo on the mound to see if they can beat the new-look Chicago Cubs.

After two rough outings for Luzardo, he really looked like himself against a good Chicago lineup which featured Dansby Swanson, Ian Happ, and Cody Bellinger. The 25-year-old Venezuelan gave up a homer early on in the game to Nelson Velazquez, but dominated the rest of the way, striking out six. He went 6 13 innings in which he punched out six Cubbies and gave up two runs. It was the longest start by any Marlins pitcher since April 5 (7.0 IP for Luzardo vs. the Twins).

“I feel like the last two—maybe three in the back half of that Phillies one—just started getting behind on guys and not attacking. So I feel like finding the first-pitch strike again was my biggest key,” said Luzardo following his outing against the Cubs.

The first run which Luzardo gave up was a homer to Nelson Velazquez, who was hitting ninth in the order. With a 101.4 mph exit velo, the Puerto Rican designated hitter gave the Cubs an early 1-0 lead.

A big issue not only with Luzardo, but with the entire Marlins pitching staff has been struggles the third time through the order. There are different ways to assess the third time through the order today for Luzardo.

After striking out Nico Hoerner, Dansby Swanson worked a walk and Ian Happ smacked a base hit. With runners on first and second, Seiya Suzuki grounded into a double play which got Luzardo out of a big jam.

The top of the seventh didn’t go in Luzardo’s favor, though. After Trey Mancini flew out. Cody Bellinger hit a triple to put himself in scoring position. Luzardo was removed from the game following the Bellinger triple. He was replaced by Huascar Brazoban, who allowed an RBI single to pinch-hitter and Cooper City native Eric Hosmer. That run would go to Luzardo’s final line.

Luzardo went more with the slider in his start, which is his second most-used pitch this season. His changeup usage was also up—Luzardo has thrown at a 19.6% rate in 2023, but he used it 25 times (26.0%) and it turned out to be the pitch that had a small tick up in velo. Luzardo topped out at 98.2 MPH. Despite the strong start, the two runs he gave up temporarily put him in line for the loss.

After a rough outing against the Los Angeles Dodgers where he gave up three homers and five earned runs, Marcus Stroman went 6 13 innings giving up six hits, two earned runs, and struck out three.

Stroman has a very deep pitch mix and used all six of his pitches tonight. He went sinker-heavy and also unexpectedly relied on the slider, which is a pitch he has used 5.9% of the time this year. Stroman also shied away from his slurve, which he only used seven times tonight, but has used it 26.1% percent of the time this season. Shying away from the slurve made sense for Stroman as the velocity was down and the spin rate was down 150 RPM.

“When Stro is on it’s tough to square the baseball, so Zeus had to go pitch for pitch with them,” said Manager Skip Schumaker on Marcus Stroman following the win.

The first run Stroman gave up began with Jesus Sanchez working the walk in which he then stole second base (his third stolen base of the season). Nick Fortes, who had been struggling this season, came up big with a base hit to move Sanchez to third. Jon Berti then grounded into a double play. Although this wasn’t an RBI for Berti, it scored run number one of the game for the Fish.

After the third inning, Stroman cruised through the next four innings until running into trouble in the bottom of the seventh inning. After Luis Arráez worked the walk, Avisail Garcia got a base hit to move him up Arráez to third.

With runners on the corners and one out, Jean Segura, who ended up being the player of the game, smacked an RBI single to tie the game up 1-1. The ball left the bat at 102.5 MPH that scored Arráez.

In the top of the ninth inning, the Marlins sent out closer A.J. Puk to keep the game at two apiece. Puk struck out Mancini and Bellinger to begin the inning, but ran into some trouble as Nick Madrigal (who entered the game as a pinch-hitter) and Yan Gomes hit back-to-back singles to put men on first and second. Nelson Velazquez, who had hit the solo homer in the top of the third inning, grounded into a force out which ended the inning.

That set the stage for the Marlins to walk the game off for the first time in 2023.

The bottom of the ninth began with Jorge Soler getting a base hit. He was replaced by Garrett Hampson to be the pinch-runner. Then, both Luis Arráez and Avisail Garcia were hit by pitches to load the bases for Jean Segura.

Segura was down 0-2 in the count when he got to Michael Rucker’s cutter and hit it right down the middle to give the Marlins a walk-off win.

“He’s one of the leaders in the clubhouse,” said Skip. “He’s the guy that tried to get everybody going no matter how frustrated he is. The guy loves to play baseball so when you see him out there frustrated it hurts you because how much it means to him and how passionate he is when he plays the game and the guy wants to play every single day and you know he’s going to come out on top of this thing.”

Skip then mentioned that it is just a slow start for Jean, but that he is starting to hit the ball very well and it is good to see “those sneak through finally, because if anybody deserves one of those four-hoppers through the infield, it’s definitely Jean.”

Manager Skip Schumaker’s postgame press conference

Miami is back at it on Saturday with Edward Cabrera on the mound against Caleb Kilian. The Marlins will be celebrating La Serie Del Caribe, which makes its way to Miami in 2024. Past stars such as Andruw Jones and Vladimir Guerrero Sr. will be in attendance for the celebration.