Although most expect the Marlins and Chicago Cubs to finish at opposite ends of the spectrum by season’s end, they finished their season-opening series on Sunday in the exact same spot.
Dead even with identical 2-2 records.
Dillon Peters turned in six scoreless innings and the bullpen did the rest as the Marlins blanked the Cubs 6-0.
“It tells me we belong in the same league as the Cubs,” Peters said after leading the way in the Marlins’ shutout win over a team many are picking to win the World Series. “They’re a very good baseball team. They can hit the ball. We just outfought them today.”
Most are picking the Marlins to lose 100 games. Vegas oddsmakers have them listed as extreme long shots. And although a four-game series over the course of a 162-game season is a small blip in the big picture, it showed the Marlins might not be the pushovers everyone believes them to be.
“You hear all the jibber-jabber going on,” Marlins catcher Chad Wallach said of the the doubters. “We’re here to win every game. So we don’t let that get to us.”
Wallach snapped out of a hitting slump to deliver a key hit off Cubs starter Jose Quintana, one that broke a scoreless deadlock in the fifth and sparked a five-run uprising.
Wallach, who had gone 0 for 12 with eight strikeouts while stranding nine base runners in the process, delivered a one-out, opposite-field single off Quintana to score the game’s first run.
“It felt really good,” Wallach said, adding he tried to remain upbeat during his early season struggles. “It’s two games of the season. You’ve got 160 more left after that.”
Quintana had held the Marlins hitless through the fourth when Cameron Maybin’s leadoff double in the fifth ended the dry spell. Two batters later, Wallach sliced a single to right that put the Marlins on top.
Brian Anderson’s bases-loaded double later in the inning made it 5-0.
Meanwhile, Peters was doing his thing, flummoxing the Cubs with a heavy dose of off-speed pitches to keep their hitters off balance. The Cubs were able to put runners aboard but were never able to drive any of them in, going 1 for 9 with runners in scoring position.
“He was able to slow them down,” Mattingly said. “They’ a club you just can’t chuck fastballs in there. You’ve got to be able to slow them down [with his off-speed pitches].”
Said Wallach, who was behind the plate calling pitches: “He was really good today. He kept them on their toes, kept them off balance, and that’s what you have to do with a team like that, with that many good hitters in their lineup. You’ve got to keep guys guessing.”
Once again, the Marlins’ bullpen did magnificent work, blanking the Cubs over the final three innings to complete the shutout.
Sunday’s announced attendance of 10,428 marked the smallest in Marlins Park history. But new ownership is counting differently than the former regime, and Sunday’s crowd looked typical compared to past years.
Next up for the Marlins: A two-game series with the Boston Red Sox.
“We know we’re coming out of the box with two clubs that are extremely tough, two tams that are probably favored to be in the playoffs,” Mattingly said of the Cubs and Red Sox. “It’s not so much [we’re] 2-2, it’s the way we played, and that’s what I was happy about. We did a nice job this series. It’s early. We’re excited, and that’s going to have to continue.”
THIS AND THAT
▪ Trevor Richards will make his major-league debut for the Marlins on Monday when they face the Red Sox. Richards was the organization’s pitcher of the year in 2017 after being discovered in an independent league.
“We like his competitiveness,” Mattingly said.
▪ With their bullpen taxed from two extra-inning games in a row, the Marlins on Sunday called up right-handed reliever Severino Gonzalez. Gonzalez appeared in 34 games, seven of them starts, for the Phillies in 2015-16. To make room for Gonzalez, the Marlins optioned outfielder Braxton Lee to Triple A New Orleans and designated hard-throwing reliever Brian Ellington for assignment.