Miami Marlins

Two debuts, two wins: Marlins’ rally as another encouraging pitching prospect shines

Marlins pitcher Pablo Lopez talk about his first career win

Miami Marlins prospect Pablo Lopez talks about winning first career start.
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Miami Marlins prospect Pablo Lopez talks about winning first career start.

Pablo Lopez didn't enter his first major league start as highly regarded as Sandy Alcantara.

But Lopez's performance Saturday served notice as to the kind of depth the Marlins are building in their farm system.

Lopez held his own against the Mets allowing two runs on a pair of solo homers over six solid innings, and the Marlins helped him secure his first career win despite opposing Mets ace Jacob deGrom in a 5-2 victory.

With Lopez winning a day after Alcantara won his first career start, the two rookies became the first National League pitchers to accomplish that feat on consecutive days since the Reds' Gary Nolan and Mel Queen on April 15-16, 1967 (according to Stats LLC).

"I thought we saw both kids with composure," Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. "Both kids from the standpoint of size and both can pitch with power and at the beginning of their growth process. They look like guys you can depend on. Obviously it’s a start and there’s promise there so it will be up to us as an organization and up to them to continue to get better. "

The Marlins (34-50) finished June with a 14-14 record - their best record in a month this season.

Lopez, a 22-year old Venezuelan right-hander who won his debut on Venezuelan Heritage Day, was pitching at the Single A level a year ago.

"It's something I will cherish for the rest of my life," Lopez said. "Having the opportunity to play at this level is already something magical and special doing it at this level with these teammates and this atmosphere is unbelievable."

Ranked the Marlins' 20th overall prospect by, well below Alcantara's No. 2 ranking, Lopez showed glimpses of the pitching arsenal that’s helped him rise so quickly through the Marlins’ organization.

Lopez gave up six hits overall, but only three extra-base hits including the home runs by Jose Bautista (in the first inning) and Todd Frazier (in the sixth inning) that gave the Mets a 2-0 lead. He struck out five, his lone walk was intentional and showed off a solid four-seam fastball and changeup that he used to get seven of his 10 swinging strikes overall and induce nine ground ball outs.

"I was really impressed with his composure," J.T. Realmuto said. "He came in just attacking guys with his stuff. It didn't seem like he was scared of anybody. Pounding the zone. Worked a quick pace, and pitched with great stuff. It was exciting to watch."

The Marlins acquired Lopez in the trade with the Seattle Mariners for David Phelps in the summer of 2017. A year later, Lopez has an opportunity to pitch his way into a lasting spot in the Marlins’ rotation.

"There was a lot of yelling and screaming over the course of the winter, but from Derek [Jeter] to Mike [Hill], we’ve talked about building something with pitching," Mattingly said. "These guys seem like they’re a long way away in A-Ball but then they’re knocking on the door and you get a look at what they could be."

Marlins vs Mets_SN114
Miami Marlins starting pitcher Pablo Lopez (49) faces the New York Mets in his MLB debut at Marlins Park in Miami, Saturday, June 30, 2018. Sam Navarro

With deGrom shutting out the Marlins for five innings on only 57 pitches, Miami’s bats woke up in the sixth when Brian Anderson belted his fifth home run of the season to tie the game at 2.

Justin Bour walked two batters later and Starlin Castro singled. The Marlins then took the lead for good when JT Riddle reached on an infield single to score Bour. Riddle hit a slow roller up the first base line, ran around Wilmer Flores as he went to field it and kept himself in the baseline.

"Right when I hit it, I thought, 'I've got a chance to beat it out,'" Riddle said. "Off the bat, you see it's kind of like a swinging bunt. It's kind of in no man's land. Run hard, try to beat the first baseman."

Realmuto added some insurance in the seventh with a two-run double off Robert Gsellman.

Kyle Barraclough recorded his eighth save of the season and extended his career-best scoreless inning streak to 20 2/3 innings. Drew Steckenrider extended his own such streak to 15 2/3 innings with a scoreless eighth and became the Marlins' first pitcher ever to make 14 or more appearances without allowing a run.

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