A batting average starting with a ‘1’ — especially this deep into the season — isn’t a pretty sight, and Marlins rookie Lewis Brinson said he has endured some light-hearted ribbing from his teammates about his sub-.200 figure for the better part of the year.
“We made a joke about it,” Brinson said.
But even though the young outfielder has struggled through a trying first season in Miami after arriving from Milwaukee in the Christian Yelich deal, he has kept his sanity about it.
Brinson is confident he is a much better hitter than his disconcerting numbers indicate, and when he returned from a lengthy, two-month stint on the disabled list on Sept. 1, he vowed to prove it.
To the Marlins and to himself.
Never mind that unsightly batting average beginning with a ‘1,’ which has stuck with Brinson like a skin sore since April and stares him straight in the face every time he steps into the batter’s box and looks up at the stadium scoreboard.
The way Brinson figured it, why not a ‘0?’
Why not just pretend it was Opening Day all over again? Why not imagine the first first four painful months never happened?
“I was just trying to clear my head and kind of start fresh,” Brinson said of his mindset when he returned to the lineup on the first of this month. “Throw the numbers out the window — make it a .000 average for me — and just play the way I know how to play and play the way I know I should play. That was the goal for me coming into this last month.”
So far, that thinking has seemed to work.
Though Brinson went hitless in four at bats on Saturday as Pirates pitcher Ivan Nova continued his dominance over the Marlins (he has gone 4-0 against the Marlins over his career with an ERA below 1.00), the results have been far better for Brinson this month than they were before a hip injury landed him on the DL.
Overall, Brinson has raised his average to .206 — above the so-called “Mendoza Line” — by going 11 for 26. The joking inside the dugout has quieted. Brinson is showing signs of becoming the player the Marlins thought they were getting when they dealt Yelich to the Brewers.
“I just had to find myself a little bit,” Brinson said. “You always want to play to the best of your abilities. But sometimes things don’t go your way. It’s just part of the game.”
Brinson isn’t the first promising young Marlin to take his early lumps.
Second baseman Luis Castillo, a future .300 hitter, stolen base champion and Gold Glove winner, was so awful in 1997 that the Marlins sent him down to the minors. First baseman Derrek Lee, who would help the Marlins capture the ’03 World Series and later win an MVP award with the Cubs, was sent down in in ’99 when he got off to a slow start.
The Marlins stuck with Brinson until an injury forced him to the DL.
“Luckily, I got off to a hot start coming back in September and trying to look to continue on that,” he said.
The remnants of a storm system that brought rain to South Florida on Labor Day followed the Marlins to Pittsburgh and forced the postponement of Sunday’s game game against the Pirates.
The game has been re-scheduled for Oct. 1, the day after the end of the regular season, but likely won’t be played once the Pirates are eliminated from the playoff picture.
More than likely, the Marlins will play 161 games for only the third time in a non-strike season. They also played 161 in 2000, 2008 and 2016.
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