Don Mattingly on offensive woes: ‘I don’t think I’ve ever been through anything quite like this’
The Miami Marlins had reached the low point of this early part of the season.
Back-to-back shutouts at home to the Tampa Bay Rays signaled the continuation of their most recent losing streak, this one lingering for a season-long seven games.
“You always want to come [to the ballpark] feeling good,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said, “but when you’ve lost a few in a row and you’re not playing great, the energy’s not the same.”
The energy changed quite a bit around the Marlins’ clubhouse since those losses to the Rays.
The Marlins responded with arguably their best three-game stretch this season with a sweep of the New York Mets during the weekend, culminated by Sandy Alcantara’s 89-pitch complete-game shutout on Sunday. One game earlier, Pablo Lopez threw seven shutout innings to get redemption against a Mets team that peppered him for 10 runs just one start earlier. And all that came after an 8-6 series-opening victory in which the Marlins tagged reigning Cy Young Award winner Jacob deGrom for seven runs on nine hits to take him out of the game after just five innings.
“It’s great,” third baseman/right fielder Brian Anderson said of the wins. “It reminds everyone that it is possible here. You go through those tough stretches. It doesn’t seem hopeless by any means, but you get down on yourself. It seems a little bit tougher.”
Just how big was the series win, specifically the final two games when the Marlins held the Mets to just three hits? Consider these two points:
▪ The wins marked just the third time in Marlins history that starting pitchers threw at least seven shutout innings with two hits or fewer in consecutive games. The others: Jose Fernandez and Kevin Slowey against the Philadelphia Phillies in 2013 and Brad Penny and Jesus Sanchez against the Montreal Expos in 2001.
▪ The Marlins are the first team to hold their opponent to three or fewer hits during the course of back-to-back shutouts since the Phillies held the Atlanta Braves to three hits Sept. 1-2, 2014.This Marlins team is young. It’s going to face its growing pains and lose its share of games.
But for the first time this season, everything came together. They held their own. And the results ended in their favor.
“You know guys are battling every day,” Mattingly said. “We ask them to keep turning the page and focus on the next day, but when the wins don’t come, it’s harder and harder not to turn that page and have the past be a part of what you’re doing.”
And as those losing streaks continued — the Marlins (13-31) have had five different stretches with at least four consecutive losses this year — the team began to press.
“We’ve been trying to do a little too much,” shortstop Miguel Rojas said.
So this weekend, they simplified things. Went back to basics. Learned from their mistakes.
It paid off.
Their formula of quality pitching, solid defense and just enough timely offense resulted in three wins against the Mets.
The task now: Maintaining this momentum on the road.
The Marlins begin a seven-game road stretch Tuesday, with three games against the Detroit Tigers before playing four against the Washington Nationals.
“You hear the term ‘slow it down’ a lot, and really all that means is you’re processing everything that’s happening out there during that moment,” Mattingly said. “You may be on the road and the crowd is loud and the momentum may be turning, but you’re able to keep it realistic enough to have the situation under control. That’s where the younger guys don’t have as many experiences of being out there where you don’t have to give in. ... It’s important for guys to watch it, but a lot of it is just the experience of being out there and going through it.”