Neither offensive hero in the Miami Marlins’ two most thrilling wins of their three-game sweep of the Detroit Tigers this week would have been the obvious choice. Chad Wallach, who smacked the game-winning double in the 11th inning Tuesday, is a 27-year-old rookie, firmly entrenched as the Marlins’ backup catcher. Garrett Cooper, who smashed a go-ahead grand slam in the ninth inning of Miami’s 5-2 win Thursday, has spent the vast majority of his three-year Major League career on the injured list and hit his first MLB home run less than 24 hours earlier.
The current six-game winning streak, which the Marlins put on the line Friday against the Washington Nationals at 7:05 p.m., is easily the highlight of the season for Miami. For the Marlins’ young players, this is their first experience with extended success and they’re some of the ones driving the success.
“When you’re playing and you do some things to help your team win, it’s really a good feeling. You feel like you’re a part of it,” manager Don Mattingly said. “If you’re not doing anything — you’re out there, but you’re not getting hits and you’re not really doing enough — it is confidence-building when you get that big hit and you’re the guy that can drive in that run or make that play. That’s something that can propel your career.
“It’s not going to save you long-term — you’ve got to go out and be able to get yourself a good pitch to hit or make pitches and things like that — but I think there’s definitely breakthroughs for guys when they have some success and they’re in moments that help them in a game.”
All season, Miami (16-31) has looked for reliable hitters to help some more established players like Brian Anderson and Neil Walker steer the offense. Miniature breakthroughs from some of the first- and second-year players in the lineup have helped
Entering the four-game series against the Nationals (19-31) in Washington, Cooper has hits in four of the six games he has played during the winning streak. Wallach has hits in two of his three appearances. Rookie outfielder Harold Ramirez, who hit his first home run Wednesday, is 6 for 20 during the streak.
The individual moment isn’t always necessary the breakthrough. Sometimes its the result of the breakthrough.
“Eventually you’re going to get it and it may have come even before the one that you think it is,” outfielder Curtis Granderson said. “It could be different than what people anticipated and be more or less as impactful as you would assume.”
More importantly, the younger players now need to prove they can repeat it.
Mattingly can’t remember the moment he thinks of as his breakthrough anymore. There’s no clutch grand-slam or extra-inning hit he can point to as the moment he feels he arrived early on in his career with the New York Yankees.
What he remembers are the three- and four-hit games, and the three- or four-hit games he strung together.
“I think the biggest thing is that you start to feel like you belong,” Mattingly said, “and that’s really where the confidence comes from with the young guys.”
Marlins send backup catcher to IL
Three days after he was the hero in the Marlins’ 11-inning win against the Tigers, Wallach is heading to the IL.
Miami placed the rookie on the 10-day IL on Friday due to a concussion he suffered Tuesday in Detroit. The exact cause of the concussion isn’t certain, but multiple foul tips hit Wallach in the head at Comerica Park before he delivered his go-ahead double in extra innings. Mattingly said Wallach felt fine at the time and started to feel symptoms Wednesday. The catcher is now in concussion protocol and his trip to the IL is retroactive to Wednesday.
In Wallach’s place, the Marlins are bringing Bryan Holaday back to the Majors.
Holaday, who was Miami’s backup catcher in 2018, got beaten out for the backup job by Wallach in spring training and opted out of his contract, only to sign back with the team on a minor league deal a few days later. The catcher spent the first month and a half of the season with Triple A New Orleans before the promotion.
Holaday, 31, played 35 games for the New Orleans Baby Cakes, batting .247 with seven doubles, two home runs and a .385 on-base percentage.
“Things have been going really well,” Holaday said. “I’ve always said it’s been a great opportunity here and I’ve been excited to be a part of the organization. I’m just excited to be here.”
Holaday was not on the 40-man roster, so the Marlins had to make one additional move, designating outfielder Isaac Galloway for assignment.
This and that
▪ Riley Ferrell is slated to pitch two innings Saturday for the Baby Cakes. The relief pitcher, whom Miami acquired through the Rule 5 draft, is continuing his rehab from biceps tendinitis. The right-handed pitcher is currently on the 60-day IL and would have to be promoted to the Marlins when his rehab ends or he would be sent back to the Houston Astros.
▪ Julian Fernandez will pitch an inning Saturday at extended spring training in Jupiter. The relief pitcher is continuing his recovery from Tommy John surgery and is on the 60-day IL. The righty, whose fastball has been clocked at 102 mph, hasn’t pitched in live action since 2017.
▪ Jon Berti is still being held out of baseball activity until he is symptom-free. He was placed on the 10-day IL with an oblique injury Tuesday retroactive to Sunday.
▪ Slugger Peter O’Brien is progressing with baseball activity. The slugger has been on the IL since May 11 with a rib cage contusion.