Brian Anderson is done being patient. He has been done with it for a little while now and so have most of the Miami Marlins. Their start to the season — a historically awful opening quarter offensively — is quickly becoming a distant memories and swings like Anderson’s in the top of the third inning Wednesday keep pushing those frustrating memories into the past.
In those first 41 games, the Marlins now realize they were mostly too passive at the plate, too set on waiting for the perfect pitch to slap out to center field or hit the opposite way. The approach is different now for Miami, so Anderson was ready to pounce on Jimmy Nelson when the bases were loaded. The starting pitcher left a 92-mph fastball hanging right over the middle of the plate and Anderson quickly snapped an early tie, sending his first career grand slam 446 feet to left-center field for the biggest blow in the Marlins’ 8-3 win against the Milwaukee Brewers.
“We’re going up there ready to hit, ready to hit early and that’s kind of paying dividends,” Anderson said. “Guys can’t just leave stuff over the middle and expect to get away with it.”
The grand slam was Anderson’s seventh home run of the season and his second homer in as many days. Miami has now homered 23 teams in its last 18 games after belting just 24 in its first 41 games of the season. The Marlins offense, which averaged just 2.6 runs per game for the first quarter of the season, is averaging six runs in the same 18-game stretch. Miami (23-36) is 13-5 since a 10-31 start and playing at a 117-win pace since those first 41. The win Wednesday gives the Marlins their fifth series victory in their last six.
As good as Miami’s pitching remains — and starting pitcher Sandy Alcantara delivered seven-inning gem with five strikeouts and only five hits allowed — everything begins with the offense, which has unloaded for 24 runs in the Marlins’ first two games of a three-game series against the Brewers (34-28) in Milwaukee.
“Obviously the grand slam gives you a little cushion,” manager Don Mattingly said, “then we were able to just kind of tack on a few and make it an easier game for us.”
Nelson started opposite Alcantara (3-5) and walked to the mound to a standing ovation from the 26,615 at Miller Park. Nelson (0-1) made his first MLB appearance in 21 months after a devastating shoulder injury in 2017 and pitched with mixed results for two innings. An error cost him a run in the first inning and the Brewers managed to get it back in the second before the right-handed pitcher unraveled in the third.
It began with a leadoff walk to Alcantara, then a double down the right-field line by Curtis Granderson and another walk to fellow outfielder Garrett Cooper to load the bases. A pitch later, Anderson turned a 1-1 tie into a 5-1 lead for Miami.
“As a group, we did a really good job today taking advantage of mistakes, laying off of his pitches, and really getting those mistakes and driving them,” Anderson said. “I think guys are just kind of understanding what kind of hitters they are, and they’re getting those mistakes and they’re not missing them right now.”
Anderson was as responsible for Miami’s early-season struggles as any individual hitter could be. The slugging third baseman, who finished fourth in National League Rookie of the Year voting in 2018, started the year 6 for 42 — worse than any stretch he had in his rookie season — and was stuck on two home runs until the second half of May.
He set up the Marlins’ first run in the top of the first, doubling to the gap in right-center field to move Granderson over to third and let second baseman Starlin Castro bring the outfielder home with a groundout. After his third-inning slam, Anderson gave Miami an insurance run with leadoff walk in the fifth, a stolen base and, with the help of a throwing error, another run on a sacrifice fly by Castro. In his last 15 games, Anderson is 18 for 58 with four doubles and five home runs, and the Marlins are playing like one of the best offensive teams in the Majors.
The result has been a total flip from what made sense entering Miami’s latest three-game swing through the Midwest. The Brewers began the series sitting alone atop the NL Central standings with one of the five best offenses in the league. Their opponent arrived in Wisconsin with fewer runs than any other team in the Major Leagues, deep in the NL East cellar.
No matter the result Thursday, the Marlins will go back to South Florida no longer the sport’s unquestioned laughingstock. Miami passed the Detroit Tigers in runs Wednesday and have thoroughly pummeled the NL runner-up from a season ago in its own stadium.
For the first time since the first week of the season, the Marlins aren’t on pace to lose 100 games.
“We know that team is like a superstar team,” Alcantara said, “and we try to win the game and try to win the series.”