Midseason Superlatives: Some shine, struggle in Marlins’ first half
The Miami Marlins twice this weekend had opportunities to potentially take away a road win against the National League-leading Los Angeles Dodgers.
Instead, they’ll make their way to Chicago searching for their first win of this six-game, two-city road trip.
The three losses push the Marlins down to 36-61 on the year — eight games behind the Cincinnati Reds and New York Mets, the next closest teams to the NL cellar. Only three teams overall have worse records than the Marlins: The Baltimore Orioles (31-67), Detroit Tigers (30-65) and Kansas City Royals (37-64).
They stayed competitive on Friday and Saturday, holding the lead until the sixth inning in the series opener and furiously rallying back from a six-run deficit to tie the game in the eighth on Saturday.
But in the end, there wasn’t enough gas in the tank to defeat the Dodgers, the NL representative in the World Series for the past two seasons and are seven games ahead of the Atlanta Braves for the top spot in the NL at this point of the season.
Here are three takeaways from the Marlins’ series against the Dodgers.
Starting pitching takes its lumps
The Marlins’ key to success all season has been its starting rotation. If their starter can produce, they have generally been able to stay in games.
Zac Gallen did a serviceable job in the series opener on Friday, holding the Dodgers to two runs (one earned) on three hits and four walks in 5 1/3 innings.
The other two games were a different story.
Sandy Alcantara was rocked for six earned runs on seven hits (including two home runs) and didn’t make it past the fifth inning. Jordan Yamamoto gave up a career-high five earned runs over four innings and surrendered the first two home runs of his MLB career.
“Teams like this, they have a good club,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. “They force you to hit spots and make pitches. ... We weren’t able to do that.”
Saturday and Sunday marked the first time this season that Marlins starting pitching, a group comprised of pitchers all younger than 28, gave up five earned runs or more in back-to-back games.
It’s a reminder that while the Marlins’ young starting pitchers have been steadily consistent all year — their 4.03 ERA is in the top-10 of MLB — there is still room to grow and that ebbs and flows are to be expected, especially when facing one of the top teams in baseball.
Whiffs on whiffs
Save for their eighth-inning rally attempt on Saturday, the Marlins’ offense found little success against the Dodgers. All told, Miami hit .167 (16 for 96) with 39 strikeouts over the three games. The 39 strikeouts are the most by the Marlins in a three-game series this year.
The Dodgers three starters — All-Stars Hyun-Jin Ryu, Clayton Kershaw and Walker Buehler — combined to give up just one run on 11 hits while striking out 28 Marlins batters over 20 innings. The lone run came in the fourth inning Friday when Jorge Alfaro hit an RBI double to score Harold Ramirez. It was the first run of the series.
It doesn’t look like Miguel Rojas’ right-shoulder injury will keep him out of the lineup for too long.
Rojas got the day out of the lineup Sunday after leaving Saturday’s game in the fifth inning with a right-shoulder strain. The shortstop served as a pinch-hitter in the seventh inning on Sunday, hitting a first-pitch single through the right side.
“It was good just to know that we’re not looking at something that we can’t do anything with him,” Mattingly said. “Who knows how he’ll be tomorrow with the throwing, but I think after today, not having a fear of him hurting anything, it tells you that he’s moving forward.”
Rojas initially suffered the injury diving to his left for a ground ball in the second inning on Friday’s game. Rojas was shaking his right arm and grabbing at the shoulder while heading to the dugout.
During his first at-bat on Saturday, Rojas lost his balance and broke his fall with his left hand after swinging awkwardly at a 3-2 slider. He then shook his right arm as he left the field.
Rojas is hitting .283 with a career-best 21 doubles this season over 95 games. He started 80 consecutive games at shortstop before sitting out Sunday.
The Marlins quickly turn around to start a three-game road series against the Chicago White Sox to cap this six-game road trip. Miami is 6-9 all-time against the White Sox, including 3-5 on the road. The series will be the Marlins’ first at Guaranteed Rate Field since 2013.
The expected pitching matchups for the series are as follows:
▪ Monday: Trevor Richards (3-11, 4.24 ERA) vs. Ivan Nova (4-9, 5.86)
▪ Tuesday: Caleb Smith (5-4, 3.47) vs. Dylan Covey (1-5, 5.83)
▪ Wednesday: Zac Gallen (0-2, 3.63) vs. Reynaldo Lopez (4-8, 5.97)