The Miami Marlins didn’t give Don Mattingly an two-year contract extension Friday because of the wins he piled up on the field in 2019. The Marlins didn’t expect to contend for a playoff berth or even seriously threaten a winning record this season. Miami’s plan was always to build for the future and it needed a manager capable of relaying the organization’s vision to a mostly young roster.
It is undeniable the Marlins played hard in a mostly miserable season. It’s why Derek Jeter, Michael Hill and Bruce Sherman all decided to bring him back for at least two more seasons beyond this one to see through the next step of Miami’s rebuild, but it couldn’t prevent the inevitable for a talent-drained franchise. On the day they decided to announce Mattingly as their manager for the foreseeable future, the Marlins suffered their 100th loss of the season, a 6-4 defeat at the hands of the Washington Nationals in Miami.
“The one thing I see is that our guys are playing. If you get them this far, they’re going to keep playing, and we’re going to be playing some good teams and teams that are in the playoff hunt, so I think that’s good for us from the standpoint of motivation,” Mattingly said. “I’ve never really had to worry about them all year long as far as getting ready to play.”
The loss guarantees this season will be worse than the last for the Marlins, who won 63 games in 2018. The 100-loss season is the third in franchise history for Miami, joining 1998 and 2013. The Marlins (53-100) still need two more wins to avoid matching the worst finish in team history — a 54-win season in 1998.
On Friday, Mattingly’s team still did pleased Miami’s brass all year. Overmatched as they might be, the Marlins battled with a likely playoff team.
The Nationals (84-68) hit first in the top of the third inning with a solo home run by Trea Turner off starting pitcher Robert Dugger and Miami immediately hit back. Outfielder Austin Dean led off the bottom of the third with a double off starting pitcher Anibal Sanchez and utility player Jon Berti knocked him home with a single to right. Two fringe MLB players combined to keep the score tied at 1-1 after three innings.
The crushing blow still came an inning later when utility infielder Asdrubal Cabrera hit a three-run homer off Dugger (0-3) and Miami still responded. Starlin Castro, who shifted from second base to third base this season when asked by Mattingly, cranked a solo home run off Sanchez (10-8) to cut the deficit to 4-2.
The home run was Castro’s 21st of the season, matching a career high. His torrential second half has been a bright spot and one of the buoys of an otherwise often-inept offense.
“I’ve just been feeling good at the plate after the All-Star break and I drive the ball a lot,” Castro said.
The Marlins cut the deficit even closer in the sixth when they finally cut into Washington’s bullpen. A pair of hits to lead off the bottom of the sixth chased Sanchez from the game and forced the Nationals to turn to Wander Suero. The relief pitcher served up an RBI single, then let a second run score when he threw away a pickoff attempt. Miami sliced the lead to 5-4 by the time fellow relief pitcher Tanner Rainey came in to rescue him.
The Marlins never could jump ahead, though, and the 12,775 at Marlins Park watched loss No. 100. Turner belted another solo home run in the seventh and relief pitcher Daniel Hudson closed out Nationals’ win with his fifth save of the year.
This and that
▪ The Marlins honored their minor league players of the year from each level ahead of the game Friday. The players of the year for each team: middle infielder Isan Diaz for Triple A New Orleans, starting pitcher Sixto Sanchez for Double A Jacksonville, starting pitcher Braxton Garrett for Class A Advanced Jupiter, outfielder Peyton Burdick for Class A Clinton, third baseman Nic Ready for Class A Short Season Batavia, outfielder Victor Mesa Jr. for the Rookie Gulf Coast League Marlins and outfielder Jandel Paulino for the Dominican Summer League Marlins.
▪ Garrett Cooper missed his sixth straight game after he jammed his knee last Friday in a loss to the San Francisco Giants. Utilityman Neil Walker got the start at first base in the slugger’s absence.