The Miami Marlins wrapped up their first series of 2021 on Saturday. They lost two of three against the defending AL champion Tampa Bay Rays, though each game was winnable for either team. Here are some grades from Crow Worthy’s resident Fish expert (me).
Starting Pitching: A-
Starting pitching was always gonna be the driving force of this team. Sandy Alcantara threw an Opening Day gem, tossing six shutout innings. Pablo Lopez followed that up with five scoreless innings of his own. Each of these guys probably would have gone deeper into the game under normal circumstances, but Don Mattingly has expressed a desire to gradually work up his starters’ workload, as it will be a challenge to adjust from a 60-game 2020 schedule to a 162-game 2021 schedule.
Elieser Hernandez is the only reason the starting pitching isn’t getting an A+, though his start comes with an asterisk. Hernandez was pulled from the game in the third with bicep tendon inflammation. He had given up a second inning two-run bomb to Mike Zunino, but other than that he looked relatively sharp, striking out three across 2.1 innings and walking none. He would have gone at least two or three more innings had he not injured himself.
All in all, the starting pitching did not disappoint.
Not a great start for the Marlins bullpen, especially for some of it’s new faces. The pen worked 13.2 innings in total across three games, giving up 11 runs in that span. That’s a 7.24 ERA. Woof. What’s more, it spoiled the first two games by way of the long ball, the first one when Yimi Garcia grooved a fastball to Austin Meadows, who punished it, and the next one when Anthony Bass hung a splitter to Joey Wendle, who lofted a three-run jack to take the lead in the 9th inning of game two.
Both Garcia and Bass fired scoreless innings the day after they blew games one and two, respectively. So that’s good. But very few relievers escaped this series unscathed. With the starters facing pitch count limitations early in the season, the bullpen will need to improve if they want to avoid digging themselves in an early hole. They should probably get an F, but whatever. Some of them looked good.
It took a while. 16 innings to exact. But the Miami Marlins finally got on the board in the 7th inning of game two, when they put up a three spot to take the lead. The Rays pitching staff is no joke; it is full of high-velocity arms with swing-and-miss stuff. They also throw tons of different looks at you, as they play the numbers and the matchups more than any team in baseball. It’s not easy to face the Rays.
From the 7th inning of game two to the end of game three (12 innings), the Marlins scored 16 runs. Guys like Starling Marte, Garrett Cooper, Miguel Rojas, and Jesus Aguilar hit like men possessed. Jazz Chisholm showed some breath-taking flashes of talent and athleticism. Adam Duvall hit a pinch-hit bomb. The Marlins have a tough schedule to begin the season. They’ll face off against the Cardinals starting today. Donnie Baseball has hundreds of different lineups to choose from with this roster, but if the Marlins are swinging the bat well, it’s a good problem to have.
The Marlins played error-free baseball in games one and two, but made two errors in game three, one by Jesus Aguilar and one by Chad Wallach. Defense should be one of this team’s strengths. Brian Anderson, Starling Marte, Magneuris Sierra, Miguel Rojas, Adam Duvall, and Lewis Brinson are all defensive aces. Jazz Chisholm might be as well, but I’ll need to see more of him at 2B. Miami’s gloves will be an asset in 2021.
Unfortunately, the D will suffer when Mattingly has to play Garrett Cooper and Jesus Aguilar. The problem is that these are two of his best bats; he simply has to play them as often as possible. Until one of them gets traded (which I think should have happened in the offseason), the Miami Marlins will just have to take the bad with the good. Such is life in a DH-less National League world.