The Marlins (31-40) found themselves reeling after an offensive no-show in St Louis. Scoring just three runs during a three-game sweep at the hands of the Cardinals felt very much like the nadir of the 2021 season. But then the Marlins faced the Cubs in Wrigley Field for the first time since their Wild Card series victory last year and everything changed.
The Marlins trounced the Cubs in the first two games of the series, scoring 21 runs. 10 of those runs came thanks to Adam Duvall, who’s weekend home run binge came to an end Sunday. Duvall smacked four homers against the Cubs, including a grand slam on Friday.
The Marlins were obviously happy to see Duvall connect on those homers, especially considering the team has an 11-2 record when Duvall goes deep. Miami posted back-to-back 10 runs games for the first time since 2017.
But it wasn’t just Duvall. Several other Marlins bats got going against the Cubs, and the pitching kept Chicago’s offense quiet. But Sunday’s 2-0 result reminded them of their close-game struggles. 26 of Miami’s 40 losses this season have been by two runs or fewer. Despite the loss, this series lifted the hopes of the team to remain competitive as the summer stretches on.
Marlins Bats Get Going Against Cubs
The Marlins offense has been injury-riddled and inconsistent all season. Entering this series in Chicago, the Marlins scored an average of 3.82 runs-per-game, the third-lowest mark in the league. It didn’t bode well for Miami that the Cubs pitching staff sported a top-10 team ERA (3.72) either.
But then Friday and Saturday happened. Duvall, as he’s done through his career, got hot and found that home run stroke. His 16 homers check in tied for fifth-most in the National League and tied for 13th-most in all MLB. His 52 RBI lead the NL and rank tied for sixth in MLB.
Jon Berti continued his excellent June as well. Berti tallied three hits, four RBI, scored three runs and walked twice. He connected on a homer Friday and a sac-fly Saturday. After entering the month with a .170 batting average, Berti’s play of late has proved critical. In June, he’s hitting .327 and getting on base at a .415 clip. He’s registered 18 hits and 11 runs scored this month playing in place of Brian Anderson.
Jorge Alfaro also provided a lift from the bottom end of the lineup. Against the Cubs, Alfaro went 5-for-11 with three runs scored, a walk and a stolen base. Since returning to the lineup on May 25, he’s hitting .303 with a .809 OPS over the 22 games. He’s registered three doubles and two homers, knocked in six, scored eight runs and stole three bases. His batting-average-on-balls-in-play stands at .400 but he’s struck out 19 times. Alfaro’s strikeout rate, which has hovered above 33 percent throughout his career, stands at 26 percent over this span.
All told, the Marlins raised their runs-per-game average to 3.96 after this series against the Cubs. Miami jumped to 24th in that metric.
Young Marlins Find Success Against Cubs
The Marlins worked in a pair of their top-tier prospects against the Cubs. Jesus Sanchez and Lewin Diaz, Miami’s fifth and sixth ranked prospects according to MLB Pipeline, found real success during this series in Chicago.
Sanchez posted the most productive series of his short career. After a 2020 debut where he struggled mightily (.040 batting average, 11 strikeouts in 10 games), Sanchez seems to have settled in. Against the Cubs, the 23-year-old went 4-for-14 with his first career home run and first career multi-hit game.
Sanchez bounced back from an 0-for-4, two-strikeout season debut to hit safely in four straight. Strikeouts remain an issue (nine K through 22 plate appearances, 40 percent rate), but he’s shown flashes of the dominant form he demonstrated in Jacksonville.
Diaz also connected on a homer Saturday, a no-doubter to dead-center. Despite spotty playing time, Diaz has flashed his home run stroke of late. He connected on one against the Atlanta Braves last weekend and nearly missed a game-tying one in St Louis Wednesday.
The Marlins want Diaz to get consistent at-bats, which is not something that can happen at the MLB-level right now. Once Garrett Cooper returns from injury, Diaz will likely be optioned back to Triple-A Jacksonville to get those regular ABs.
It wasn’t just young Marlins hitters that got going against the Cubs. Zach Thompson continued his impressive run with the team, and Miami saw Cody Poteet return to the mound as well. Thompson struck out a career-high seven over four hitless innings Sunday, although he took the loss thanks to an unearned run. Poteet, meanwhile, wasn’t as sharp in his return (four walks in 3.2 IP). But these two could stabilize the backend of the Marlins rotation for the time being.
Up Next: vs. Toronto Blue Jays (35-35)
The Marlins return home after taking 2-of-3 from the Cubs, though they were swept by St Louis on this trip. Next, they face a team that swept a two-game series from them earlier this month. But the Marlins are a far better team at home, posting a 16-14 mark at loanDepot park. The Blue Jays are no slouches away from home, however, considering their 22-19 road record.
Miami couldn’t manage a clutch hit in Buffalo, going 0-for-9 with runners-in-scoring-position and stranding 15 runners against the Blue Jays. Marlins hurlers struggled to contain Vlad Guerrero Jr, who went 5-for-8 with three RBI, a homer, double and triple in the two-game set.
Miami gave Trevor Rogers (7-3, 1.87 ERA) an extra day’s rest and he’ll likely start Tuesday. Sandy Alcantara (4-6, 3.09 ERA) should also get a turn coming off of his excellent start in St Louis. They’ll deal with a Blue Jays lineup that’s hitting .288 with 60 runs over their last 10 games. Toronto will likely counter with RHP Ross Stripling (2-4, 4.64 ERA) and LHP Robbie Ray (4-3, 3.50 ERA).
The Blue Jays are 4-6 over their last 10, but they’ve won two in a row after five straight losses. The offense continues to hum along, paced by Guerrero Jr (.337, 1.111 OPS, 23 HR, 59 RBI) and Marcus Semien (.283, .878 OPS, 18 HR, 42 RBI). Toronto sports five players at least 42 RBI this season.
Toronto’s staff has a 4.75 ERA over their last 10 games and a 4.12 for the season. The Blue Jays bullpen sports a 4.01 combined ERA, 13th-best in MLB. But over the last week, Toronto relievers have a 5.60 ERA (27th).
This two-game set against Toronto precedes a key 10-game stretch against NL East opponents for the Marlins.