The Marlins (9-12) dropped their series with the San Francisco Giants (14-8) over the weekend. Each of the contests was close, though they didn’t always feel that way. Ultimately, the Giants won three of four and outscored Miami 14-11 along the way, despite Jesus Aguilar‘s heroics.
Although Marlins manager Don Mattingly was specifically talking about giving up a run in the fifth inning on Sunday, when he said it “ends up being painful” he could very well have been talking about this series overall.
Marlins Lack Offensive Punch Early
Miami’s offense lacked urgency and productivity early in these games. Of the 11 runs the Marlins scored, seven were scored in the ninth. The team’s traditional starting pitchers in this series received just one run of support over their 16.0 innings. Sunday’s bullpen game suffered a similar fate.
After Sunday’s game, Mattingly called those offensive lulls “dead spells.” The Marlins rank last among 30 MLB teams with a .607 OPS in innings one-through-six. Miami has hit the fewest home runs (8) in that range as well.
Couple this futility with the recent spate of injuries and that results in lineups where Adam Duvall starts in centerfield. Prior to Sunday’s contest, Duvall manned center for a grand total of one inning over his eight-year career.
Mattingly acknowledged putting Duvall in center alters the team defensively. But they need to do something considering the firepower languishing on the injured list. Putting Duvall in center allows the team to have Aguilar and Garrett Cooper in the lineup as well.
Injuries forced a roster shuffle ahead of this series and Miami botched Brian Anderson’s move to the 10-day IL. The team called up Jose Devers to fill the roster spot, but the 21-year-old shortstop got the opportunity because he was the only position player available on the taxi squad.
Devers made his MLB debut Saturday, becoming the youngest Marlin to debut since Giancarlo Stanton in 2010. He became the 10th non-pitcher to make his Marlins’ MLB debut at 21 or younger. Devers joined Miguel Cabrera (20), Luis Castillo (20) and Edgar Renteria (19), among others. Unfortunately, Devers looked overmatched. He went 0-for-3 with three strikeouts.
No Arugula, No Problem
Entering the 2021 season, Aguilar made some dietary changes in an effort to slim down. He dropped eight pounds coming into camp, but also saw a drop in his power numbers. Although Aguilar consistently singled, only four of his first 16 hits went for extra bases. None left the yard.
So Aguilar decided to drop arugula from his diet.
“After 60 at-bats with no home runs, I’m back with the arepas and all that kind of stuff from Venezuela,” Aguilar said Saturday.
He connected on his first homer this season in the ninth inning of Friday’s 5-3 loss. Aguilar followed that one with a game-winning two-run blast in the ninth Saturday. True to this new form, Agui smacked a homer in his third consecutive game in the eighth on Sunday.
With the lineup missing major bats, Aguilar must provide the pop (and the arepas).
Positives for the Marlins
Beyond Aguilar’s breakout, there were a few positives for the Marlins in this series. The bullpen continues to pitch well of late. Miami relievers sport a combined ERA at 4.03 after Sunday, which comes in at 7th-best in the NL (13th-best overall).
Anthony Bass posted another scoreless outing, his sixth consecutive such performance. Since being removed from the closer role, Bass has allowed a total of four baserunners (two hits, HPB, BB) and no runs over 5.1 IP.
Zach Pop also pitched well against the Giants. His last three appearances have come against San Francisco and over four innings, he’s allowed just one baserunner (HPB) and struck out seven. The Rule-5 acquisition seems locked in of late.
It’s not all roses, naturally, considering the 1-3 series and 9-12 record overall.
Injuries have decimated the regular roster and offensive ineffectiveness continues to stress the starting pitching. Sandy Alcantara seems struck by the pressure of being perfect and has lost sharpness over his last several outings. Jazz Chisholm is pressing as well. He followed his lead-off homer Friday by going 0-for-12 with six strikeouts.
And although he eventually settled in Sunday, Rule-5 pickup Paul Campbell left questions about his effectiveness long term. He’s given up nine runs and 17 base runners over 7.2 IP thus far.
Mattingly mentioned Campbell “hung in there” Sunday. Because he’s built up at this point, Campbell could get a start when this turn in the rotation comes up again.
Up Next: at Milwaukee Brewers (13-8)
Miami makes its way east this week to face the Brewers. Milwaukee controls the NL Central through 21 games, but they haven’t been great at home. This season, they sport a 4-5 record at American Family Field. But they enter coming off of a 6-game road trip which included an impressive three-game sweep of the San Diego Padres.
Miami may not see Christian Yelich in the lineup. The former Marlin landed on the IL with a lower back injury on April 17. He’s hitting .333 (10-for-30) in nine games this season. The Brewers, however, may see the return of centerfielder Lorenzo Cain, who’s been on the 10-day IL with a quad strain since April 14.
And something from the strange stat department. Monday’s start by Trevor Rogers (2-1, 1.64) will mark the first time Milwaukee faces a left-handed starter this season. This stands as the longest stretch for a team to start the season without facing a lefty starter since 2006 (Rockies, 23 games). Ironically, Miami will send out consecutive lefty starters against the Brewers. Daniel Castano (0-1, 3.60) gets the nod Tuesday. Alcantara (0-2, 3.34) gets the series finale Wednesday.
Milwaukee will send out Corbin Burnes (2-1, 0.37) Monday. Burnes’s been amazing through his first four starts this season. He’s posted three starts with 10-plus strikeouts and opponents are hitting just .098 (8-for-82) against him. Burnes has thrown 18.0 consecutive scoreless innings. His 40 strikeouts without a walk are the most ever to being a season by a starter since 1893.
Adrian Houser (1-2, 3.32) stands to start Tuesday, but Milwaukee has yet to name a starter for the finale. Miami will probably see former Marlin Brad Boxberger, who’s notched one Save and a 3.00 ERA over seven appearances. Opponents hit just .143 (3-for-21) against him thus far.