Struggles on offense sent Marlins Twitter into a tizzy this week. Miami endured a three-game sweep at the hands the St Louis Cardinals, though each game was there for the taking. Throughout the series, the team couldn’t convert key opportunities, resulting in disappointing defeats.
1-5 certainly wasn’t the plan for Miami. The team couldn’t capitalize on their great Grapefruit League play, and aside from one 12-run outburst, the offense has largely been silent to start the season. The momentum from their solid spring has completely disappeared.
“Disappointing to start the season like this,” said Marlins manager Don Mattingly. “We’re going to have to turn the page quickly.” These struggles seem magnified at the start of the season, and it’s important to not lose sight of the fact that this sample size is still small.
“This series is not going to define our season.”
Offense Absent Against St Louis
The Marlins mustered just three runs over three very winnable games against St Louis. The Cardinals sent out replacement starters in the first two games, then followed that with their ace who’d been battered in his first start.
The offense managed just 15 hits over the three games, and just two of those were Extra Base Hits. What’s worse, the team went 1-for-22 with Runners in Scoring Position and stranded a whopping 25 runners in the three-game set. They were 4-for-39 with runners on any base.
“We are trying to do too much,” said Marlins shortstop Miguel Rojas on Tuesday after a particularly frustrating performance. Rojas said the team’s “at bats are fine,” noting they’re doing the important part of getting runners on. But he stressed the team needs to do the next step, to follow the plan.
Mattingly echoed similar sentiments. He said getting the runners on is a positive, but the hitters need to stay with the plan and do their part. He called the third inning on Tuesday, where the Marlins loaded the bases with no outs but failed to score even on run, a “game changing inning.”
“We had a lot of chances to really add on, take pressure off Sandy. We just weren’t able to do that tonight,” Mattingly said Tuesday.
While there’s a level of bad luck, particularly considering the advanced stats of expected-batting-average and exit velocity, that provides Marlins hitters little solace. The offense needs to produce, because they’ve wasted top-level efforts from their starting pitchers Sandy Alcantara and Pablo Lopez.
‘Sandy Was Filthy’
The positives, of which there were few, come in the form of Alcantara and Lopez. Miami’s No. 1 and No. 2 starters demonstrated their skill in their starts during this series, but both were saddled with losses.
“Sandy was filthy. He deserved better,” Mattingly said.
Alcantara dominated his former club through five innings Tuesday. He matched his career-high with 10 strikeouts before running into some trouble in the sixth. And even then, the Cardinals scored three runs with only one ball leaving the infield.
Alcantara said he felt great about his outing, but said he has to “keep getting better.” He’s focused on getting as deep as he can in the games. Alcantara admitted the game changed in the sixth and it wasn’t necessarily something he could control.
Lopez, meanwhile, dealt with his own bad luck. Some questionable calls from the umpire, coupled with the missed location of one pitch to Yadier Molina, led to a two-run homer. Giving up those runs snapped a career-high 16.2 regular season scoreless inning streak for Lopez.
Rogers Settled In
Trevor Rogers’ season started in a difficult way Monday. He couldn’t find the strike zone to start and walked four batters in the inning, seeing St Louis plate three runs. But after a pep talk from his manager, Rogers settled in.
“[I told him] to take a deep breath and to think there’s no way your year can get any worse than that inning. That’s about as bad as it can get,” Mattingly said after that game.
Mattingly made light of the moment for Rogers, helping the rookie settle down after the 22-year-old was admittedly amped up for his first start. And help it did. After throwing 38 pitches in the first, Rogers needed just 39 pitches to work through a scoreless second, third and fourth innings. He fanned six Cardinals and should get his next start in New York.
Rogers finding his groove remains one of the most important developments in this homestand, especially considering the Marlins are already down two of their expected starters, Sixto Sanchez and Elieser Hernandez.
Not to be lost here, too, was the brief but promising appearance for Jordan Holloway. He threw two scoreless innings in relief, striking out three. After the game he was optioned back to the Alternate Site to make room for Garrett Cooper coming off a one-day COVID-19 IL stint.
Next Man Up
Hernandez landed on the 10-day IL thanks to right bicep inflammation, so the Marlins needed to dip into their starting pitching reserves perhaps sooner than the club had hoped. Heading into the series in New York, the team will turn to either Nick Neidert or Paul Campbell to start on Thursday.
Neidert comes to the club after a brief stint with Miami in 2020. Although he broke camp with the Marlins last season, Neidert landed on the COVID-19 IL early on and ultimately made just four appearances. He pitched 8.1 innings, surrendering five runs, 10 hits and two walks in that span.
This Spring, though, Neidert found a positive rhythm. Mattingly said Neidert “got back on track” and “cleaned things up.” In 12.2 innings of Grapefruit League play, he gave up just four earned runs and three walks while striking out 15.
“He’s a guy that’s been a performer, and he continues to get better,” said Mattingly of Neidert. “He’s got a good little pitch mix. He’s a guy we think can compete.”
Campbell stands as the other option to start. He relieved Hernandez after his injury last Saturday and pitched 2.0 innings in his MLB debut, allowing four hits and three earned runs (two of which scored after he left the mound). He struck out one and walked one.
Marlins Hit the Road
The Marlins embark on their first road trip of the season this week, with stops in New York and Atlanta. The struggles at home might make the road seem that much more appealing, but the team will face a pair of division rivals most think Miami will be chasing all season long.
The Mets made perhaps the biggest move of MLB’s offseason with the acquisition of Francisco Lindor from Cleveland. They didn’t stop there, also adding James McCann in free agency. New owner Steven Cohen has pumped money into the Mets, making them a legitimate title contender.
Pete Alonso seems to have found his rookie form after an impressive spring, but when talking about the Mets, the conversation always begins with MLB’s best pitcher, Jacob deGrom. In 26 career starts vs Miami, deGrom sports a 10-8 record, with 203 strikeouts over 162 IP. He’ll likely start against the Marlins on Saturday opposite Rogers.
What worries Mets fans is injuries and the lack of run support for deGrom. The team enters this series missing starters Carlos Carrasco and Noah Syndergaard, as well as late-inning reliever Seth Lugo.
As far as the run support, New York has already struggled in that regard. On their Opening Day (after the series with the Washington Nationals was postponed due to COVID-19), deGrom exited the vs the Phillies with a 2-0 lead, but watched the bullpen meltdown for five runs, resulting in a 5-3 loss and yet another no decision for deGrom. Despite a 2.07 ERA since 2018 for deGrom, the Mets are just 36-41 in his starts.
There are a few familiar faces on the Mets roster, with former Marlins Jordan Yamamoto and Jonathan Villar on the roster. It’s unlikely Yamamoto will get a start, but there’s a chance Miami sees Villar in the lineup at some point.