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Marlins Offense Comes Alive in Sweep of Arizona

by | May 7, 2021 | Baseball, Daily Coverage

The Marlins (14-16) bounced back from a sweep at the hands of the Washington Nationals to secure their own sweep. Miami took three straight from the Arizona Diamondbacks (15-16) with timely offense and clutch pitching.

Coming off a series where the team plated just four runs, the Marlins pushed across 20 in this sweep of the D-Backs. This binge added to Miami’s impressive Run Differential, which now stands at plus-20. The Marlins rank third in the National League in that category and seventh overall in MLB.

Beyond the offensive explosion, Miami saw clutch pitching performances throughout the series. This will need to continue if the Marlins are serious about contending in the bunched-up NL East this season.

Marlins Sweep Thanks to Offensive Explosion

The Marlins entered this series with Arizona lacking pop in their lineup. Decimated by recent injuries, the only power for Miami came from Jesus Aguilar and his arepas. The Marlins started the three-game set ranked 28th in MLB with just 23 home runs this year.

Against the Diamondbacks, though, Miami mashed five homers. Adam Duvall and Lewis Brinson connected on clutch long balls which helped the Marlins sweep the series.

Coming off the cold road trip (3-for-31 with 15 strikeouts and no extra-base hits), Duvall rediscovered his stroke. Versus Arizona, Duvall got hot, going 4-for-11 with two homers, five RBI and just one strikeout. His homer off J.B. Bukauskas gave the Marlins the lead Thursday. His three-run shot Wednesday pushed the lead to six on a bullpen day for the club.

Miguel Rojas joined in on the homer heroics, connecting on a lead-off shot off D-Back starter Madison Bumgarner. It was Rojas’s fifth career leadoff home run. This came two days after Rojas tied a club record with two hits in the same inning. He doubled and singled in the eighth that night. This marked the first time a Marlins batter achieved two hits in an inning in nearly two years. (Garrett Cooper, June 4, 2019).

But perhaps the best development here remains Miami sudden extra-base power. In addition to the five homers, the Marlins recorded three doubles and one triple. This improved the team’s On-Base-plus-Slugging percentage (OPS) to .680 at home, which now ranks 22nd in MLB.

Surprisingly, the Marlins have a worse OPS on the road (.671) but have hit far more homers (19). loanDepot park has seen 23 hits leave the yard, which is third fewest in all of baseball. Only PNC Park (17) and Citi Field (11) have seen fewer.

Bullpen Brings the Brooms

The Marlins bullpen provided an important lift for the Marlins in their series sweep of Arizona. Miami relievers covered 16 innings and allowed just one earned run. The group fanned 13 Diamondbacks and allowed just five walks.

Perhaps the most impressive performance came from Richard Bleier. Tuesday, Bleier entered in relief of Anthony Bass, who’d blown the save and left the bases loaded with no outs. The 34-year-old lefty proceeded to strike out the side for just the second time in his six-year career.

Afterward, Bleier downplayed the pressure of the situation. “I’m glad it worked out, and it seemed like the team carried that momentum and immediately jumped on that guy and put up a really big, crooked number there,” he said.

The Marlins broke through in the bottom half of that inning, scoring six en route to a 9-3 win. Entering that outing, Bleier had only registered eight strikeouts on the season.

Another impressive performance came during the MLB debut of Anthony Bender. The 26-year-old rookie entered Wednesday and struck out the first batter he saw. In his debut, Bender hit at least 97 mph nine times and threw 16 of his 21 pitches for strikes. He picked up another strikeout in his clean inning Thursday.

“All spring it’s like, ‘Wow. Who’s this guy and how did we get a hold of him?’” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said of Bender Wednesday. “His stuff is off the charts.”

Jordan Holloway continued the excellent start to his career, too. He picked up his first win Wednesday after tossing three scoreless innings in Miami’s 8-0 win. Holloway has 10 strikeouts over his 10.0 IP and he’s yet to give up a run. Zach Pop also ran his recent scoreless innings streak to 5.2 with his latest appearance.

Marlins Sweep Shows Sneaky Good Bullpen, But It’s Not Sustainable Like This

This sweep by the Marlins demonstrated that the revamped bullpen can carry the load. Despite the spate of blown saves to start, this crop of relievers has come together as a reliable weapon for Mattingly.

After Thursday’s games, Miami’s bullpen checked in with a combined ERA of 3.34. That ranks sixth in all MLB and second in the NL. The bullpen’s WHIP stands at 1.10, fifth in MLB. Relievers allow a batting-average-against of .215 (10th in MLB) and are tied for 11th in home-runs-allowed (13).

The problem is, Miami’s starting rotation currently sports just three arms: Sandy Alcantara, Pablo Lopez and Trevor Rogers. Rookies Daniel Castano, Nick Neidert and the recently suspended Paul Campbell have all started games this season, but none have stuck. This continues to tax the bullpen.

The team expects Elieser Hernandez back soon. He completed a 30-pitch bullpen session Tuesday. And he’s set to toss a live batting practice session Saturday before a simulated game or minor league rehab start.

It will be interesting to see who the team brings up to fill the vacant starter roles. Castano will most likely make another appearance, as could Neidert. Edward Cabrera isn’t ready. Maybe Miami promotes Shawn Morimando, who’s been on the taxi squad this season, or Josh A. Smith, who pitched for the Marlins last season. Both started the season with Triple-A Jacksonville.

Sixto Sanchez remains a ways away. He’s progressing through his throwing program, but this is not a sustainable model for Miami’s bullpen. The Marlins are in the midst of a 13-day stretch of games and to tax the ‘pen more would result in diminishing returns. Miami’s next off day comes on May 17th.

Up Next: vs Milwaukee Brewers (17-15)

Coming off the sweep, the Marlins enter their series with Milwaukee, who arrive having been swept by the Philadelphia Phillies. The Brewers limp into Miami with some of their top performers on the IL, including Christian Yelich and Corbin Burnes.

When these two teams met in Milwaukee last week, the Marlins rode Jesus Aguilar’s arepa power to the series win. Miami stands with a 7-7 record in loanDepot park this season, and the Brewers are 9-7 on the road.  

Over their last 10 games, Milwaukee is 4-6 with a .227 batting average and a 4.19 team ERA. They’ve been outscored by 16 runs. The Marlins, meanwhile, are 5-5 in their last 10. Miami has hit .231, posted a team ERA of 2.30 and outscored opponents by 18 over that span.

The Brewers rank last in the NL with a .216 batting average. Kolten Wong leads Milwaukee with an average of .268. Travis Shaw leads with eight extra-base hits and 22 RBIs.

The Marlins will likely see Brent Suter (2-1, 2.70 ERA) and Eric Lauer (1-1, 1.64) in this series. Miami counters with Rogers (3-2, 1.91 ERA) and Alcantara (1-2, 2.95). It remains to be seen who the third starters will be.

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