The Marlins and Pirates played a pivotal four-game series for Miami and, unfortunately for the Fish, the team couldn’t stop taking on water. On the sinking ship that is the 2021 season, the Marlins managed to right themselves briefly on Sunday with a 3-1 win over the Pirates, but all in all, this trip saw the team play its worst baseball of the season.
Marlins manager Don Mattingly called the road trip “a nightmare for us.” In the wake of the recent spate of injuries, Mattingly hoped the team would “tread water,” and they managed to do that on the last road trip. But after two straight rain-soaked losses in Boston, the water just kept coming. The Marlins lost two more in Buffalo, including blowing the first of three saves in four games. Saturday’s 8-7 loss to the Pirates felt very much like the Marlins had completely sunk.
Marlins Ace Handles Pirates
Entering this series, the Marlins knew they needed to be better at the plate. Dormant offense in Boston and Buffalo led to disappointing losses. In Pittsburgh, against a Pirates pitching staff in the bottom third of MLB in most statistics, the Marlins offense found some success. Unfortunately, the bullpen let them down.
It took a season-high eight innings from Marlins ace Sandy Alcantara to salvage a win in this series. Alcantara registered six strikeouts and kept the Pirates at bay, surrendering just one unearned run. He threw 103 pitches on the afternoon, a healthy mix of his entire repertoire, and topped out at 99.7 mph. He induced 12 groundouts, including two double plays, so his sinking fastball was working well.
This was an excellent outing for Alcantara after surrendering nine hits and four runs over six innings against the Blue Jays in Buffalo. The Marlins needed a dominant, stabilizing performance, and that’s what they got from their ace.
“He’s a guy who always talks about wanting to go nine every time out,” Mattingly said. “Obviously we’re not going to let him go to a crazy pitch count or get himself in a bad situation.”
Mattingly lauded Alcantara’s ability to “step up for the team in that scenario, to give us eight innings, only use one guy out of the ‘pen.”
Alcantara’s performance provided the maligned Marlins bullpen a brief respite ahead of Boston. Yimi Garcia entered in the ninth and recorded his 10th save of the season. Garcia managed the shutdown inning after surrendering runs in three consecutive games and blowing two consecutive save opportunities.
Marlins Bullpen Implodes vs Pirates
Garcia’s recent struggles come after a dominant stretch in May. Prior to the loss against the Phillies on May 27th, Garcia went eight straight scoreless outings, converting five save opportunities.
But it wasn’t just Garcia who struggled in Pittsburgh.
Anthony Bass surrendered three runs in the eighth inning of Saturday’s loss. Anthony Bender tried to clean up Bass’s mess, but the rookie struggled as well. After a walk and hit-batsman, Bender dropped what would’ve been the inning-ending relay to first. As a result, the Marlins gave up the lead to the Pirates and Bender blew a save for the first time in his career.
Dylan Floro couldn’t protect Miami’s lead on Thursday. He surrendered three earned runs and blew the save in the process. Floro’s been solid this season, allowing earned runs in just three of his 27 outings, but each one has resulted in a blown save and loss.
Zach Pop also struggled. Pop allowed the Pirates to score five runs in the sixth inning on Friday. After a string of nine consecutive scoreless outings, Pop has now allowed earned runs in three of his last four appearances.
Against the Pirates, Marlins relievers threw 14.2 innings. The bullpen coughed up 15 runs, 17 hits, six walks and one hit-batsman. They registered 12 strikeouts and committed a costly error. For the series, the bullpen ERA checked in at 7.60 and a 1.63 WHIP and failed to convert three save opportunities.
The bullpen’s troubles have been attributed to overuse, and although the Marlins started their series with the Pirates with a full five-man starting rotation for the first time this season, they didn’t end it that way. Pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre Jr. admitted Injuries to Hernandez and Poteet now have the club searching for pitching help outside the organization.
Aguilar Gets Going Against the Pirates
The Marlins’ hungry offense needed some arepa power to salvage the win on Sunday against the Pirates. Jesus Aguilar broke out of his extended slump with a pair of homers over the last two games. Aguilar registered six hits and a sacrifice fly. He drove in four runs and scored three times.
All this after a 19-game stretch where Aguilar managed just nine hits and eight RBI. With two RBI on Sunday, Aguilar leads the NL with 44 RBI and ranks fifth overall in MLB. His 12 home runs lead the team and rank 12th in the NL.
Although the Marlins were mired in an extended losing streak, Jorge Alfaro’s play during the road trip has also been a positive. During the seven games he’s appeared, Alfaro posted a .300 batting average (6-for-20) and a 1.041 OPS. He’s notched two homers, a double and four RBI over this span.
For context, Marlins catchers not named Alfaro have gone 29-for-149 (.194) with just 10 RBI over 52 games this season. Alfaro’s appeared in 20 games and has more than half that total number of hits (15) and seven RBI thus far.
Both Aguilar and Alfaro need to produce for the Marlins as the backend of the lineup consistently fails to produce. The Marlins have three regulars (Jon Berti, Isan Diaz, Adam Duvall) hitting under .200. That figure is four if you count Sandy Leon as a regular.
Up Next: at Boston Red Sox (36-23)
The Marlins were supposed to head home after Pittsburgh, but a rain postponement in Boston meant there’s one more stop on this nightmare road trip. The Marlins lost both waterlogged games in Boston last week and hope to salvage another win today.
The Red Sox enter after securing their first sweep in Yankee Stadium in 10 years. Boston is 7-3 over their last 10 games. RHP Nick Pivetta (6-1, 3.77 ERA) gets the start for the Red Sox. In 11 career games against Miami, Pivetta sports a 2-4 record with a 5.36 ERA.
Pablo Lopez was supposed to start for Miami, but the Marlins are giving him an extra day of rest. Zach Thompson, recently called up from Triple-A, will make his MLB debut with his start. The Marlins recalled Daniel Castano and optioned Lewis Brinson to Triple-A.
Thompson signed a minor-league deal with the Marlins in December after six seasons in the Chicago White Sox system. The 27-year-old righty served as a multi-inning reliever for Jacksonville early in the season, posting a 6.60 ERA and 1.60 WHIP in 15.0 IP. Thompson stands 6-foot-7, commands a low-90s cutter well, and also throws a four-seamer and curveball. He made seven appearances this spring for the Marlins and posted a 1.69 ERA over 5.1 IP, allowing just one run. He registered a save and struck out nine.
Recalling Castano might indicate a potential piggyback situation considering Thompson’s been exclusively a reliever since 2017. In Jacksonville, Thompson has surrendered four homers, which has inflated his ERA. He’s also picked up 21 strikeouts and allowed only two walks.
Up Next: vs Colorado Rockies (24-36)
When the Marlins return home, they’ll face off against the Colorado Rockies. Colorado’s offense ranks eighth in team batting average (.244), but away from Coors Field they sport the league’s worst average (.197). Their 4.3 Runs-per-Game and .701 OPS rank 16th in MLB. Like batting average, both figures drop to 30th on the road (2.42 and .563).
The Rockies team ERA ranks 25th (4.71) and team WHIP ranks 30th (1.41) The bullpen’s ERA sits at 29th overall (5.38) and 30th in WHIP (1.52). RHP Antonio Senzatela (2-5, 4.47 ERA), LHP Austin Gomber (4-5, 4.12 ERA) and RHP Chi Chi Gonzalez (2-3, 4.84 ERA) expect to start this series.
The Rockies are 5-5 over their last 10 with a .321 batting average and .855 OPS over the last week. Raimel Tapia has been Colorado’s best hitter this season (.280/.329/.394) while Ryan McMahon paces the team in homers (13).