The Miami Marlins (38-48) entered this set against the Los Angeles Dodgers reeling from a frustrating series with in Atlanta. Against the Braves, Miami’s offense and bullpen took turns faltering, and the result was a potentially season-altering loss last Sunday.
But the Marlins rallied when the Dodgers came to town. The defending World Series Champs had taken two-of-three earlier this season when the two teams met last, and LA rode a nine-game winning to loanDepot park. But the Marlins surprised the baseball world by taking the first three games of this series against the Dodgers.
With the trade deadline looming, and the All-Star break around the corner, the Marlins seem like a club caught between reconstruction and contention. Although currently stashed in the basement of the NL East, Marlins’ brass feels the team’s record is not indicative of their talent and potential.
Miami opted for consistency this week when the club announced they’d picked up manager Don Mattingly’s mutual option for the 2022 season. The front office understands the affect injuries and inconsistency has had on the Marlins this season, and elected to bring back the franchise’s winningest skipper.
Marlins Win One-Run Games vs Dodgers
Entering this series, the Marlins held a 6-19 record in one-run contests. That stood as the second-worst mark in MLB, trailing only the Arizona Diamondbacks (3-20). They’ve lost in walk-off fashion eight times. This futility in close games amplified the maddening inconsistencies of the offense and backend of the bullpen.
Miami’s plus-20 run differential seems to support general manager Kim Ng’s assertion that the Marlins are better than their record. The team’s “expected” win-loss mark, based on Runs-Scored and Runs-Allowed, stands at 45-41. The minus-seven differential between expected record and reality makes Miami the second-most “unlucky” MLB team (Arizona minus-eight).
But teams don’t get into the postseason based on “expected” record. What matters is performance, and Miami finally enjoyed some of those clutch hits.
On Monday, the Marlins answered every run by the Dodgers and Jorge Alfaro’s clutch eighth-inning home run propelled the team to the one-run win. Miami went 4-for-8 with runners-in-scoring-position and notched three two-out RBI.
Tuesday, the Marlins pitching staff came up clutch, holding the Dodgers to just one-run over 10 innings. Starling Marte continued to demonstrate his value, scoring the game-winning run after a wild pitch and throwing error.
Wednesday featured another dramatic walk-off win, though not of the one-run variety. After rookie Anthony Bender blew the opportunity at his second save, Jesus Aguilar connected on his first home run at home, his 14th overall, to give the Marlins the series win over the Dodgers. Jesus Sanchez also came up clutch with his two-out, two-strike RBI single to give Miami the lead in the eighth.
In all, the Marlins flashed their potential against the Dodgers, in front of the biggest crowds at loanDepot all year. Whether these results alter the team’s approach at the trade deadline remains to be seen.
Encouraging Performances for the Marlins vs the Dodgers
The clutch wins come at a pivotal time for the Marlins. With the season seemingly slipping away, Miami rallied to top the defending World Series champs. And while some of the names that came up clutch for the Marlins against the Dodgers were expected, others were something of a surprise.
Aguilar and Miguel Rojas played key roles in this series, but the most notable veteran performance came from Garrett Cooper. The 30-year-old manned right field and first base provided a lift with his bat. Cooper went 6-for-13 with two homers, three RBI and four walks in this series.
Since returning to the lineup from injury, Cooper’s been on a tear. He boasts a .485 batting average and 1.514 OPS over those 12 games, with four homers, nine RBI and 10 walks. The Marlins are 7-5 in those contests.
Bender impressed in this series as well, despite giving up a game-tying home run Wednesday. The Marlins rookie reliever recorded his first career save and his first career win in this series against the Dodgers. Bender struck out four of the eight batters he faced, including Mookie Betts.
Perhaps the biggest surprise came from Steven Okert. The 30-year-old lefty reliever found himself as part of the Marlins bullpen because of the roster churn. Miami needed another arm and Okert had pitched well for Triple-A Jacksonville. He’d posted a 1.80 ERA over 20 IP for the Jumbo Shrimp prior to his call up.
Against the Dodgers, Okert pitched 2.1 scoreless innings over two one-run Marlins victories. His production bought the beleaguered bullpen time. With Miami, Okert has yet to surrender a run over four IP, notching two holds along the way.
Up Next: vs Atlanta Braves (42-44)
The Braves come to Miami for what’s the last series ahead of the All-Star break. The Marlins faltered through a frustrating series in Atlanta last week, and Miami hopes to maintain their positive momentum entering the season’s brief hiatus.
The Marlins have several factors in their favor entering this three-game series. Miami plays better at home (21-19), better against the NL East (16-15) and better against the Braves (6-4). Atlanta, meanwhile, is sub-.500 both on the road (18-22) and versus NL East opponents (21-22). In the 10 games between the two clubs this season, the Marlins have outscored Atlanta 53-45.
The Braves are 6-4 of late, but they’re coming off a series loss in Pittsburgh. Over their last 10 games, Atlanta sports a .270 batting average and 3.54 team ERA. The Marlins are 5-5 in their last 10, with a .235 batting average and 3.71 team ERA. Miami took two-of-three at home from the Braves in June.
This series figures to be a close one, considering six of the last eight between these two clubs have been one-run games. All but one of the 10 games between the Marlins and Atlanta have been decided by two runs or less.
Miami will look to exercise the demon of their most recent loss to the Braves, where the bullpen meltdown turned a four-run ninth inning lead into a one-run 10-inning loss.
The Marlins enter yet another key stretch in their season. The positive marks against NL East opponents could serve the team well, considering their next 10 and 42 of their final 76 games come against division rivals. If the Marlins can string a series of wins together, they might very well make a climb up the standings. If not, the team could approach the trade deadline as sellers.