The Marlins (22-24) took the weekend series versus New York, winning two-of-three from the injury-riddled Mets (21-19). Miami used Garrett Cooper’s walk-off winner on Saturday, then rode Cody Poteet’s excellent outing to the victory Sunday.
Miami narrowed the gap in the NL East to 2.0 games and kept pace with the other clubs. 2.5 games separate this competitive division from top to bottom and the Marlins find themselves in the midst of an important divisional stretch. The team has won each of the last two series, this one and recently in Philadelphia, and now welcomes the Phillies to town for a four-game set.
The Mets came to Miami a team in shambles. More than 15 players littered their injury list and the lack of production in the lineup showed. If not for the Marlins inability to get one clutch hit on Friday, this series would have been a sweep.
The Marlins have positioned themselves to remain competitive entering the summer. Poteet has steadied the backend of the rotation and slumping bats are finally barreling the ball. And all of this comes as key contributors near their return from the IL.
Poteet Provides ‘Stability’ For Marlins Pitching Staff
There’s no doubt the Marlins have one of the top starter trios out there. Sandy Alcantara, Pablo Lopez and Trevor Rogers sport a combined 2.74 ERA this season, which would rank second among starting staffs. Take out Alcantara’s second inning pitch-tipping disaster in LA, and that figure drops to 2.31. The top rotational ERA in MLB currently sits at 2.64 (San Diego).
But the Marlins don’t have just three starters. Since Elieser Hernandez exited with an injury on April 3rd, Miami has pieced together the backend of the rotation with inconsistent results. That is, until the team promoted Poteet.
In three starts with the Marlins, Poteet has pitched surprisingly well. Over 17 innings, he’s allowed 10 hits, two earned runs and issued two walks. He’s struck out 13. Sunday, he stymied the Mets, going a career-high seven innings, striking out four and allowing just three hits. 65 of his 93 pitches went for strikes. He mixed in all four pitches, touched 95 on the gun and retired the final 14 batters he faced.
“I’m getting a better feel for it, being out there on a big-league mound,” said Poteet. “It’s been very special for me. I’ve been able to keep, for the most part, my emotions under control. Hopefully, I’m able to give them some stability out there.”
Stability is exactly what he’s provided. The Marlins cycled through a number of other starters trying to fill the hole before turning to Poteet.
“Cody has kind of solidified that fourth [spot] where it’s been good outing after good outing,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. “We’re starting to have that confidence that he’s going to keep you in the game.”
— Miami Marlins (@Marlins) May 23, 2021
Key Pitching Performances for Marlins against the Mets
Poteet’s seven-inning gem tied for the longest outing of the year for a Marlins starter. On six other occasions this season (two each from Alcantara, Lopez and Rogers), Miami starters slung their way into the seventh. None has gone beyond that mark, and that’s probably because the organization is being cautious with all their arms in an effort to navigate a 162-game (and hopefully more) season.
Poteet’s performance followed a similar outing from Pablo Lopez, who went seven scoreless against the Mets Saturday. Lopez lowered his ERA to 2.73 with the effort and helped save the Marlins bullpen, which pitched 12 innings Friday.
Jordan Holloway’s injury forced him from Friday’s game after just one inning and landed him on the 10-day IL. From there, Mattingly pieced together the most “bullpen day” of the season.
Adam Cimber was the last man standing, and he was forced to go two innings since Miami’s offense couldn’t muster a clutch hit. Cimber had gone two innings just once in his previous 20 appearances. Catcher Chad Wallach was hustling down to warm in the bullpen had Miami managed to tie the Mets in the 12th that night.
The 14 combined innings from their starters Saturday and Sunday lifted the Marlins pitching staff as a whole. Miami selected the contract of LHP Shawn Morimando from Jacksonville just in case. But thanks to Poteet and Lopez, the 28-year-old minor league free agent, who hasn’t pitching in MLB since 2016, wasn’t needed.
These performances provided the pitching staff the necessary rest ahead of another pivotal series. Poteet’s surprise emergence as an MLB-level pitcher buys the team time. While Hernandez stands on the verge of return and could do so during the coming road trip, Sixto Sanchez remains on a throwing program.
Marlins Bats Come Up Big vs the Mets
The Marlins offense has been nothing to brag about this season. Inconsistencies in production and availability have hurt the club. The team ranks in the bottom third of MLB in batting average (.231; 21st), on-base percentage (.296; 28th) and slugging percentage (.368; 25th). Miami’s 462 strikeouts stand as fifth-most in MLB.
What’s maddening is, when Marlins hitters put the ball in play, good things tend to happen. The team sports a .298 BABIP (batting-average-on-balls-put-in-play), ninth-best in MLB. And if they could have done that just once late on Friday, they probably sweep the series against the Mets.
Thankfully, Brian Anderson and Garrett Cooper came through clutch for the Marlins on Saturday and Sunday. Anderson seems to have fully broken out of an extended slump. Against the Mets, Anderson went 6-for-11 with a double, two walks and just three strikeouts. He scored four runs this weekend, including on Cooper’s walk-off winner Saturday. Anderson raised his slash line (.250/.311/.371) to season-high levels across the board.
Cooper, meanwhile, provided the dramatics. Against the Mets, Coop also went 6-for-11, notching a double, two homers and four RBI. He also walked twice and struck out three times. He’s riding an eight-game hitting streak.
— Bally Sports Florida: Marlins (@BallyMarlins) May 22, 2021
This production buoyed the Marlins efforts against the Mets and comes at a key time for the lineup.
Jesus Aguilar has been mired in an extended slump, though he showed signs of improvement this weekend. Aguilar, Corey Dickerson and Adam Duvall combined to go 3-for-28 with a walk, an RBI and eight strikeouts against the Mets. Miguel Rojas didn’t fare much better, going 2-for-13 with two RBI, a walk and three strikeouts.
Alfaro Nearing Return
Anderson and Cooper came through for the Marlins this weekend, and they’ll have more some help soon. Jorge Alfaro seems to be rounding into form during his rehab stint with Jacksonville. Since returning after soreness set him back on May 11th, Alfaro is hitting .307 (4-for-13) with two homers and five RBI. His OPS is 1.076.
Adding Alfaro should plug a gaping hole in this lineup. Sandy Leon and Wallach have provided nothing offensively of late. In the month of May, Marlins catchers have posted a .109 batting average (8-for-73) with a whopping 53 strikeouts. Against the Mets alone, they were 0-for-9 with five strikeouts.
Alfaro has played four consecutive days for Jacksonville. He’s run well and caught seven innings last time out. He can’t return fast enough at this point.
Starling Marte continues his progression as well. He took batting practice over the weekend, ran the bases and practiced in center field, too. The Marlins are yet to announce whether Marte needs a rehab assignment or if he’ll immediately rejoin the team.
— Christina De Nicola (@CDeNicola13) May 21, 2021
Up Next: vs. Philadelphia Phillies (23-24)
The Marlins just faced Philadelphia and took two-of-three from their division rivals. Alcantara dominated the Phillies in his last outing and should get the start on Tuesday.
Miami will see Zach Eflin (2-3, 3.77) on Monday, who they beat 3-1 last week. They should also see Vince Velasquez (1-0, 3.52), who was supposed to start against the Marlins last Thursday but was a late scratch. Miami should hope to see Velasquez, considering the team has scored 23 earned runs over his last 17.1 IP versus the Fish.
The Marlins are also likely to face Aaron Nola (3-4, 3.94). Since Nola threw a complete-game shutout on April 18th, he’s 2-3 with a 5.19 ERA over six starts. The Phillies are 2-4 in that stretch. Philly also expects to start Spencer Howard (0-1, 7.36) in this series.
Over their last 10 games, the Phillies are just 3-7. The Marlins knocked Philadelphia into something of a tailspin after the last series. The Phillies lost four in a row before beating Boston Sunday. Over this span, Philly is hitting .242 with a 4.35 team ERA and were outscored by 14.
The Marlins, meanwhile, are 6-4 over their last 10. The batting average lingers at .227, but the team ERA is 3.40. Miami outscored opponents by three over this span.
With the Phillies missing key contributors in J.T. Realmuto and Didi Gregorious, another series win is paramount for the Marlins. Miami stands 0.5 games behind the Phillies entering this four-game set.