MO2 overview: Offense sputters, Marlins swept to close out homestand
The Marlins start the season with a 1-5 homestand after being swept by the Cardinals. There is urgency as Miami takes to the road, but too early to completely overreact.
By Joe Frisaro @ManOn2nd
Now is not the time to overreact. Still, it’s not too early to at least be a bit concerned over the Miami Marlins’ miserable opening homestand.
The Marlins are off to a 1-5 start after being swept in their three-game series with the St. Louis Cardinals at loanDepot park.
Behind six shutout innings by Jack Flaherty, a two-run homer by Yadier Molina and Dylan Carlson’s grand slam, the Cardinals beat the Marlins, 7-0, in the series finale on Wednesday, and wasted a strong Pablo Lopez start.
The homestand finished as it started, with the Marlins getting shut out.
Manufacturing runs was a concern entering the season, and that proved true in the first six games. Along with being blanked twice, they scored just three runs in the three-games with St. Louis.
The lone breakout game for the offense was Saturday’s 12-7 win over the Tampa Bay Rays.
Even in that game, where the offense woke up, the Marlins suffered some crushing news. Their starting pitcher, Elieser Hernandez, suffered an arm injury and went on the injured list with right biceps inflammation.
Miami is thin on rotation depth, and Hernandez’s injury is the most significant event of the homestand. It also came after the club announced Sixto Sanchez is dealing with right shoulder discomfort.
Being down a couple of starters this early in the season is cause for concern.
That leaves either Nick Neidert or Paul Campbell as a starting option for Miami’s series opener against the Mets at Citi Field on Thursday afternoon.
As tough as the first six games have been for Miami, you still don’t overreact to a six-game stretch the first week of the season.
“That can’t define us,” manager Don Mattingly said during his Zoom call Wednesday. “If we’re going to let that define us, then we weren’t going to be anything anyway.”
A year ago, Mattingly, his staff and the players repeatedly bounced back. They were effectively able to “turn the page” after tough stretches. Their resiliency helped lead them to the postseason. Yes, it was a 60-game season, and there was urgency to avoid long losing stretches.
Over 162 games, there is far greater margin for error. There’s plenty of time to rebound, regroup and get on a roll.
You just wonder if there is enough offensively, and if the pitching (especially the bullpen), can step up to offset strong starting pitching.
The Marlins received two quality starts from Sandy Alcantara and two strong starts from Lopez, and they’re 0-4 in those games.
Lopez on Wednesday pretty much “out-pitched” Jack Flaherty, the Cardinals’ ace, and one of the better right-handers in the National League. Lopez worked 6 2/3 innings on Wednesday, striking out six, while allowing just three hits and two walks.
It’s the type of performance this team can’t afford to waste.
For 98 pitches, the 25-year-old was splendid. But pitch No. 99, his last of the day, was crushed for a two-run homer by Molina.
In two starts, and 11 2/3 innings, those are the only two runs Lopez has allowed.
It’s hard to get on a starter who puts up zeroes, but you can second-guess the pitch to Molina, the cutter, that ran up and in. Molina appeared to be waiting on it, got his bat out in front and drove it deep to left.
The cutter is Lopez’s third best pitch. You can argue, if you’re going to get beaten in that spot, you go with your best pitch. For Lopez, that’s either your four-seam fastball or changeup. He threw 38 four-seamers, and 30 changeups, and nine cutters.
Circled on the graphic is the location of the cutter that Molina didn’t miss. Yes, it was inside, and technically a ball. But because Molina was able to catch the pitch out front, he had no trouble driving it over the wall in left. The way the starters were going, you had the sense it would be a good day for the team who scored first.
Lopez is a big part of the rotation. His importance is magnified because the organization is thin on big-league proven starters.
The right-hander’s changeup is among the best of any starter in the sport. His four-seam fastball velocity also is solid. It maxed at 95.7 mph, making you wonder why go to the cutter to a veteran like Molina, who was going to be Lopez’s final batter, no matter what.
When playing in tight games, every pitch is magnified.
The Marlins saw how quickly things could turn on Wednesday.
The challenge for all starters is making it three times through the order, which means the sixth and seventh innings tend to be so critical.
This homestand showed the importance of executing in the final three innings. The Cardinals repeatedly were able to, by either executing pitches or coming up with timely hits.
On the positive side, the Marlins have a quick turnaround to get back out there and turn things around. They take the field on Thursday afternoon at New York.
The tough part for the Marlins is, they’re at the Mets and then the Atlanta Braves, the two N.L. East favorites.
But more importantly than their opponent, the Marlins have to take care of their own business, which is improve their execution in the most crucial parts of games.