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Inbox: Will Marlins make run at Cuban star?

Beat reporter Joe Frisaro answers questions from fans
MLB.com @JoeFrisaro

Percentage-wise, what do you think the chances are that the Marlins will sign Victor Victor Mesa?
-- @dpHEAT3

I don't know about percentages, but I do know the Marlins have serious interest, and I wouldn't be surprised if they signed the coveted outfielder from Cuba. Financially, Miami is well positioned to make a serious offer to Mesa, 22, and his brother, Victor Mesa, 17. The two are outfielders who were declared free agents on Friday, as MLB.com's Jesse Sanchez reported. The Marlins have $4.3 million of international bonus pool money, which puts them in a strong spot to make a serious offer. Only Baltimore, with $6.7 million, has a higher international allocation.

Percentage-wise, what do you think the chances are that the Marlins will sign Victor Victor Mesa?
-- @dpHEAT3

I don't know about percentages, but I do know the Marlins have serious interest, and I wouldn't be surprised if they signed the coveted outfielder from Cuba. Financially, Miami is well positioned to make a serious offer to Mesa, 22, and his brother, Victor Mesa, 17. The two are outfielders who were declared free agents on Friday, as MLB.com's Jesse Sanchez reported. The Marlins have $4.3 million of international bonus pool money, which puts them in a strong spot to make a serious offer. Only Baltimore, with $6.7 million, has a higher international allocation.

Still, the Marlins may have an advantage, because it may come down to where Mesa feels is the best fit. Miami, of course, has a large Cuban community, and the organization is aiming to be more proactive on the international market. Without question, signing Mesa and his brother would be popular moves.

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How do you feel about Lewis Brinson? I feel he has star power potential.
-- @DFPuron

Since he came off the disabled list on Sept. 1, Brinson has shown signs that he could be an impactful everyday center fielder. We're not going to completely see it reflected by his final numbers, when you consider his season slash line is .201/.241/.350 with 11 home runs and 38 RBIs. More than the overall numbers, there is optimism based on his improvement and natural abilities. In September, he's hitting .271 with eight RBIs. We're seeing adjustments to go along with a strong work ethic and tremendous makeup.

I don't think Brinson will be a perennial .300-caliber hitter, but he could realistically be in the .250-.270 range with 25 home runs and 80 RBIs while playing Gold Glove Award-caliber defense. To get there, Brinson clearly must improve against secondary pitches. According to Statcast™, he's batting .249 off all fastballs but just .139 off breaking pitches.

Is it true the Marlins' Triple-A team is moving to Wichita?
-- @jonerik0619

Nothing is official, but early in September, public officials in Wichita, Kansas, announced the Triple-A New Orleans Baby Cakes would be moving to a renovated stadium in Wichita that will open in 2020. It's also been reported that the Baby Cakes put in a request to either relocate or move in '20. So, barring something changing, it is shaping up that '19 will be the final year the Marlins' Triple-A affiliate will play in New Orleans. Another affiliation change is expected at low Class A. The Marlins appear to be breaking ties with Greensboro, and they're looking for another location in the South Atlantic League.

Will it be likely that the 2019 will be a season the Marlins' pitching shows improvements? If so, do you see Braxton Garrett and Trevor Rogers, the 2016 and '17 first-round picks, being a factor?
-- @giry_and_joe

Let's start with Garrett and Rogers, currently ranked Nos. 9 and 10, respectively, on Miami's Top 30 Prospect List according to MLB Pipeline. Garrett is rebounding from Tommy John surgery, and he currently is in the Marlins' instructional league. So he's a few years away. Rogers made 17 starts in Class A Greensboro and showed promise, and he could open at Class A Advanced Jupiter next year. He, too, is a few years away from being in the big leagues.

The 2019 rotation looks to be promising, with Jose Urena, Sandy Alcantara, Pablo Lopez and Trevor Richards expected to compete for Opening Day spots. It's up in the air if Dan Straily, who could be traded, will return. If not, left-hander Caleb Smith, who underwent surgery to repair a torn left pec muscle, is expected to be back. Whether he is ready on Opening Day remains questionable. But he should contribute at some point. Elieser Hernandez also is a rotation candidate.

The prospect Marlins fans should keep an eye on is Nick Neidert, acquired from Seattle in the Dee Gordon trade. Neidert, who turns 22 in November, is ranked as the organization's No. 3 prospect. He likely will move up to No. 2 or even No. 1 with Alcantara graduating off the list. Neidert was a standout at Double-A Jacksonville and could start off at Triple-A New Orleans before breaking into the big leagues. He profiles as a solid No. 3 starter.

Will the Marlins trade for a proven closer?
-- @Athletics89

Obviously, the struggles the Marlins have had in the ninth inning makes this a legitimate question. But pursuing a high-price free-agent closer isn't something you normally see from teams in a building process. I anticipate the team will look from within, or perhaps make a trade that could include a candidate to close. As disappointing as Kyle Barraclough has been, you can't dismiss that he was really good in the first half. Rookie Drew Steckenrider has gotten a taste of closing, and left-hander Adam Conley is adjusting to being in the bullpen. Tayron Guerrero is the one of the hardest-throwing relievers in the game, but he's also a rookie. Guerrero is going to need a secondary pitch to give hitters something else to look for, perhaps a changeup could be the answer. Also remember, the current group of relievers are either rookies or they're about to enter their first season of arbitration. So they're still young.

Joe Frisaro has covered the Marlins for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro and listen to his podcast.

Miami Marlins

Alcantara unable to find command in loss to Nats

Rookie issues career-high six walks in four innings
MLB.com @JoeFrisaro

MIAMI -- It's been pretty much smooth sailing for Marlins rookie Sandy Alcantara since rejoining the rotation in September. But on Tuesday, the right-hander ran into control troubles on a night he needed to be sharp, facing off against Stephen Strasburg.

Alcantara labored through four innings, allowing three runs while walking a career-high six, and the Nationals, behind Strasburg's 11 strikeouts in six innings, held on for a 4-2 win over Miami at Marlins Park.

View Full Game Coverage

MIAMI -- It's been pretty much smooth sailing for Marlins rookie Sandy Alcantara since rejoining the rotation in September. But on Tuesday, the right-hander ran into control troubles on a night he needed to be sharp, facing off against Stephen Strasburg.

Alcantara labored through four innings, allowing three runs while walking a career-high six, and the Nationals, behind Strasburg's 11 strikeouts in six innings, held on for a 4-2 win over Miami at Marlins Park.

View Full Game Coverage

"When we talk about young guys, I think this is what we see," Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. "We see good and we see ones that are not as good. Today, obviously, the command wasn't there for Sandy. A lot of misses. The counts get bad. Just a lot of pitches in a short period of time. It's something he will learn from, and you've got to continue to work and be consistent with what you do.

Video: WSH@MIA: Mattingly talks Alcantara's outing in loss

"That's what separates guys who are going to be really good, and guys who are going to be OK. It's that consistency. You expect it from younger pitchers. Hopefully, we're just learning all the time."

Alcantara fell to 2-1 with a 2.35 ERA in four big league starts, with three coming in September. The 23-year-old had allowed two runs in 14 innings in his previous two starts this month.

"I tried to do my best and tried to help my team the best I could," Alcantara said. "I understand that happens in the game. That happens with everybody. For me, I don't know what happened tonight. I tried to keep the ball down. I just missed too much on my arm side."

Anthony Rendon had two RBIs, and Bryce Harper walked five times, one shy of the Major League record he tied in 2016, for the Nationals, who salvaged a two-game split.

Peter O'Brien, who is making the most of an opportunity to play as a September callup, connected on a home run off Strasburg in the second inning. It was his third home run.

"It was great," said O'Brien, who attended the University of Miami. "It was nice to get that first one on the board and get a little momentum on our side."

For Alcantara, Tuesday was his first rough start of the month. Ranked by MLB Pipeline as Miami's No. 2 prospect, the rookie had difficulty working both sides of the plate. Of his 91 pitches, just 46 were strikes.

Alcantara scattered six hits, and struck out three, but had trouble missing bats. He induced just six swinging strikes, with five of them on 30 sinkers.

Alcantara ran into difficulty in the first inning, issuing a leadoff single to Adam Eaton, and he had the bases full with one out. Yet, he logged two strikeouts in the inning, and escaped without allowing a run.

Video: WSH@MIA: Alcantara induces pop up, leaves bases full

But in the second inning, the Nationals capitalized on a leadoff walk to Matt Wieters. Eaton eventually drove in Wieters with a single to open the scoring, and Trea Turner's squeeze bunt drove in the Nats' second run of the frame.

O'Brien's home run to lead off the second inning closed the gap for Miami to 2-1.

But in the fourth inning, Alcantara's last, he yielded two walks, including one to Eaton, and a sacrifice fly to Rendon.

Strasburg didn't allow Miami much, and improved to 17-7 in his career against the Marlins. At one stretch, he fanned six straight. Miami's second run came on J.T. Realmuto's RBI single in the fifth inning.

"Peter hit the homer and made it 2-1," Mattingly said. "By the fourth, you feel like you're just getting destroyed, because Strasburg is really rolling. His pitch count is way down. We're throwing a ton of pitches, and we're right in the game."

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
After the Marlins pulled within a run at 3-2 in the fifth inning, the Marlins mounted a two-out rally, which started with a JT Riddle single and a single by Miguel Rojas. Realmuto delivered an RBI single, and O'Brien walked to load the bases. Brian Anderson ran the count full, but struck out against Strasburg. The Nationals tacked on an insurance run in the sixth inning.

Video: WSH@MIA: Realmuto bloops an RBI single to right

"We kind of hang in there in that game," Mattingly said. "It was one of those things where we hung around long enough, and we've got a shot to win this thing."

SOUND SMART
Reliever Tayron Guerrero, who had a strikeout in a clean fifth inning, has allowed three earned runs in his last 16 2/3 innings (1.62 ERA) at Marlins Park.

YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
O'Brien has shown power to center and right-center since being in the lineup. But his home run on Tuesday was pulled to left field. Statcast™ tracked the drive at 362 feet with an exit velocity of 97 mph. It was a towering shot with a launch angle of 37 degrees.

Video: WSH@MIA: O'Brien belts a solo homer to left field

"I think the biggest thing is I feel ready," said O'Brien, who is back in the big leagues for the first time since 2016. "I prepared myself for this, that's what the last couple of years really taught me, to be ready, stay hungry and maximize every opportunity."

HE SAID IT
"What's been impressive in talking with him in his at-bats, you can tell he has a plan. He wants to stick with what he can do up there, and he has some feel for what the pitcher is doing. He has a plan with what he wants to do with that. It's different when you see some of our guys, it seems they are getting out of sorts, without a true plan. You look at Peter, and you can tell he has a plan." -- Mattingly, on O'Brien, who is hitting .308 with three homers as a September callup

UP NEXT
The Marlins close out their home schedule with a four-game series with the Reds, beginning on Thursday at 7:10 p.m. ET. Jeff Brigham (0-2, 7.36 ERA), a rookie who will make his third big league start, gets the start for Miami. Brigham has logged 7 1/3 innings with the Marlins after posting a 2.36 ERA in the Minors. Lefty Cody Reed (0-2, 4.32) goes for the Reds.

Joe Frisaro has covered the Marlins for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro and listen to his podcast.

Miami Marlins

Anderson battling through grind of rookie year

MLB.com @JoeFrisaro

MIAMI -- From the start of Spring Training through the regular season, Brian Anderson has been a staple in the Marlins' lineup and one of the core building blocks for the organization.

But the 25-year-old's first full season in the big leagues also has been filled with ups and downs, and a late-season struggle.

View Full Game Coverage

MIAMI -- From the start of Spring Training through the regular season, Brian Anderson has been a staple in the Marlins' lineup and one of the core building blocks for the organization.

But the 25-year-old's first full season in the big leagues also has been filled with ups and downs, and a late-season struggle.

View Full Game Coverage

Still, he's had a season in which he's likely to receive National League Rookie of the Year attention. The third baseman/right fielder has made a case to be in the top five of the voting.

"I think it's good for him to go through a whole season," Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. "Even though I think he's struggled lately, I feel like part of that is on the mental side, just getting worn down having to get ready to play every day. Once you go through that, you kind of know what to expect going into the next season."

Entering Tuesday night against the Nationals, Anderson is hitting .163 in 12 games in September, and .269/.352/.393 with 10 home runs and 59 RBIs overall this year. His 146 games are tops among all National League rookies.

Going through a full slate will give Anderson a better indicator of how to prepare in the offseason for 2019, when he projects to be the regular third baseman.

"At one point he lost like 12 pounds during the season," Mattingly said. "He's got to find a way to stay strong. Have a lift routine. Keep weight on, because 12 pounds, you're losing some energy and strength in there."

The Marlins have already approached Anderson about coming up with ways to prepare to go the distance in future seasons.

"It's something we'll talk about, but he knows that we need to figure a way to keep him strong throughout the course of the year," Mattingly said.

Completing a big league season is more taxing than in the Minor Leagues.

"A full season in the Minor Leagues is 140 games, and then you add on another month," Mattingly said of life in the big leagues. "Now, a lot of those younger guys will go play in the Instructional League. But it's just not the same."

Another factor for young players is dealing with the string of strong starting pitchers, including Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg of the Nationals, and Jacob deGrom of the Mets.

"Every night you've got to keep getting ready," Mattingly said. "That's not the same as a Minor League season. Obviously, there's quality down there. There's prospects coming along, but you're not seeing that quality every day. You're seeing it now and then. That's the tough part of the game, being ready to handle the mental load of a 162-game schedule, because it's not four days a week, it's not once a week, it's every day, pretty much."

Worth noting
Starlin Castro, who had a home run and drove in three runs in Monday's 8-5 win, was given a breather on Tuesday, getting a day off. Miguel Rojas played second base.

Castro, part of the Giancarlo Stanton trade with the Yankees, has come as advertised. He's been a steady veteran presence on a young squad.

"I think Starlin is a really talented guy with the bat," Mattingly said. "I think Starlin's biggest challenges are getting him strikes to hit. Not chase out of the zone. He doesn't really get beat by the pitcher. It's usually by not staying in the strike zone."

Joe Frisaro has covered the Marlins for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro and listen to his podcast.

Miami Marlins, Brian Anderson

Urena set to make next start despite cramping

MLB.com @JoeFrisaro

MIAMI -- It appears the Marlins have dodged an injury scare with Jose Urena. The club's Opening Day starter, and team leader in starts and innings pitched, remains on schedule for his next start, which is at home on Saturday against the Reds.

Urena was lifted after five innings in Sunday's 6-4 win over the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park due to cramping in his right hand.

View Full Game Coverage

MIAMI -- It appears the Marlins have dodged an injury scare with Jose Urena. The club's Opening Day starter, and team leader in starts and innings pitched, remains on schedule for his next start, which is at home on Saturday against the Reds.

Urena was lifted after five innings in Sunday's 6-4 win over the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park due to cramping in his right hand.

View Full Game Coverage

On Monday, Urena played catch and noted he was feeling better.

Because of an off-day on Wednesday, Urena will get an extra day of rest before facing Cincinnati.

"Jose was good today," Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. "He came in today, had his regular catch. Everything was just as they thought. His hand was cramped, and he got electrolytes and got a little massage. After that, he was fine."

Urena is 7-12 with a 4.21 ERA in 162 1/3 innings over 29 starts.

Since mid-August, Urena has stepped up, posting a 2.16 ERA in his last five starts. In his last seven starts, he's 4-1 with a 2.79 ERA with 25 strikeouts and a WHIP of 0.96 in 38 2/3 innings.

Over his last 15 starts, Urena is 6-4 with a 3.84 ERA.

"You don't want to take any chances with him, absolutely not," Mattingly said. "It sounded like he was good with regular toss, and he didn't have any problems today."

The Marlins' rotation is already down one veteran with Dan Straily dealing with a left oblique strain sustained on Sept. 7 at Pittsburgh.

"We haven't officially said he is not going to pitch, but unofficially, he's not going to pitch," Mattingly said of Straily.

Before Straily was sidelined, the Marlins planned on going with a six-man rotation for the remainder of the season. Now, they'll stick with five.

Trevor Richards started on Monday against the Nationals, and Sandy Alcantara is lined up for Tuesday. Jeff Brigham, Wei-Yin Chen and Urena are slated for the first three games against the Reds -- on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

"We'll just stay with our five guys," Mattingly said. "We have some off-days. Still kind of regular rest, with a couple of guys getting an extra day."

Worth noting
• The final two weeks of the season are an opportunity for Miami to give opportunities to a number of newcomers. Peter O'Brien, who had two home runs on the Marlins' road trip, will get chances at first base and the corner outfield spots. O'Brien batted cleanup and played first on Monday.

Video: MIA@PHI: O'Brien crushes a 2-run homer to left field

"We'll get him into some games," Mattingly said. "He's had a good year. He's shown signs of being a little bit dangerous. We'll get to see some at-bats. We'll see him at first. We'll see him in the outfield. We'll see what it looks like the rest of the way."

• The Marlins-Pirates game, rained out on Sept. 9 in Pittsburgh, remains tentatively scheduled for Oct. 1, the day after the regular-season finale. It appears that game will be played only if it impacts the playoff race. The Pirates have yet to be eliminated.

"I would say it's contingent on if it means anything, as far as playoff implications," Mattingly said. "If there's playoff implications, obviously, we have to play. I don't think we'll actually play if we don't."

Joe Frisaro has covered the Marlins for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro and listen to his podcast.

Miami Marlins, Jose Urena

Youngsters pave way as Marlins battle back

Brinson, Sierra club key bases-loaded hits in comeback win
MLB.com @JoeFrisaro

MIAMI -- The stretch run is an opportunity for the young Marlins players to get a taste of what it takes to make it through a full, big league season. A couple of rookies who project to be part of the core for years to come did their part on Monday in spoiling a late playoff push by the Nationals.

Lewis Brinson had two hits, an RBI and scored a run, while Magneuris Sierra added a two-run single in Miami's 8-5 comeback victory over the Nationals at Marlins Park.

View Full Game Coverage

MIAMI -- The stretch run is an opportunity for the young Marlins players to get a taste of what it takes to make it through a full, big league season. A couple of rookies who project to be part of the core for years to come did their part on Monday in spoiling a late playoff push by the Nationals.

Lewis Brinson had two hits, an RBI and scored a run, while Magneuris Sierra added a two-run single in Miami's 8-5 comeback victory over the Nationals at Marlins Park.

View Full Game Coverage

"As long as they're continuing to play hard," Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. "We've talked about it before. These guys are trying to show us that they are a good part of the future."

Video: WSH@MIA: Sierra rips a game-tying 2-run single in 6th

The Marlins overcame a four-run deficit and won back-to-back games for the first time since Aug. 24-25. Starlin Castro added a two-run double and a solo home run.

Coming off a 2-7 road trip, the Marlins responded with a solid team win, as they improved to 59-91. Although they will finish in last place in the National League East, they dropped the Nationals to 76-75, keeping them 7 1/2 games behind the Braves and in third place in the division.

Video: WSH@MIA: Castro hammers a solo homer to left-center

"It feels good because guys are still in the battle," Mattingly said. "That's one of the things. You want your team to still compete, no matter what the situation is on that given day. I think the guys have been pretty resilient."

Brinson put Miami in front for good with a bases-loaded single in the seventh inning. Miguel Rojas added a sacrifice fly in the inning.

Video: WSH@MIA: Rojas plates Realmuto with a sacrifice fly

"It's been a lot of work, a work in progress," said Brinson, who has scuffled most of the season but is showing positive signs in the final month. "It always is. I'm just trying to finish strong and help this team win as many games as we can down the stretch."

After falling behind by four, the Marlins rallied back and took the lead with three runs in the sixth. Sierra had a two-run single off Jimmy Cordero to tie it at 4. Wander Suero's balk, while making a pickoff attempt at first base on Sierra, plated Austin Dean to put Miami in front, 5-4. But the Nationals responded in the seventh to tie it, 5-5, on Trea Turner's RBI fielder's choice.

Video: WSH@MIA: Mattingly talks 8-5 comeback victory

The Marlins got on the board in the fifth inning on Castro's two-run double off Erick Fedde, who was then lifted after 4 1/3 innings and 93 pitches. It was only Fedde's second hit allowed, but it trimmed Washington's lead to 4-2.

Marlins rookie Trevor Richards was tagged for four runs early but recovered enough to make it through five innings. The right-hander fanned six.

Video: WSH@MIA: Richards induces key DP to escape jam in 2nd

After breezing through the first inning on 12 pitches, including striking out Bryce Harper, Richards allowed a run in the second. In the third inning, the Nationals did damage with the long ball. Victor Robles led off with his first MLB home run, and Anthony Rendon belted a two-run homer.

"I honestly made two mistakes, and they ended up over the wall," Richards said. "Just something to build on. You can't make mistakes at this level inside the zone. Just executing pitches more consistently. Build on it, and keep going. We got a win out of it. The offense kept hitting, and it ended up being a great game."

Video: WSH@MIA: Richards strikes out Harper swinging in 1st

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
The Marlins pulled even in the sixth inning on Sierra's two-run single. And Sierra's speed caused a balk by Suero, which scored Dean with the go-ahead run.

Sierra, 22, was acquired by Miami in the Marcell Ozuna trade, and his exceptional speed is something the organization is aiming to tap into. With Washington aiming to keep Sierra close to first base, Suero balked.

Video: WSH@MIA: Dean scores go-ahead run on Suero's balk

"I was just trying to stay aggressive," Sierra said through an interpreter. "When I was on first base, I was just trying to provoke the situation and get a balk."

"You hope his plate discipline continues to grow," Mattingly said. "And he continues to understand the strike zone and understand who he is. He needs to try to get on base. If he gets on base a lot, he's going to cause havoc. That's basically what we talk about with speed, it's going to challenge guys to go quicker."

Video: WSH@MIA: Conley retires Wieters, gets save in 8-5 win

SOUND SMART
Peter O'Brien is 6-for-24 with three doubles and two home runs since joining the team on Sept. 4.

YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Sierra is among the fastest players in the Majors, and he showed why in the fifth inning, scoring from first base on Castro's two-run double. Sierra, according to Statcast™, made it from first to home in 10.09 seconds, and he was moving at a clip of 29.3 feet per second. Anything over 30 feet per second is considered elite.

Sierra's average sprint speed is 30.1 feet per second, which is tied for second in the Majors. Sierra, actually, may have been able to top 30 feet per second, but he had Dean going from second to home, and he didn't chance running up the heels of his teammate.

"When the ball was hit to the gap, it was a big hit. I was on first base. I was going aggressively. It was one of those situations, if he got tired, I was going to pass [Dean]," Sierra joked.

Video: WSH@MIA: Castro drills a 2-run double to deep left

HE SAID IT
"Brins got a big hit, Austin Dean had a big hit. Magneuris. It was nice to see those guys being able to contribute. A lot of good things, and the bullpen did a nice job. They got the outs they needed to get." -- Mattingly, summing up the night

UP NEXT
Rookie Sandy Alcantara has shown plenty of promise since being called up. The 23-year-old has allowed two runs in 14 innings with 12 strikeouts in two September starts. Alcantara takes the mound on Tuesday at 7:10 p.m. ET in the finale of a two-game series with the Nationals at Marlins Park. Stephen Strasburg goes for Washington.

Joe Frisaro has covered the Marlins for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro and listen to his podcast.

Miami Marlins, Lewis Brinson, Magneuris Sierra

The top pending free agent for all 30 teams

MLB.com @williamfleitch

With trade season in the past, we can now look forward to two wonderful baseball things: the postseason and the Hot Stove. The fun thing about the Hot Stove is that, unlike the postseason, everyone gets to be involved. Whether your team won the World Series or finished 50-plus games out of first place, you're a part of the Hot Stove. The offseason is for everyone.

This week, we take a look at the top pending free agent for every team heading into this offseason. Some of these players will re-sign with their old team, some of them will be the object of bidding wars, but all of them have a decision to make. As do their former employers.

With trade season in the past, we can now look forward to two wonderful baseball things: the postseason and the Hot Stove. The fun thing about the Hot Stove is that, unlike the postseason, everyone gets to be involved. Whether your team won the World Series or finished 50-plus games out of first place, you're a part of the Hot Stove. The offseason is for everyone.

This week, we take a look at the top pending free agent for every team heading into this offseason. Some of these players will re-sign with their old team, some of them will be the object of bidding wars, but all of them have a decision to make. As do their former employers.

For the sake of discussion here, we are counting players who have an option to opt out of their contract, if we consider them more likely to do so than not.

American League East

Blue Jays
Marco Estrada
Estrada is having the worst year of his career, and has particularly struggled since June -- though lingering back soreness might have a little bit to do with that. He was an All-Star only two years ago.

Video: TOR@MIA: Estrada K's Brinson on foul tip

Orioles
Adam Jones
He obviously loves it in Baltimore, but it might get a little ugly there the next few years. He still has plenty to offer a competitive team.

Video: TOR@BAL: Jones cranks a grand slam to left in the 5th

Rays
Carlos Gomez
Gomez has had his worst season since his Twins days, but someone will surely give him a shot as a fourth outfielder.

Video: TB@ATL: Gomez plates Wendle with a single to left

Red Sox
Craig Kimbrel
He has talked about how much he'd like to return to the Red Sox. But considering how good he has been, once again, they'll have to pay for the privilege.

Video: TB@BOS: Kimbrel retires Kiermaier, earns 37th save

Yankees
Andrew McCutchen
McCutchen will be one of the most fascinating free-agency cases this offseason. He could make himself some money with a big postseason.

Video: DET@NYY: McCutchen makes the catch in right

AL Central

Indians
Andrew Miller
Michael Brantley and Cody Allen would also have been options. But even after a somewhat down year, the way baseball is played now, someone's going to pay through the nose for Miller.

Video: LAA@CLE: Miller fires a fastball past Young for the K

Royals
Alcides Escobar
Considering the Royals' devotion to Escobar over the years, they might as well sign him for five more seasons at this point.

Video: DET@KC: Escobar lays out for the stop, nabs Iglesias

Tigers
Jose Iglesias
Since Victor Martinez has said he's going to retire, we'll go with the slick-fielding shortstop.

Video: MIN@DET: Iglesias drives 2-run smash to left

Twins
Joe Mauer
His massive contract is finally expiring. But by all accounts, he and the team look like they'd be happy to see him back next year.

Video: OAK@MIN: Mauer moves to 2nd in Twins all-time hits

White Sox
James Shields
Though Shields hasn't been that bad this year, it's difficult to see the White Sox picking up his $16 million option.

Video: CWS@NYY: Shields tosses 5 2/3 frames of 2-run ball

AL West

Angels
Jim Johnson
He's still hanging around, and is still a pretty effective relief pitcher. The other major free agent, Garrett Richards, had Tommy John surgery and won't be back until 2020.

Video: KC@LAA: Johnson fans Moustakas to retire side in 5th

Astros
Dallas Keuchel
The former AL Cy Young Award winner will be one of the more fascinating names on the market this summer (as will his teammate, Charlie Morton).

Video: HOU@LAA: Keuchel tosses 7 strong frames vs. Angels

A's
Jonathan Lucroy
The A's would surely be happy to bring him back on another one-year contract, but someone else might be willing to go longer at this point.

Video: MIN@OAK: Lucroy cranks a 3-run homer to left field

Mariners
Nelson Cruz
Thirty-eight years old or not, every team could use a guy who hits at least 35 homers every year.

Video: SEA@OAK: Cruz crushes a solo homer to left-center

Rangers
Adrian Beltre
The future Hall of Famer has said he wants to return to Texas in 2019, but he'll have suitors out there.

Video: MIN@TEX: Beltre clubs solo homer, strikes karate pose

National League East

Braves
Nick Markakis
He picked an excellent time to have the best season of an already excellent career.

Video: TB@ATL: Markakis dives to rob Bauers in the 9th

Marlins
None

Seriously. Now that they traded Brad Ziegler at the non-waiver Trade Deadline, the Marlins have no pending free agents -- though that could change when the 40-man roster gets tighter this offseason. But this is a good thing. The Marlins are laying a foundation.

Mets
Devin Mesoraco
He has been a handy player since he came over from the Reds, rebuilding his value enough that he might get a nice deal this offseason.

Video: NYM@PHI: Mesoraco clubs a solo homer to left field

Nationals
Bryce Harper
You might have heard a little bit about his pending free agency.

Video: WSH@NYM: Harper clears bases with pinch-hit double

Phillies
Wilson Ramos
Fitting for a team that's just starting to build, its only major free agents (Ramos and Asdrubal Cabrera) were Trade Deadline acquisitions.

Video: WSH@PHI: Ramos cuts the lead with RBI double in 9th

NL Central

Brewers
Joakim Soria
It's up in the air whether or not the Brewers will pick up his $10 million option this offseason. He's just off the disabled list, and it's not like the Brewers don't have plenty of bullpen options. (You could also say Mike Moustakas for this, but given the premium teams are putting on their bullpen these days -- and the fact that Moose struggled to get a multiyear deal last year -- Soria could end up being more in demand.)

Video: MIL@CIN: Soria fans Dixon, earns 1st win of season

Cardinals
Bud Norris
Norris, along with Jordan Hicks, has been the most stable part of a Cardinals bullpen, which was once one of the worst in baseball but is now one of the best.

Video: PIT@STL: Norris induces double play to notch the save

Cubs
Daniel Murphy
Every hit he gives the Cubs makes him a little more money this offseason.

Video: CIN@CHC: Murphy smacks a 2-run homer to right-center

Pirates
Jordy Mercer
Mercer feels like he has played for the Pirates since Sid Bream, but it has actually only been since 2012.

Video: PIT@SF: Mercer drives in Freese with an RBI single

Reds
Matt Harvey
One of the teams that could probably use him the most is … Cincinnati.

Video: MIL@CIN: Harvey fans Peralta, the side in the 4th

NL West

D-backs
A.J. Pollock
The D-backs have a ton of pending free agents, but none have been as critical to the team's success -- and will be as desired by other teams -- as Pollock.

Video: SEA@ARI: Pollock gives D-backs lead with 2-run single

Dodgers
Clayton Kershaw and Manny Machado
There's no way we could pick just one of these two -- though Kershaw is no guarantee to actually hit the market. The Dodgers ace can opt out of the final two years and $65 million on his contract this winter. Kershaw can also do what CC Sabathia and the Yankees did in 2011, and renegotiate the contract in lieu of an opt-out.

Video: AR@LAD: Machado barehands slow roller to get the out

Giants
Hunter Pence
It has been another lost season for Pence. But if he can get healthy in the offseason, he might be worth a one-year flyer.

Video: TEX@SF: 'Underpants' lifts pinch-hit homer in 7th

Padres
Freddy Galvis
Galvis hasn't missed a game since 2016, for what it's worth.

Video: COL@SD: Galvis dives to make grab on Story's liner

Rockies
DJ LeMahieu
How much teams factor in Coors Field in their evaluations of LeMahieu -- and he actually has a higher slugging percentage on the road this year than in Denver -- will determine where, and for how much, he'll spend the next few years of his career.

Video: COL@SD: LeMahieu swats a solo homer to left-center

Will Leitch is a columnist for MLB.com.

30 breakout performers -- 1 for each team

Whether rookies or players who finally turned the corner, a look at the season's breakthrough performances
MLB.com @williamfleitch

Of the hundreds of great Albert Pujols factoids, here's my favorite one: He only made the Cardinals' roster in 2001, his rookie season, because Bobby Bonilla had a Spring Training injury, opening up a roster spot. All Pujols did that year was hit .329/.403/.610, win the National League Rookie of the Year Award and, of course, begin a career that'll finish in Cooperstown. It was his breakthrough year, and it was undeniable.

You can't expect everyone -- or anyone -- to have a breakthrough like Pujols did. But when a breakthrough happens, you can't miss it. Today we take a look at players on each team who, in 2018, had the breakthrough year that augurs great things for the future. Some of them are rookies, some of them just finally turned the corner, but all of them are players we'll be talking about for years to come. And this was the year they got it all started.

Of the hundreds of great Albert Pujols factoids, here's my favorite one: He only made the Cardinals' roster in 2001, his rookie season, because Bobby Bonilla had a Spring Training injury, opening up a roster spot. All Pujols did that year was hit .329/.403/.610, win the National League Rookie of the Year Award and, of course, begin a career that'll finish in Cooperstown. It was his breakthrough year, and it was undeniable.

You can't expect everyone -- or anyone -- to have a breakthrough like Pujols did. But when a breakthrough happens, you can't miss it. Today we take a look at players on each team who, in 2018, had the breakthrough year that augurs great things for the future. Some of them are rookies, some of them just finally turned the corner, but all of them are players we'll be talking about for years to come. And this was the year they got it all started.

AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST

Blue Jays: Teoscar Hernandez, OF
Key stat: 20 homers

The strikeouts are a little higher than you'd like, but for a guy who didn't make the Opening Day roster, the power has been a revelation for the Blue Jays.

Video: CLE@TOR: Hernandez crushes a 3-run home run to center

Orioles: Tanner Scott
Key stat: 12.9 K/9

It has been the sort of year in Baltimore that a middle reliever with a high strikeout rate is your breakthrough player … but a 23-year-old with that strikeout rate shouldn't be ignored.

Video: BAL@TEX: Scott K's Guzman with the bases loaded

Rays: Blake Snell
Key stat: 2.03 ERA, 19 wins

This was the year the Rays were waiting for from Snell. Maybe he's the only starter they need!

Video: CLE@TB: Snell gets Diaz, takes no-hitter to 7th

Red Sox: Xander Bogaerts
Key stat: .288/.359/.519

Remember, Bogaerts was a below-average hitter last year. With all the homers at Fenway this year, it's easy to miss that he has more than doubled his total from 2017.

Video: HOU@BOS: Bogaerts clubs a solo homer over the Monster

Yankees: Aaron Hicks
Key stat: 4.1 WAR (Baseball Reference)

With all the injury problems the Yankees have, Hicks is proving that he can be a near-star-level player. 

Video: TOR@NYY: Hicks opens the scoring with RBI single

AL CENTRAL

Indians: Jose Ramirez
Key stat: .282/.396/.578

Sure, Ramirez was terrific last year too, but by converting those doubles into homers, he has turned into the AL Most Valuable Player Award candidate no one saw coming.

Video: Ramirez makes history, joins the exclusive 30-30 club

Royals: Brad Keller
Key stat: 3.04 ERA

Keller had a 4.68 ERA in Double-A Jackson last year, but he has been the Royals' best pitcher this year. He just turned 23 years old as well.

Video: CWS@KC: Keller twirls 7 strong innings in win

Tigers: Niko Goodrum
Key stat: 16 homers

Goodrum was 1-for-17 in 2017 with Minnesota and never hit more than 13 homers in eight years in the Minors. He may end up leading the Tigers in homers this year.

Video: DET@CWS: Goodrum clubs a game-tying solo HR in 7th

Twins: Jose Berrios
Key stat: 3.81 ERA, tied for league lead in complete games and shutouts

Berrios will end up adding about 50 innings to his 2017 total, which gets him closer to being the ace the Twins have been waiting on. He's still 24.

Video: MIN@KC: Berrios strikes out 9 over 6 strong innings

White Sox: Carlos Rodon
Key stat: 3.10 ERA

Rodon's strikeout rate has dropped, but everything else has been golden for him this year, and he looks like a rotation mainstay moving forward.

Video: CWS@KC: Rodon lets up 2 runs, K's 5 over 6 innings

AL WEST

Angels: Shohei Ohtani
Key stat: .370 OBP, 3.31 ERA

The injury is (obviously) a bummer, but seriously, once it heals, it looks like Ohtani really might be able to both pitch and hit in this league, and at high levels.

Video: Must C Combo: Trout, Ohtani smash back-to-back homers

Astros: Alex Bregman
Key stats: .294/.401/.551

Bregman has unquestionably been the best position player on a team full of great ones.

Video: Bregman has 30 homer, 50 double, 100 RBI season

Athletics: Matt Chapman
Key stat: 8.1 WAR (Baseball Reference)

We all knew Chapman could play defense like no one else on earth. But he has raised both his OBP and SLG 50 points from his rookie year. Look out.

Video: OAK@TB: Chapman clubs solo homer off Romo 434 feet

Mariners: Edwin Diaz
Key stat: 55 saves

The Mariners have relied on Diaz more than any team has relied on any reliever, and he has responded nearly every time.

Video: SEA@LAA: Diaz induces flyout, notches his 55th save

Rangers: Jose Leclerc
Key stat: 13.8 K/9

Leclerc has always been able to strike guys out, but he dropped his walk rate in half this year.

Video: TEX@SD: Leclerc whiffs Reyes to earn his 11th save

NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST

Braves: Ronald Acuna Jr.
Key stat: .292/.368/.574

Remember when Acuna was struggling? He looks like he'll be ready to compete for the NL MVP Award as soon as next year. Acuna won't be able to buy his first drink until December.

Video: WSH@ATL: Acuna records 1st career 4-hit game in win

Marlins: Brian Anderson
Key stat: .270/.353/.395

If Anderson's competition consisted of mere mortals instead of some absolute studs this year, he'd be a legitimate NL Rookie of the Year Award candidate.

Video: MIA@NYM: Anderson lines an RBI triple to right field

Mets: Jacob deGrom
Key stat: 1.78 ERA

It's possible that deGrom may be what we remember most from this season.

Video: NYM@BOS: deGrom fans Betts for his 10th K through 5

Nationals: Juan Soto
Key stat: .305/.421/.532

It's easy not to fret about your former superstar teenager possibly leaving when you have another one that just shows up on your roster.

Video: WSH@ATL: Soto knocks in Harper on 9th inning single

Phillies: Aaron Nola
Key stat: 16-5, 2.42 ERA

The Phillies have been excited about Nola for a while. But even they didn't see this coming.

Video: WSH@PHI: Nola K's Rendon to end the frame

NL CENTRAL

Brewers: Christian Yelich
Key stat: .313/.381/.556

Yelich is not only having a better year than Marcell Ozuna, he's having a better year than Giancarlo Stanton.

Video: PIT@MIL: Yelich crushes his 30th homer of the season

Cardinals: Jack Flaherty
2.86 ERA

The Cards have had a few of these guys -- from Miles Mikolas to Harrison Bader to Yairo Munoz -- but we'll go with the guy who would start the NL Wild Card Game.

Video: LAD@STL: Flaherty whiffs 8 Dodgers, allows just 1 run

Cubs: Javier Baez
Key stat: .294/.328/.563

The batting average and on-base percentage are about what you'd expect from Baez, but that slugging leads the NL.

Video: Must C Combo: Baez homers, executes key bunt in win

Pirates: Trevor Williams
Key stat: 1.19 second-half ERA

If the real Williams is anything close to this, with Jameson Taillon and Chris Archer, the Pirates have quite a threesome in the rotation moving forward.

Video: PIT@MIL: Williams tosses 6 scoreless vs. Brewers

Reds: Eugenio Suarez
Key stat: 101 RBIs

No Red has led the NL in RBIs since Dave Parker in 1985, and Suarez is right there with Trevor Story and Baez for the top spot.

Video: LAD@CIN: Suarez belts a solo home run to right

NL WEST

D-backs: Patrick Corbin
Key stat: 11-5, 3.05 ERA

The pending free agent has picked an excellent year to have his career season.

Video: ARI@COL: Corbin gets Blackmon swinging

Dodgers: Max Muncy
Key stat: .258/.389/.577

Muncy has cooled down a little bit in the second half, but of all the players to lead the Dodgers in homers this year, this guy would have been pretty far down everybody's list in the preseason.

Video: NYM@LAD: Muncy hits towering 2-run homer to center

Giants: Dereck Rodriguez
Key stat: 2.30 ERA

The Giants are almost too old to have too many breakthrough players, but Rodriguez has actually been the team's leader in WAR (Baseball Reference) this year.

Video: COL@SF: Rodriguez K's 5 over 6 strong frames vs. Rox

Padres: Franmil Reyes
Key stat: .848 OPS

The numbers are better than many realize, but the real joy of Reyes is bringing something unique and exciting to a franchise that could use it.

Video: SD@ARI: Reyes smashes a 3-run homer to right-center

Rockies: Kyle Freeland
Key stat: 15-7, 2.96 ERA

According to Baseball Reference WAR, Freeland is having the second-best season by a Rockies pitcher in franchise history … and he's got a real chance to chase down 2010 Ubaldo Jimenez by season's end.

Video: ARI@COL: Freeland K's Jay, the side in the 3rd

Will Leitch is a columnist for MLB.com.

Marlins hold off Phils after Urena's strong outing

Right-hander continues impressive stretch with 5 innings of 1-run ball
MLB.com

PHILADELPHIA -- The numbers say Jose Urena has been a different pitcher since plunking Braves rookie Ronald Acuna Jr. a month ago. The Marlins' right-hander says otherwise.

"I do the same," Urena said after Miami's 6-4 win over the Phillies on Sunday at Citizens Bank Park. "The people know me, the people know how I pitch. I'm not going to change that for nobody."

View Full Game Coverage

PHILADELPHIA -- The numbers say Jose Urena has been a different pitcher since plunking Braves rookie Ronald Acuna Jr. a month ago. The Marlins' right-hander says otherwise.

"I do the same," Urena said after Miami's 6-4 win over the Phillies on Sunday at Citizens Bank Park. "The people know me, the people know how I pitch. I'm not going to change that for nobody."

View Full Game Coverage

Urena spaced three hits across five innings, struck out four and walked one. He allowed one run, a leadoff homer to Cesar Hernandez on his first pitch of the game, and likely would have gone deeper into the game had the Marlins not removed him for precautionary reasons after right hand cramps flared up in the fifth.

Video: MIA@PHI: O'Brien, Urena talk victory over Phillies

The strong outing gave Urena a 2.16 ERA in his last five starts, an impressive stretch that dates back to his one-run complete-game win against Washington four days after being ejected for hitting Acuna with the first pitch on Aug. 15. Urena has returned to throwing like he did a year ago, when a 14-win campaign led the Marlins to believe that they had a starter around which they could build a rotation for the future.

"We feel like he's thrown the ball good all year, better than his numbers early on," manager Don Mattingly said. "But lately, he has been on a little bit of a roll."

Video: MIA@PHI: Marlins turn 2 behind Urena in the 3rd

Urena didn't pick up his first win until June 5. When the 27-year-old temporarily became baseball's most notorious hurler a month ago, his ERA sat at 4.74. Then, he made adjustments. He wants to attack hitters, and Mattingly has noticed improved location on either side of the plate. He's seen pitches stay down and a breaking ball that cuts deeper. Urena hasn't hit a batter since Acuna.

Video: MIA@PHI: Brinson plates Dietrich with an RBI triple

"Sometimes you gotta locate more," Urena said. "We're at the end of the season. Gotta finish strong. That's in my mind. ... If you look at a lot of the first half, I didn't throw curveballs. Just once in a while. Now, I'm throwing more. And I'm throwing a different changeup, too."

An altered grip is part of the reason Urena has made that change to his pitch arsenal. It's also part of the reason, he said, his hand started to cramp on Sunday. Urena doesn't expect the cramps to interfere with his next start, but for most of the fifth inning he kept his hand open save for when he gripped the ball.

Video: MIA@PHI: Urena checked for cramping in the 5th inning

"If I tried to squeeze, that would get worse," Urena said. "I will be fine. I will be fine. It's gone away."

Tyler Kinley, Kyle Barraclough, Drew Steckenrider and Adam Conley protected the lead after Urena left, giving him his seventh win this season. The Phillies' chipped away against Barraclough in the seventh and Conley in the ninth, but both were able to strike out Rhys Hoskins to end the threats.

Video: MIA@PHI: Barraclough strands a pair of runners in 7th

Early on, Miami's offense suffered a similar fate against Phillies starter Nick Pivetta, who recorded seven strikeouts his first time through the Marlins' order. That didn't last. Peter O'Brien roped a two-run home run in the fourth, Bryan Holaday doubled in Austin Dean in the fifth, and three more runs scored in the sixth. That was enough to break a five-game skid and send the Marlins' home with their first win here since April 8.

Video: MIA@PHI: Conley strikes out Hoskins for the final out

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
O'Brien homers: Pivetta snagged a comebacker off the bat of Starlin Castro in the fourth and appeared to have the makings of a double play until J.P. Crawford botched the second half of the sequence by overthrowing first base. And after Derek Dietrich's ensuing strikeout would have ended the inning, O'Brien put the Marlins ahead with his home run. The ball got out in a hurry, landing just past the left-field seats 3.8 seconds after popping off O'Brien's bat.

"My biggest thing is just consistency," O'Brien said. "Go up there and have quality at-bats and do whatever I can to help the team win. Stay ready for whatever opportunity I get and maximize it."

Video: MIA@PHI: O'Brien crushes a 2-run homer to left field

Confusion on basepaths: After Castro and Dietrich began the sixth with singles against Luis Garcia, O'Brien clubbed a line drive to right-center. Odubel Herrera nearly tracked the ball down but missed it and crashed hard into the wall. Dietrich, unsure if Herrera had caught the ball, stood between first and second base, and O'Brien passed him. O'Brien was ruled out, and Dietrich went on to score from first on Lewis Brinson's RBI triple.

"It was a fairly tough read," Mattingly said. "It's one of those that looks bad, but the one thing Peter could do is once he sees [Dietrich] retreating is just not keep going and pay attention to where he's at."

Video: MIA@PHI: O'Brien plates run on odd sacrifice fly

SOUND SMART
O'Brien has eight career home runs, three of which have come at Citizens Bank Park. The Phillies are the only team O'Brien has multiple homers against.

YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
In the eighth, Carlos Santana lofted a shallow fly ball to left field. Isaac Galloway sprinted in while JT Riddle shaded out, and the two avoided a collision when Riddle slid and Galloway jumped over him to make the catch.

Video: MIA@PHI: Galloway jumps over Riddle to make catch

HE SAID IT
"He has a good approach. We're going to get him some extended playing time as we finish up. We'll see. The one thing I do like about Peter is he has a good feel for a game plan and what he's looking for and what he's trying to do and an understanding of who he is: that he's dangerous, and that he can hit the ball out of the ballpark." -- Mattingly, on O'Brien

UP NEXT
The Marlins return to Miami on Monday to start a brief two-game set with Nationals at 7:10 p.m. ET. Trevor Richards (3-9, 4.85 ERA) will face Washington's Erick Fedde (2-3, 5.12). Richards has twice faced the Nats during his rookie season and struck out eight in six scoreless frames on July 28.

Joe Bloss is a reporter for MLB.com based in Philadelphia.

Miami Marlins, Peter O'Brien, Jose Urena

Bullpen game upends Marlins; skid reaches 5

MLB.com

PHILADELPHIA -- Don Mattingly knew Game No. 148 was going to be different. He declined to name a starter until a few hours before the 7:05 p.m. ET first pitch of Saturday night's 5-4 loss to the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park.

Once Jarlin Garcia was revealed as the choice, Mattingly ensured the left-hander would be replaced before he could bat. After that, the Marlins would "mix and match" their remaining 11 relievers -- 10 of which are right-handed -- to create better matchups.

View Full Game Coverage

PHILADELPHIA -- Don Mattingly knew Game No. 148 was going to be different. He declined to name a starter until a few hours before the 7:05 p.m. ET first pitch of Saturday night's 5-4 loss to the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park.

Once Jarlin Garcia was revealed as the choice, Mattingly ensured the left-hander would be replaced before he could bat. After that, the Marlins would "mix and match" their remaining 11 relievers -- 10 of which are right-handed -- to create better matchups.

View Full Game Coverage

"This is one of those games that could go really good or go really bad," the manager said in a pregame TV interview.

Mattingly wasn't bluffing; he pinch-hit for Garcia in the top of the second, a move that extended an eventual four-run frame. Madness ensued. Neither starter pitched into the third inning. Gabe Kapler dug deeper into the Phillies' bullpen than Mattingly did in his.

Video: MIA@PHI: Kinley strikes out Cabrera for his 2nd K

Forty-one players were used between the two teams. But one elevated fastball doomed the Marlins as their toying with baseball's latest experiment fizzled, keeping the 67-91 Marlins at the bottom of the National League and giving the Phillies their first series win since sweeping Miami here Aug. 2-5.

After Garcia was lifted, bad defense led to two unearned runs being charged to Brett Graves in the second. He recovered to pitch a 1-2-3 third, and Nick Wittgren did the same in the fourth. Drew Rucinski took a two-run lead into the fifth, but surrendered a three-run home run to Cesar Hernandez to give the Marlins a deficit they would not surmount.

Video: MIA@PHI: Graves fans Hoskins for his 3rd strikeout

Aside from Rucinski, six Marlins pitchers combined to allow one hit. But the Phillies tasked seven relievers with seven innings, and they posted a shutout.

"The guys threw the ball good," Mattingly said. "The guys out of the bullpen threw the ball. It's just one of those games."

Video: MIA@PHI: Wittgren K's Altherr on a heater

Tampa Bay has notably tested the idea of starting an "opener," like Miami's one-inning deployment of Garcia, for most of this season. It's worked, but the Marlins at this point are not in the same spot as the Rays. Miami is trying to develop young starters like Trevor Richards and Jose Urena. Its bullpen has an MLB-worst 5.50 ERA. The Marlins only tried the unconventional tactic because Dan Straily's season is likely over and the rotation needed a fill.

But, with decent results Saturday night, could the Marlins try the strategy on their own terms at some point in the future?

"I think it's something that you have to keep an open mind to," Mattingly said. "I'm not sure you can do it over the course of the season. It depends on what kind of starters you have. If you've got four or five quality guys, I don't think it's something that you really want to do. But … if you've only got three starters, it's a way to go."

MOMENT THAT MATTERED
Austin Dean dropped a fly ball in left field in the second inning. Later in the frame, after Graves struck out both Roman Quinn and Asdrubal Cabrera, pinch-hitter Justin Bour ripped a two-out single off the glove of Brian Anderson at third base to plate two unearned runs. 

"It looked like he made a nice little turn on that ball," Mattingly said of Dean. "He got going and got exactly what you want. He turned to glove side and looked like he just missed it. But we walked the first guy in that inning -- then they get that -- and walk another guy."

Video: MIA@PHI: Bour drives in a pair of runs with a single

YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
The Marlins scored four runs in the second inning off Phillies' starter Vince Velasquez, three of which came via JT Riddle's bases-clearing double. Riddle, with two doubles Saturday, went 2-for-4 for the second straight night. Since returning from left wrist soreness on Tuesday, Riddle has hit .400 with four RBIs and three extra-base hits.

"I'm getting good pitches to hit and I'm squaring them up," Riddle said. "That's baseball. It's a funny game."

Video: MIA@PHI: Riddle clears the bases with a double

HE SAID IT
"It's only in September that you can have a game like that. There's no way you do that during the season. You can have a game where you throw a guy an inning and you bring a guy in for four or five, but what we did today, and what they ended up doing, too, is something that really happens in September. And, to be quite honest with you, it shouldn't be able to happen. It's one of those things, too many guys. It's not really regular baseball." -- Mattingly

UP NEXT
The Marlins close out their season series against the Phillies with a 1:35 p.m. ET Sunday matinee at Citizens Bank Park. Urena (6-12, 4.29 ERA) will take the mound for Miami and face right-hander Nick Pivetta (7-12, 4.64 ERA). Urena has won three of his last four starts, posting a 2.22 ERA and limiting opposing hitters to a .167 average during that span.

Joe Bloss is a reporter for MLB.com based in Philadelphia.

Miami Marlins

Road struggles continue for Chen in Philly

Realmuto hits 21st homer of the season; Holaday pitches the eighth
MLB.com

PHILADELPHIA -- Wei-Yin Chen doesn't pay attention to what month it is. He doesn't care where he's playing. His routine does not change if the mound from which he throws is at Marlins Park or any of the other 29 Major League venues.

But for some reason, Chen has struggled away from Miami in 2018. Even after having one of the better stretches of his career, Chen's road problems resurfaced in the Marlins' 14-2 loss to the Phillies on Friday night at Citizens Bank Park.

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PHILADELPHIA -- Wei-Yin Chen doesn't pay attention to what month it is. He doesn't care where he's playing. His routine does not change if the mound from which he throws is at Marlins Park or any of the other 29 Major League venues.

But for some reason, Chen has struggled away from Miami in 2018. Even after having one of the better stretches of his career, Chen's road problems resurfaced in the Marlins' 14-2 loss to the Phillies on Friday night at Citizens Bank Park.

View Full Game Coverage

"Tonight, including my command and everything, it was bad," Chen said through a team interpreter. "I just pitched bad. I should have made some adjustments, but I couldn't, so that brings some damage to the team, and we couldn't come back."

Chen lasted just four innings and allowed five runs on seven hits. The Phillies took him deep twice in the second inning and piled on three more homers against Miami's bullpen. The deficit got large enough that Marlins manager Don Mattingly elected to deploy catcher Bryan Holaday to get Miami's final three outs.

Part of that falls on a lineup that could not figure out Phillies starter Zach Eflin, who spaced five hits and a walk across 6 1/3 innings of one-run ball. The Marlins left nine runners on base, including two in the third. Eflin struck out both Miguel Rojas and J.T. Realmuto to escape that jam.

Video: MIA@PHI: Eflin strikes out Realmuto, the side in 3rd

"We had a chance there early. We got some guys out there," Mattingly said. "[We] don't score to get back in the game, and other than that, we didn't really have a whole lot of chances."

The Phillies then added two more runs in the bottom of the fourth, and Chen, who has now allowed 14 home runs in 51 1/3 innings on the road this season, again found himself in a bad spot before the game reached its midpoint.

Mattingly reunites with former Make-A-Wish kid

That's why, when the Marlins were here in early August, the club pushed Chen's next start back a day. He had struggled mightily away from Marlins Park up to that point, posting a 10.27 ERA in nine road starts, and the Marlins saw no sense in fighting what was an obvious, yet perplexing trend. That allowed Chen to throw the opener of their ensuing homestand, where he blanked the visiting Cardinals over 5 2/3 innings.

The decision proved even more effective when Chen followed up his fine outing against St. Louis by barreling through the rest of August with a 1.54 ERA, the best monthly ERA in his career (minimum four starts). That success rolled over into September, when he opened the month by allowing just one run over eight innings against the Blue Jays to tie the longest start of his career. And while Chen didn't have the same luck his last time out, surrendering three earned runs in four innings at Pittsburgh, he didn't dig Miami into too deep of a hole.

That was not the case on Friday. Chen escaped the first inning unscathed despite walking two. He was not as fortunate in the second. After Carlos Santana knocked a leadoff single, Aaron Altherr turned on Chen's payoff pitch -- his first of two home runs on the night. Chen just narrowly missed a called strike three the pitch before.

Video: MIA@PHI: Altherr clubs 2-run jack to open the scoring

"I don't know if that changes anything, but obviously, we couldn't really stop them in any way shape or form," Mattingly said.

Roman Quinn added a solo shot three batters later. Tayron Guerrero, Javy Guerra and Holaday each allowed three earned runs in an inning each of relief. The Marlins' only offense came via Realmuto's solo shot in the sixth and off Scott Kingery's error in the seventh that scored Austin Dean.

Video: MIA@PHI: Dean races home on Kingery's error in 7th

None of these instances were the sole reason the Marlins went on to lose by 12 on Friday. That matters little, because Miami is more than 12 games behind the next closest team in the division standings. But, for Chen, that's hardly consolation as he searches for answers at the tail end of a frustrating season.

"I guess I probably need to do some more homework for the games on the road," Chen said. "Maybe that's what I need to do."

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Speed over power: Chen loaded the bases in the fourth by surrendering three straight singles, but got Eflin to strike out for the inning's first out. Quinn, the eighth-fastest runner in baseball, according to Statcast™, then rolled a potential inning-ending double-play ball, but beat the throw to first base. Altherr, who took off from second base, took advantage of the focus on the first-base umpire's call and raced home to sneak his hand in on a nifty slide.

Video: MIA@PHI: Altherr's hustles to score on Quinn's FC

SOUND SMART
Realmuto ripped his 21st home run of the season in the sixth inning, when he sent the first pitch from Eflin into the seats in left-center field. The ball traveled a projected 422 feet, according to Statcast™, making it Realmuto's second longest homer of 2018. Realmuto has now hit 18 home runs as a catcher this season and needs just one more to tie Charles Johnson's franchise record set in 1997.

YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Facing a nine-run deficit in the eighth inning, Mattingly elected to put catcher Holaday on the mound for the second time this season rather than expend another relief pitcher the day before a bullpen game. Holaday allowed three earned runs on four hits, including Mitch Walding's 435-foot home run, the first hit of Walding's career.

When Rhys Hoskins -- who struck out against Holaday in April -- led off the frame with a double, Holaday tipped his cap and laughed.

"That's basically saving," Mattingly said. "We know what kind of game we've got tomorrow."

Video: MIA@PHI: Holaday navigates 8th with Straily's glove

UP NEXT
Realmuto will lead the Marlins' lineup into Saturday's 7:05 p.m. ET game at Citizens Bank Park, which is slated to be a bullpen game for Miami. Mattingly did not name a probable starter after Friday's loss. The Phillies will start Vince Velasquez, who has 1-3 with a 6.66 ERA in six starts since throwing 6 1/3 scoreless innings against the Marlins on Aug. 3.

Joe Bloss is a reporter for MLB.com based in Philadelphia.

Miami Marlins, Wei-Yin Chen