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3 takeaways as Marlins' win streak halted

Smith struggles; Cooper/Ramirez combo showing upside; new approach paying dividends
@JoeFrisaro
June 6, 2019

MILWAUKEE -- The long ball continues to hurt Caleb Smith, who was victimized three times by home runs in five innings on Thursday afternoon in the Marlins’ 5-1 loss to the Brewers at Miller Park. Christian Yelich started things off with a two-run homer in the first inning, and Mike

MILWAUKEE -- The long ball continues to hurt Caleb Smith, who was victimized three times by home runs in five innings on Thursday afternoon in the Marlins’ 5-1 loss to the Brewers at Miller Park.

Christian Yelich started things off with a two-run homer in the first inning, and Mike Moustakas connected twice off the Miami left-hander.

The Brewers’ quick-strike attack put the Marlins in a three-run hole in the first inning, derailing Miami’s quest for a three-game sweep. Still, the Marlins claimed four of six on the road trip that started last Friday at San Diego.

Box score

“I didn't feel like I was really laboring out there,” Smith said. “I didn't feel like it was long innings or stressful pitches. Three pitches, and they score four runs. You leave three pitches over the middle of the plate, they're going to hit it at any level.”

Brewers right-hander Freddy Peralta did something no other starter could against the Marlins recently -- hold them to fewer than eight runs. Miami scored eight or more runs in each game of its recent four-game winning streak, including lopsided victories of 16-0 and 8-3 in the first two games of this series.

Garrett Cooper, who hit .375 on the six-game road trip, drove in the lone Marlins run with an RBI single off Peralta in the sixth inning.

Smith (3-4) has now lost four straight decisions, including both of his starts on the road trip. He gave up two runs in five innings on May 31 at San Diego.

Despite not getting the sweep, the Marlins have been on an impressive run since May 17, winning 13 of 19.

“You go on the road and win two of three at San Diego, a team on the upswing,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. “And [Milwaukee] is a team that was leading the division when we came here. You talk about winning series at the end of the day, and you're happy with that at the end of the trip. But, obviously, when you get the first two, you want to step on somebody.”

The Marlins have won five of their past six series. Here are three takeaways as they head home to face the Braves on Friday at Marlins Park.

Smith’s struggles

For much of the season, Smith has been the Marlins’ most consistent starter. But the left-hander has lost four straight decisions, including the bookend games of the road trip.

Something to monitor from Thursday is Smith’s four-seam fastball velocity, which was down from his previous start. It averaged 90.9 mph, with a maximum of 92.4 mph. In his last start at San Diego, when he threw five innings, his four-seamer averaged 93 mph, with a max of 94.6 mph.

Smith’s season average entering Thursday was 92.2 mph, with the MLB average 93.2 mph.

“I figured it would be [down],” Smith said. “It just didn't feel like it was coming out good today. It was just one of those days I didn't have my good stuff.”

Cooper/Ramirez combo

It’s no coincidence that the Marlins’ offense started to click when Cooper moved into the second spot and rookie outfielder Harold Ramirez was promoted from Triple-A in mid-May. During the four-game winning streak, Cooper was 7-for-17 (.412), and Ramirez was 6-for-21 (.286).

Ramirez went hitless in four at-bats and struck out three times for the first time in his career. Previously, he had three two-strikeout games. In 82 at-bats, he’s fanned just 15 times.

Cooper, in the three games in Milwaukee, was 5-for-12 (.417) with a home run and three RBIs.

Opposite-field results

Collectively, the Marlins’ offense is starting to gain an identity. They have a “move-the-line” mentality, and have been effective using the whole field.

Entering Thursday, per Statcast, since May 17, the Marlins’ batting average on balls hit to the opposite field was .326. Prior to that date, it was .279.

“I think it's happening because we're being aggressive on the fastball,” shortstop Miguel Rojas said.

In the Marlins’ franchise-record-setting 11-run fifth inning in Tuesday’s 16-0 win, they had nine hits in that frame. Eight were either to the opposite field or to center field.

“We have a little bit of freedom going to the plate, and don't worry about looking for secondary pitches or attacking the pitchers' strength,” Rojas said. “We're just hunting the fastball, and I feel like that is paying dividends. We're being aggressive from the get-go.”

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