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Wallach's wallop not enough against Cubs

After playing 14 innings Sunday, backup backstop carries offense in opener
@JoeFrisaro
April 16, 2019

MIAMI -- If there was any wear and tear from catching 14 innings on Sunday, Chad Wallach didn’t show it on Monday in the Marlins’ series-opening 7-2 loss to the Cubs at Marlins Park. Wallach connected on a fourth-inning solo home run off Chicago starter Yu Darvish, his first of

MIAMI -- If there was any wear and tear from catching 14 innings on Sunday, Chad Wallach didn’t show it on Monday in the Marlins’ series-opening 7-2 loss to the Cubs at Marlins Park.

Wallach connected on a fourth-inning solo home run off Chicago starter Yu Darvish, his first of the season, and logged nine more innings behind the plate.

In many cases, a catcher is given a breather after working so many innings the day before. Wallach went the distance behind the plate in Sunday’s 3-1 loss in extras to the Phillies. Wallach is getting extended time because Jorge Alfaro is dealing with a rib cage issue sustained in Saturday’s 10-3 win over Philadelphia after he had an awkward slide.

“I just go out and play,” Wallach said. “If my name is in the lineup, I'm playing, and I'm going to go out there and compete. I'm thankful for the opportunity. Hopefully Jorge will be back soon, because he's great for our team. Until he is, if they write my name down, I'll play.”

According to Statcast, Wallach’s home run off Darvish was projected at 405 feet with an exit velocity of 105.1 mph. Alfaro took some swings in the cages Monday, and Miami is hopeful he will be in the lineup on Tuesday. If not, Wallach has been providing production at the plate and defensively.

“Chad's been great,” said Marlins right-hander Trevor Richards, who was charged with five runs on four hits and four walks in 4 2/3 innings. “He knows what he's talking about. He calls a good game. He's good behind the plate as well. Working with him has been pretty good.”

A year ago, Wallach was Miami’s Opening Day and Closing Day catcher. The 27-year-old got the nod in the opener, also against the Cubs, because J.T. Realmuto opened 2018 on the injured list due to a bruised lower back. By the time the season finale rolled around, Wallach was the third catcher after his September callup. Realmuto and then-backup Bryan Holaday were given that day off.

“You can see it,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. “As long as he stays more fluid and gets started on time, his at-bats have been good. He's seeing the ball good.”

After going 1-for-3 with a walk, Wallach’s slash line is .333/.462/.524. He scored both of Miami’s runs. Before his homer in the fourth, he walked then scored on an error in the second.

In 15 games a year ago, Wallach had 52 plate appearances and hit .178 with one home run and five RBIs. Wallach made this year’s Opening Day roster ahead of Holaday, who is currently at Triple-A New Orleans.

“I’m just kind of knowing myself,” Wallach said. “Knowing where I'm handling pitches well and looking for a pitch in that exact spot, instead of just swinging at everything.

“I didn't get off to a great start [in 2018], so I kind of kept pressing and pressing, and it just kind of got out of hand. The little bit of success I had at the end of last year really helped. I know I can compete at this level. It's just kind of carried over to this year.”

Defensively, Wallach grades highly in framing and is strong defensively and handling pitching. In Sunday’s 3-1 loss to the Phillies in 14 innings, Wallach made a standout play at the plate, snaring a short-hopped relay throw from shortstop JT Riddle to tag out Bryce Harper.

Brinson plunked

Center fielder Lewis Brinson exited after the sixth inning after being struck by a Darvish two-seam fastball clocked at 98.7 mph. The pitch ran in and struck Brinson on the right leg. As a precaution, he was replaced in the seventh inning by Rosell Herrera.

Brinson was struck after the Cubs were hit three times by pitches, Kris Bryant twice and Willson Contreras once.

Asked if he felt there was intent, Brinson said, “I don't know. He was throwing harder. He probably knows, maybe he was coming out of the game or something. But nothing I can judge off that. It just kind of ran in.”

Darvish was lifted after that pitch.

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