Cooper's lefty dominance keys big 3rd inning

October 7th, 2020

Before the Braves put up a six-run seventh inning to hand the Marlins a 9-5 loss in Game 1 of the National League Division Series, Miami had a big inning of its own, thanks in part to once again coming through against left-handed pitching.

With runners on first and third in the top of the third inning on Tuesday afternoon at Minute Maid Park, Cooper struck a 2-1 curveball from Braves lefty starter Max Fried down the left-field line past diving third baseman Austin Riley. The speed of Magneuris Sierra and Jon Berti -- whose 29.8 feet per second sprint speed from first to home was just under the elite range (30 feet per second) -- allowed both to score easily to break the early tie and give the Marlins the lead.

They expanded their advantage a batter later, as Brian Anderson scored Cooper on a base hit into left-center field.

“Obviously, we did pretty good offensively, put up some runs early, especially off Fried -- got him out of the game early, got to their bullpen,” Anderson said. “Just made a couple of mistakes pitching-wise. They’re a good team over there, they put good at-bats together and they were able to hit some out of the park today.”

Cooper hit .350 against left-handed pitchers in the regular season, compared to .250 against righties. The 29-year-old also improved his hitting streak vs. Atlanta to seven games, a stretch in which he’s batted 10-for-29 (.345).

Fried shut down the top of the Marlins’ order in the top of the first inning, throwing 11 pitches, all strikes. But Miami jumped on Fried after that, kick-started by Miguel Rojas’ solo home run in the second. Fried allowed only two home runs in the regular season -- both to the Marlins -- before Rojas added a third.

Fried was lifted after the fourth inning, just in time for Braves right-hander Darren O’Day to come in and strike out Cooper in the fifth. Right-hander Chris Martin began the top of the eighth against Cooper, who struck out swinging.

With right-handed center fielder Starling Marte’s absence in this series because of a fractured left pinkie, the Marlins’ lineup is a little more vulnerable against lefties. Sierra, a lefty, started in center field, with Lewis Brinson in right field on Tuesday.

Cooper’s presence in the lineup is all the more valuable, and he showed why on Tuesday.