Marlins stay hot behind Mejía's strong debut

Miami, off to best start since 2009, wins sixth straight game

August 8th, 2020

You have to go back to Aug. 9, 2019, to find the last time Humberto Mejía pitched in a regular-season game in the Marlins’ organization. That day, the right-hander threw 3 2/3 scoreless innings for Class A Advanced Jupiter at Fort Myers.

On a rainy Friday night, Mejía became the eighth Marlins player to make his MLB debut in the club’s first eight games. The 23-year-old made an emergency start and showed he was ready for the big stage, striking out six in 2 1/3 innings, and the rest of the bullpen held off the Mets in a 4-3 win at Citi Field.

“This was a very special day for me, something that I was dreaming about since I was a kid,” Mejía said through an interpreter. “I think I did a good job. I hope to be here for more games and have that opportunity.”

The way the Marlins have run through players this season, the club literally needs every available player it can get.

The Marlins (7-1) have now won six straight games and continue to pick each other up, no matter who is on the field. It’s the franchise’s best start since opening 11-1 in 2009.

“This one, we're going to enjoy it,” manager Don Mattingly said. “We're going to go back to our hotel and bubble, and come back and try to win a game tomorrow. It's really what it's all about.”

The six-game winning streak matches the Marlins’ longest of last season, when Miami finished 57-105. But in a 60-game season, the Marlins have maintained from the beginning they feel their chances of reaching the postseason are as good as anyone's.

“I've talked about a pennant race, it’s a grind,” Mattingly said. “It's day to day, and you want to ride this wave as long as you can, because you know that you're going to hit a stretch somewhere. You're just trying to ride it. Again, pennant-race baseball is momentum. You want to win every day. I know it's early, and we've got a long way to go. That's a lot of games to be played.”

On Friday, it was Mejía’s turn to get his first taste of big league experience. The right-hander was the club’s 25th pitcher -- and 43rd player -- used this season.

A native of Panama, Mejía signed as an international free agent with the Marlins in 2013, and last year, he opened at Class A Clinton and moved on to Jupiter. Miami added him to its 40-man roster in the offseason, and he was promoted off the taxi squad on Friday to make his first MLB start.

"We definitely saw video and we had some reads,” Mets manager Luis Rojas said. “We had some scouting from our advanced scouting, pro scouting, so we had some notes on the kid, and we went off of that. And then once we got into the game -- we knew the fastball had life, and then we saw that it had even more life. It played up. A couple of guys were chasing that fastball up, so he had that little late life where guys were committed to it and couldn't catch up to it."

Catcher Francisco Cervelli provided Mejía with some run support, belting an opposite-field three-run home run off Michael Wacha in a four-run second inning. Cervelli also did a terrific job helping navigate the rookie right-hander though his first outing.

With the reputation of being a strike thrower, Mejía logged three strikeouts in the first inning. In the second, he missed his location with a 93.5 mph fastball, and Dominic Smith crushed it for a home run. But Mejía avoided any more damage by striking out Andrés Giménez and Amed Rosario. After striking out Jeff McNeil for the first out of the third inning, Mejía’s night was over after 67 pitches, 43 for strikes.

“I thought he was very composed,” Mattingly said. “It's good when you have a guy like Cervy, who is just going to lead you down the road, to trust to throw what he calls. We had a pretty good game plan, but he's got the talent. We wouldn't have put him on the [40-man roster] if we didn't see this.”

In the eighth inning, the Mets scored twice, but Miami second baseman Eddy Alvarez made the defensive play of the game with a leaping grab to rob McNeil of a base hit. With two outs and the bases loaded, Nick Vincent, who collected the save, got Wilson Ramos to bounce sharply to Alvarez. Initially, Alvarez didn’t handle the hop, but he stayed with the play for the third out.

“Eddy's catch and the play he made on Ramos,” Mattingly said. “Eddy said the ball skipped on him. That ball has a good chance to get through in this kind of weather.”