Marlins lose footrace but closer to berth

September 22nd, 2020

The Marlins are in a playoff race, and with the game on the line on Monday night, the club certainly liked its chances in a footrace involving .

With Miami trailing by a run in the ninth inning, Harrison kicked his speed into overdrive attempting to go from first to third on a high chopper. The aggressive play was praised by manager Don Mattingly, and Harrison wouldn’t think twice about doing it again.

Everything was lining up perfectly for the Marlins, except the outcome of the play. First baseman Freddie Freeman threw a perfect strike to shortstop Dansby Swanson, who made a diving tag to nab Harrison at third base. The bang-bang play halted Miami’s ninth-inning comeback attempt in a 5-4 loss to the Braves at Truist Park.

“I love that play,” Mattingly said. “For me, you've got to make them make that play. Freddie might be the only guy that makes it, quite honestly. And he had to make a throw to a guy on the run, and he had to basically make a blind tag. I told Monte after the game, I thought it was a great play. I don't want him down over that, at all. I say we do it every time, in that situation, and make them make that play.”

Neither Harrison nor the Marlins were completely down after a dramatic one-run loss, even though the outcome realistically all but ended Miami’s chances of overtaking the Braves for first place in the National League East.

Even in defeat, the Marlins (28-26) had their magic number to clinch second place in the division trimmed to five with six games to go. That’s because the Phillies (27-27) lost, 5-1, to the Nationals. The top two teams in each division automatically qualify for the playoffs. Miami now is four games back of the Braves. One more head-to-head win by Atlanta in the series ends the Marlins’ hopes for a division crown.

With the Marlins down a run in the ninth, singled to open the inning off closer Mark Melancon. Harrison then entered the game to pinch-run. The rookie has become an elite speed threat in the late innings, and he's a perfect 5-for-5 in stolen-base chances this season.

On Joyce’s chopper to Melancon, Harrison took the chance the Braves couldn’t execute two throws -- the one to Freeman and the other to Swanson.

"Melancon made a great play going to the back of the mound and giving Freddie a good throw,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “Then you have Freddie leading Dansby and the athletic play he made. That was amazing."

The Marlins asked for a replay challenge to see if the tag was applied in time. The call was confirmed.

“In my book, that's a smart baseball play,” Harrison said. “With my speed and the way I play the game and the way my instincts play up, we take that play nine times out of 10. The one time happens to be today. It is what it is. I take full responsibility for making that out.

"But any other day, I'm still making that exact same play, because I don't think they can do that consistently to get me out. It takes a perfect throw from Freddie and it takes a great play from Dansby to make that catch and make that tag on a bang-bang play.”

The analytical breakdown of the play showed why Harrison is so confident running. Per Statcast, the rookie’s sprint speed was 31.2 feet per second. Anything above 30 is considered elite.

“In my mind, when I'm running bases and doing things like that, it's slow motion,” Harrison said. “Everything in my mind is literally in slow motion. I see the game, but I see it at a different speed than everybody else does. A very slower speed.

“For me, running, it feels like I'm running in cement, to be honest. Just the way the play developed, I knew that it was going to be a bang-bang play. It took a perfect throw. They made the play.”

Atlanta actually made a couple of big defensive plays late, after the Marlins attempted to rally back from a 5-3 deficit. In the eighth inning with the bases loaded, smoked a line drive tracked by Statcast at a game-high 110.6 mph. But it was right at third baseman Austin Riley. Pinch-hitter had walked to load the bases for Marte, who ended up making the loud out.

“Brins had a big at-bat with that walk,” Mattingly said. “He turns it to Marte, who basically does what you're supposed to do -- hits the ball hard somewhere. It just happened to be right at the guy. If it's another three feet up, four feet up, it's probably in the corner. We probably get three there.”

Marlins rookie left-hander overcame a rough start to throw four innings of five-run ball.

Rogers had to work in a four-run first, in which he threw 39 pitches. Rogers recovered and gave the Marlins a scoreless third and fourth.

For Rogers, the outing wasn’t all about the way it started, but how he finished. The turnaround came after he got into a third-inning jam, issuing back-to-back singles to Adam Duvall and Albies to open the frame before striking out six straight.

Reliever ran the consecutive strikeout streak to eight in a row, one shy of the franchise record of nine set by Ricky Nolasco on Sept. 30, 2009, against the Braves at Turner Field.

“The stat line may say differently, but for me personally, this might be my most important outing as far as growing as a big leaguer,” Rogers said.