Walker: 'Very obvious' Marlins are talented club

Miami improves to 22-18 in last 40 games as it hits halfway mark

June 30th, 2019

MIAMI -- At the midway point of the 2019 season, the Marlins are establishing themselves as a team built around strong starting pitching, coupled with an offense that relies heavily on timely hitting.

They showed signs of both on Saturday, rallying behind a six-run seventh inning to defeat the Phillies, 9-6, at Marlins Park.

had a two-run home run and three RBIs. added a run-scoring double to tie the game at 6-6, and followed with a go-ahead two-run double off reliever Adam Morgan.

“If the guys in here don't understand how talented we really are, it's very obvious to me as a veteran player,” Walker said. “You learn as time goes along, especially as young players, how to soften the big innings, and how to push the envelope when you need to. That happens naturally.”

Rookie right-hander had a mixed four-inning performance, giving up four runs on three hits in his first no-decision after winning each of his first three Major League starts.

“When you have a young club that's building, you just want to see them get better all the time,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. “I'm not sure where our records are in April, May and June, but I just feel like we're getting better all the time.”

Miami improved to 13-13 in June after going 11-15 in May, 6-19 in April and 2-2 in March.

Here’s a look at the main takeaways at the midway point.

Starting pitching

Without question, the bright spot has been the progression of the young rotation. That’s been the immediate focus in the early stages of the building process, and it’s the primary reason for optimism that the long-term plan will work.

Miami’s starting rotation entered Saturday ranked seventh in the Majors with a 3.87 ERA. That rose to 3.92 after Yamamoto was charged with four runs in four innings. The 457 1/3 innings is 10th overall, and the staff has proven it can hold its own against some of the best lineups in the league.

Through the first 64 games, the rotation showed continuity. The staff that broke Spring Training was Jose Urena, Trevor Richards, Pablo Lopez, Sandy Alcantara and Caleb Smith. They stayed in line until Game 65, when Elieser Hernandez stepped in because Smith (left hip inflammation) went on the injured list. Since, Urena (herniated disc) and Lopez (right shoulder strain) have also gone on the IL. Yet, the additions of Hernandez, Zac Gallen and Yamamoto have picked up the slack.

“It's a great clubhouse,” Yamamoto said. “A great group of guys. There's no negativity. There's positivity, no matter what happens. We always have each other's back.”

Offensive identity

As constructed, the offense was not built around power. The Marlins are aiming to be an athletic club that plays more to the gaps in the expansive outfield. Still, Miami is last in the big leagues in home runs (63) and 29th in runs (293). They’re also last in slugging percentage (.356).

In the past month, they’ve done a better job with situational hitting, and getting production up and down the order. That came about when Garrett Cooper and Harold Ramirez became constants in the lineup.

Cooper went 2-for-5 with two RBIs Saturday and is hitting .325, and Ramirez was 3-for-5, raising his average to .316.

Home/away splits

Home field has not quite been an advantage for the Marlins, as they are just 15-28 at Marlins Park, compared to 17-21 on the road. At home, Miami has 27 home runs, while belting 36 in visiting parks. The club's home slugging percentage is just .332, compared to .375 on the road. For the most part, Miami has had trouble doing damage at the plate at Marlins Park, but Saturday’s late-inning outburst was an exception.

The Marlins certainly felt a home-field advantage in beating the Phillies for the second straight day, with an energized 14,774 fans on hand, their largest Saturday crowd of the season.

“It's really good to see the fight,” shortstop Miguel Rojas said. “Playing here at home. This is the way we should be playing at home, every time. If feels really good. It feels like we're playing in our territory. It's good to see.”