In-state rivals continue to stymie Marlins

September 5th, 2020

It’s gone from a small sample size to a trend, and if the Marlins intend to make a serious playoff push in the final three weeks, they’ll have to solve the riddle that has been left-handed pitching.

The Fish were snagged again by a southpaw on Friday night in their 5-4 loss to the Rays at Tropicana Field. The Marlins (16-17) are now 3-9 when an opposing left-hander gets the nod. And they’ll get tested again on Saturday, as they draw Blake Snell.

In a rematch of the pitching matchup from Aug. 29 at Marlins Park, was up against left-hander Josh Fleming.

“We're seeing enough lefties,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. “You guys [media] talk about lefties and what we've had trouble with. It's true. It's nothing that's not true. But if we were in a 162-game season, and after 30 games you see this, you would just go, 'They're struggling with lefties, right now.' Just the same thing, if a guy struggles. If we see a guy struggle for 30 games, we would think not a whole lot about it. But now in a 60-game season, he's struggling and now the season is almost over.”

Entering the game, the Marlins had an average exit velocity of 85.5 mph and an average launch angle of 9.6 degrees against left-handed pitchers, according to Statcast. Against right-handers, it was a bit better -- 87 mph with a 10.8 degree launch angle.

Last weekend in Miami, Fleming came out on the winning end of a 4-0 game. López gave up two runs in seven innings in the loss. The Marlins did better on Friday in their second viewing against Fleming, pushing across four runs.

Corey Dickerson and Jesús Aguilar, two former Rays, each connected on solo homers for the Marlins. added a two-run double in the fifth.

“Obviously, Corey hits the home run early, ties the game up [at 1],” Mattingly said. “We swung the bats decent tonight.”

In the late innings, the Marlins didn’t have an answer for the Rays’ bullpen, and they lost their ninth straight in the Citrus Series.

Still, in the ninth frame, the Marlins threatened off closer Nick Anderson. But with runners on first and second, two outs and the count full, Berti was called out by home-plate umpire Marty Foster.

The pitch, according to Statcast data, was a bit outside.

Before Berti was caught looking, Rays third baseman Joey Wendle made a nice diving play over third base to get a forceout on Jorge Alfaro’s sharp grounder, and Matt Joyce lifted an infield popup for the second out.

“Jorge's ball is right down the line,” Mattingly said. “It looked like they were playing in a little bit, and that ball was right over the bag.”

In replaying the inning, Mattingly deadpanned the final two outs: "Then Joyce pops it up, and Bert walks on the ball away, and that's the end of the game.”

But López had his toughest start of the season, giving up a season-high five runs in a season-low four innings. In his first six outings, the 24-year-old didn’t give up more than two earned runs. A 38-pitch fourth inning, during which he allowed four runs -- three on Michael Perez’s bases-clearing double -- helped lead to his early exit.

Kevin Kiermaier walked with the bases full to tie the game at 2 on a pitch that was similarly off the plate -- like the one Berti took to end the game.

“It looked pretty good from the mound, but when I'm pitching, I want everything to be a strike,” López said. “It could have changed a lot. I could have gotten out of that inning without giving up the double with the bases loaded. But my job was to focus on the next guy and execute an even better pitch. Throw it in the box, and get the call. Then I didn't execute my best pitches to the following guy.”

Up next
Sandy Alcantara (1-1, 5.06 ERA) looks to bounce back after giving up eight runs (five earned) on Aug. 30 against the Rays. Alacantara gets the nod against Rays lefty Blake Snell (3-0, 3.14 ERA) on Saturday at Tropicana Field, with first pitch scheduled for 6:40 p.m. ET, live on MLB.TV. Alcantara's main pitch is his sinker, which he throws 45 percent of the time. Opponents are hitting .211 off it.