Small ball propels Marlins to win in opener

April 23rd, 2023

CLEVELAND -- Last year, the Guardians captured an AL Central crown behind a small ball style of play, racking up hits in bunches and wreaking havoc on the basepaths. They saw what it’s like to be on the other end of that style of play on Saturday, as the Marlins picked up a 6-1 win over Cleveland in Game 1 of a doubleheader, thanks to their own brand of small ball.

After Bryan De La Cruz led off the second inning with a walk, Marlins manager Skip Schumaker used the hit and run to perfection, as De La Cruz broke for second base with Jean Segura at the plate, Segura was able to sneak a single past Guardians second baseman Andrés Giménez, who was moving to cover second on the play.

De La Cruz came in to score on a Yuli Gurriel RBI single. Miami added a second run a batter later when Jacob Stallings drove Segura in on a ground ball bobbled by Cleveland shortstop Amed Rosario.

“We were trying to be aggressive against one of the best pitchers in baseball,” manager Skip Schumaker said. “We weren’t going to wait around and felt like we had the right guys on base to put some plays in action. They ran at the right time. Really good team win.”

That inning set up what was a patient night at the plate for the Marlins, as the team set a new season high for walks in a game (seven). Four of those walks came against Cleveland starter Shane Bieber, a mark that tied Bieber’s career high. After settling in the middle innings, Bieber was chased in the sixth inning when De La Cruz poked a home run 353 feet to right field to extend Miami’s lead to 3-1.

Miami added three more runs in the seventh inning off a two-run single from Luis Arraez and an RBI single from Avisaíl García.

Devin Smeltzer impressed in a spot start, allowing one run on three hits over four innings. Smeltzer’s changeup was especially crisp, as he was able to get six whiffs with the pitch. Smeltzer was pushed into the starting rotation after ’s start was pushed back to the Marlins’ next series due to mild biceps tendinitis.

“That’s exactly what we needed,” Schumacher said. “If you go one inning in a doubleheader, we’re in trouble. For him to throw four innings there was huge and sets us up nicely for the second game.”

The Marlins’ bullpen took over from there, with Andrew Nardi, Huascar Brazoban, Matt Barnes and Steven Okert combining for five scoreless innings.