'Lucky' Marlins lean on golden Garrett

Rookie fans 10 in 2nd MLB win; replay on wild play seals comeback

July 25th, 2021

MIAMI -- Though pundits predicted the Marlins (42-57) to finish last in the NL East, where they currently stand, the organization believed it had a chance to contend because of its starting pitching.

Miami currently has no members of its projected Opening Day rotation on the active roster, with Sandy Alcantara on the bereavement list and Pablo López (shoulder), Trevor Rogers (lower back), Elieser Hernandez (quad strain) and Sixto Sánchez (shoulder) sidelined by injuries.

The return to a full season -- as expected -- has been a test of depth. Opportunities are aplenty, and left-hander made the most of his latest with the best performance of his young career in the Marlins’ 3-2 comeback win over the Padres on Saturday night at loanDepot park.

Garrett set career highs for innings (seven) and strikeouts (10) in his sixth Major League start. He used a balanced five-pitch mix to record 28 called strikes -- including five for the K -- and nine whiffs in an 85-pitch outing. The 23-year-old rookie made just two mistakes, surrendering a long ball to All-Star shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. (30th of 2021) and opposing pitcher Ryan Weathers (first career HR). He entered with a 5.40 ERA in six MLB outings, and never having gone more than five innings in an appearance.

“It just gives me a ton of confidence, because I know I can do what I did tonight, I just haven't quite put it all together,” said Garrett, Miami’s No. 7 prospect. “Haven't had all the pitches there, haven't been in good counts. As I say a million times, my fastball command just hasn't quite been the best it could be when I've been up here, and tonight it was. It just gives me confidence to know that I can do it.”

The Marlins have started a rookie pitcher in each of their past five games. In the 10 games since the All-Star break, a rookie has taken the mound eight times if you count the July 16 doubleheader game in which Jordan Holloway followed opener Ross Detwiler for five innings.

But it wasn’t just a young player stepping up on Saturday. Veteran Jesús Aguilar knocked the go-ahead two-run single in the seventh inning off Tim Hill. Aguilar, whose name has been in trade rumors with the Deadline six days away, is one of just two Marlins regulars that hasn’t been sidelined in 2021. Miami reinstated third baseman Brian Anderson from the 60-day IL, and he doubled in four at-bats.

“I think we've been playing good the last couple days, and we just needed that lucky inning, and it happened tonight,” said Aguilar, who leads the National League with 71 RBIs. “We've been battling over there. We know we're facing a really good team, and we've got to take advantage like we did tonight.”

Though the Marlins won for just the third time in 10 games since the All-Star break, they have been competitive in all three matchups against the Padres -- considered one of the best teams in the NL. But like most of the season, the issue has been finishing off close contests.

Closer Yimi García, another name floating around near the Deadline, got help from his defense -- and instant replay -- to record his second straight save. With a runner on first and the shift on, second baseman Isan Díaz fielded a grounder near short and tossed to Miguel Rojas, who barehanded the ball, touched second and attempted a jump throw to first. Trent Grisham didn't slide going into second and ran into Rojas, whose throw got away from Aguilar.

Rojas immediately motioned for a challenge, and a replay review overturned the call due to runner’s interference. After the game, manager Don Mattingly quipped: “Did I tell you guys how much I love replay and all the stuff that goes with it?”

Hours earlier, Marlins CEO Derek Jeter and Mattingly discussed the club’s 9-21 record in one-run games during batting practice. Aguilar’s clutch hit and Rojas’ game-ending play have been harder to come by this year compared to 2020, when Miami had an 11-8 record in those situations. That’s the difference between being buyers and sellers.

“It's usually about execution, big hit, all the things you do in the course of a game that puts you in those positions,” Mattingly said. “The good teams find a way to win those. We have not been great at it, but we know that we're in those kinds of games. It's just what turns the game.”