Despite loss, Miami's lineup swap appears successful

Berti steals 3 bases batting leadoff; Chisholm ejected in 9th for arguing called 3rd strike

June 19th, 2022

NEW YORK -- With the Marlins mounting a ninth-inning rally against one of the Majors’ best closers, all could do was plead his case, gesturing with his hands and throwing his arms up in disbelief.

Trailing by two runs with no outs and a man at third, Chisholm took a called strike three on a pitch from Edwin Díaz that appeared to be inside, but not to home-plate umpire Adam Beck. It led to Chisholm’s first career ejection. According to Statcast, it was Chisholm’s first called strikeout on a pitch out of the zone this season after he had eight in 2021, which was tied for 28th most among Major Leaguers.

An illustration of Chisholm's eight strikeouts outside of the zone in 2021, per Statcast.

Though that run did score two batters later, on Garrett Cooper’s RBI single, it was a tale of what might have been in the Marlins’ 3-2 loss to the Mets on Saturday at Citi Field.

“Everybody knows I can hit a homer,” Chisholm said. “He throws 100 [mph], but everybody knows what I can do against 100, so it's just taking the bat out of my hand, and then it sucks because at the end of the day, I worked hard to get where I'm at, and probably they worked hard to get where they're at, too.

“But at the end of the day, they don't have repercussions for having one bad call and messing up a whole game like I do. Let's say, at the end of the day, I can be getting sent down. You never know. I'm a baseball player. My numbers mean a lot, especially in a spot like that, [where] we could tie a game and then Cooper comes up with the next hit, and then you’ve got a runner on base, tie game. You just can't take the game out like that, man. That was terrible."

While Miami fell short in its third straight defeat, the game provided a perfect example of the havoc  and Chisholm can wreak atop the order. Manager Don Mattingly moved Chisholm down to second, inserting Berti in the leadoff spot for the first time with Chisholm also in the lineup since June 2. 

Mattingly believes Chisholm focuses better with runners on base. The left-handed-hitting Chisholm also breaks up the right-handed-heavy lineup.

“You love when those guys are getting on up front for those other guys,” Mattingly said. “It does a couple of things. It's almost what happened to us: We're trying to be quick with [Starling] Marte over there. We give up the home run [to Francisco Lindor in the third inning], and that's really what you like with speed other than being able to cause problems. 

“It makes the pitcher have to deal with two things -- deal with the runner and deal with the hitter. You're hoping that it gets your guy a better pitch or you're able to advance a base and put yourself in scoring position.”

Berti led off the game with an infield single, then stole a pair of bases. Though he was stranded at third, it put pressure on starter Taijuan Walker from the get-go. After Berti’s single, however, Walker retired the next 18 batters until Chisholm’s leadoff walk in the seventh. Following a Jorge Soler flyout, Chisholm stole second for his 11th base and scored on Avisaíl García’s two-out RBI double to make it a 3-1 deficit.

In the ninth, Berti added another steal and advanced to third on a throwing error to set up Chisholm’s opportunity, giving Berti an MLB-high 18, tied with Seattle's Julio Rodríguez, despite playing 29 fewer games than the Mariners' rookie. Berti credits outfield and first-base coach Keith Johnson’s pregame scouting reports and watching video for identifying pitchers’ tendencies and pickoff moves.

“Stealing bases is just trying to get in scoring position to help the team score some extra runs, and it's like anything else in this game, it's a rhythm thing,” Berti said. “When you feel like you're in a pretty good rhythm with it, you're more aggressive with it and usually it works out better.”

Berti and Chisholm offer a different dynamic in front of Cooper, Soler and García. It’s another way to manufacture runs, something that has been difficult for the club at times. Miami ranks second in MLB with 47 steals and 13th with 70 homers.

“I play my same game [with] Berti on base or Berti anywhere else,” Chisholm said. “I'd love Berti to be on base every time I hit. I feel comfortable when pitchers are in the stretch. It helps me out a lot. He's on base, I know I can drive him in double, triple. I know he's going to score if I get one to the wall. Doesn't matter. He's always a guy that makes himself be in scoring position, too, like a single is a triple for Berti.”