'All-Star worthy' Luzardo keeps proving his case

Southpaw hurls six scoreless frames, extends one of MLB's best stretches this season

July 4th, 2023

MIAMI -- There’s no denying the Marlins’ strength lies in their pitching staff. Miami (50-37) has the third-best record in the National League in large part because of its rotation. But when All-Star rosters were announced Sunday, the club was shut out of representatives on the pitching side.

One such name that should receive consideration if players need to be replaced is left-hander Jesús Luzardo, who pitched six scoreless innings in the Marlins' 15-2 win over the Cardinals on Tuesday afternoon at loanDepot park. Jesús Sánchez and Garrett Cooper went deep and combined for seven RBIs as Miami set off the fireworks early with their season high for runs scored.

“I think he's All-Star worthy, of course,” Marlins manager Skip Schumaker said. “I think there's a few guys in that room that should be at least talked about or on it. There's three or four, probably. I would love for someone to put them on. We'll see how that goes. What impressed me I think is the command of all his pitches, the adjustments. The start in Seattle [on June 12], the slider got hit a little bit, and all of a sudden he’s throwing his changeup more.

“That shows you what kind of athlete -- just like [Braxton Garrett with a] different pitch [in the] middle of the season. Now Zeus is going, ‘All right, I can throw the changeup to get them off my slider.’ He did it. ‘Oh, by the way, I've got 98-100 [mph].’ It's really impressive when he throws strikes. The only time he got in trouble was the two-out walks or hit-by-pitch -- that type of thing. Other than that, that's a really tough at-bat for righties and lefties. The impressive part is [few] walks, in the strike zone, and strikeout when you need it.”

Luzardo extended his scoreless streak to 22 1/3 innings -- the fifth-longest stretch in the Majors this season, behind the Rangers' Nathan Eovaldi (29 2/3), the Blue Jays' Chris Bassitt (28), the D-backs' Zac Gallen (28) and the Yankees' Gerrit Cole (25 2/3), according to Elias Sports Bureau. All but Bassitt were named All-Stars.

During this three-start stretch, Luzardo has gone six or more scoreless innings with eight or more strikeouts in each outing. It marks only the 27th time in the Expansion Era (since 1961) a starter has had a streak like that, and the first done by a Marlins starter. The most recent Major Leaguer to do it was the Mets' Jacob deGrom in 2021.

While Luzardo wasn’t his sharpest on Tuesday, he still kept St. Louis off of the scoreboard by working around five hits, two walks and a hit batter. In years past, things might’ve spiraled against Luzardo. That’s one element of his game -- the mental aspect of it -- that he has seen the most growth. Luzardo tries to control his breathing and remind himself he has been in those situations before.

"We were facing a really good arm,” Cardinals skipper Oliver Marmol said. “There's only so many times you can play from behind and feel good about it. You try to punch back as much as possible. There are days where you have the ability to do that, and there [are] days where you don't because you just know that's a really good arm over there. He did a nice job, and we weren't able to string together quality at-bats against him."

Here are additional stats in support of Luzardo entering Tuesday:

• Average four-seam fastball velocity of 96.8 mph is seventh highest among starting pitchers (minimum 300 four-seamers thrown)

• 51.6% whiff rate on sliders is the second highest on any individual pitch type in MLB (minimum 200 swings against that pitch type)

• 12th-highest whiff rate (38.2%) on changeups (minimum 100 swings on changeups)

“It's really good,” said Nick Fortes, who has caught all 18 of Luzardo’s starts in 2023. “For a left-handed pitcher, for him to have the velo he has and then the very consistent secondary stuff, it's up there for sure.”

On Tuesday, the 25-year-old southpaw set his new single-season high for MLB innings (103) and matched his start total (18). Luzardo, who has given up three earned runs or fewer in all but four of his outings this season, is in line to pitch Miami’s final game before the All-Star break on Sunday. The club has already reached 50 wins, which it didn’t accomplish until Aug. 11 in 2022.

“I mean, it'd be cool if I was an All-Star, but I'm just happy we're winning,” Luzardo said. “We're playing really good baseball. The pitchers are pitching how we're supposed to, hitters are doing what they're supposed to, the bullpen has been nails. I feel like there are some guys that could get some recognition, but at the end of the day, I think that there's a lot of good pitchers out in the league right now. We just have to go out there and keep continuing to perform.”