Alfaro, Marlins enjoy winning feeling again

Pinch-hit double helps Miami foil Washington in 10th inning, caps 2-5 road trip

July 22nd, 2021

WASHINGTON -- As Alcides Escobar’s liner found the outstretched glove of first baseman for the final out of Miami’s 3-1 win in 10 innings over Washington, one could practically hear the collective sigh of relief.

Minutes before, knocked a pinch-hit RBI double in the top half of the frame and added an insurance run with a sacrifice fly, as the Marlins snapped a four-game skid on Wednesday night at Nationals Park. , who worked a scoreless 10th, bounced back from his previous outing on Sunday in Philadelphia, where he surrendered a walk-off homer to J.T. Realmuto in the 10th inning of a suspended game.

Miami (41-55) concluded its second-half-opening road trip 2-5, and sits 10 1/2 games back in the National League East standings. It won’t get easier, with the Padres coming to South Florida for a four-game series that begins on Thursday.

“It feels good to get a win,” manager Don Mattingly said. “We'll take it. You never know when it starts. We've got a quick night, probably get in pretty late, but we'll be ready to play tomorrow.”

It’s safe to say the series finale was therapeutic. Veterans Aguilar and Starling Marte -- names floated around with the July 30 Trade Deadline approaching -- were in the middle of a group hug that preceded postgame handshakes. It’s hard not to wonder whether it might be one’s final day in a given uniform, particularly during a tough stretch that leaves everyone pressing.

“Especially for the older players that have been around the league for a long time, you feel that necessity of helping, you want to contribute, you want to do things, you want to do extra,” said Rojas, who has a club option for 2022. “And that's what happens in those moments when you start trying to do too much.”

That’s because not much has gone right since the second half began:

Jesús Sánchez to IL for undisclosed reason (Friday)

Sánchez had been playing in left field every day, as the organization hoped to get a good look at him prior to the 2022 season, even trading injured veteran Corey Dickerson to the Blue Jays so he wouldn’t block the rookie upon his return. In Sánchez’s absence, the Marlins have given four players starts in left field, with Jon Berti in four of the seven games. Berti, who has been used over natural outfielders Lewis Brinson and Magneuris Sierra, walked in the decisive 10th. There is no timetable for Sánchez’s return, so the club will continue to mix and match.

Pablo López to IL with right rotator cuff strain (Saturday)

One constant in a turbulent season had been Miami’s Big 3 in the rotation: Sandy Alcantara, López and Trevor Rogers hadn’t missed a start, and they almost always kept their team in the game. After setting an AL/NL record with nine straight strikeouts to open a game in his first-half finale, López didn’t make his start on Sunday in Philadelphia. Shoulder issues have plagued him off and on during his four-year career, and there is no timeframe for his return.

Jazz Chisholm Jr. and Garrett Cooper to IL (Monday)

Chisholm has provided excitement toward the top of the order. Cooper had been hot at the plate, slashing .400/.530/.700 with a 1.230 OPS in 19 games since his return from a previous IL stint (lumbar strain). He drove in 11 runs batting in the heart of the order during that span. That production will be missed for a club already struggling to score runs, though Brian Anderson is eligible to be activated on Sunday.

Sandy Alcantara to bereavement list (Wednesday)

Rookie Nick Neidert went a career-high five innings in his place, permitting one run on three hits and three walks with two strikeouts and three double plays. The last time Miami's No. 9 prospect, according to MLB Pipeline, was in the Majors, he held the Dodgers scoreless over four relief innings on July 8. Between then and now, Neidert had appeared in just one game, giving up four runs over 5 2/3 innings for Triple-A Jacksonville. The 24-year-old right-hander previously missed nearly a month with right biceps inflammation.

Neidert credited veteran catcher Sandy León as well as the return of his changeup for his success. With the rotation in flux -- the Marlins have yet to announce their starters for the Padres series -- rookies Neidert, Jordan Holloway (five innings on Friday) and Braxton Garrett (4 1/3 innings on Sunday) will receive chances over the final two months of the season.

“Just want to go out there every time and do my job best that I can,” Neidert said. “So every opportunity I get, just want to go pitch well and try to help this team win, and hopefully get more and more opportunities.”