Marlins blank O's to win in return to action

August 5th, 2020

Sporting a revamped roster with 17 different players from Opening Day, the Marlins returned to game action on Tuesday night and picked up where they left off.

After an eight-day layoff due to the spread of the coronavirus within their clubhouse, Miami rode five shutout innings from Pablo López, plus home runs from Francisco Cervelli and Jesús Aguilar, and beat the Orioles, 4-0, at Camden Yards.

The Marlins improved to 3-1 and were surprisingly sharp considering their long layoff and the fact that many players spent more than a week being quarantined.

“A lot of new guys with the same goal,” Aguilar said of the new cast of players. “We're pulling in the same direction. There are a lot of new faces, but the same goal.”

Aguilar joins Derrek Lee (2002) and Cliff Floyd (1998) as the only Marlins to homer in three of the club’s first four games.

With three-fifths of the Marlins’ rotation on the injured list -- Sandy Alcantara, Caleb Smith and José Ureña -- López is being leaned upon to lead the revamped staff.

“The toughest part is we lose one, two, three in our pitching rotation,” manager Don Mattingly said. “We'll see how that goes, because that’s usually what tells the story.”

The 24-year-old López did his part on Tuesday -- tossing five shutout innings while allowing two hits. The seven strikeouts mark a personal high, previously set on March 30, 2019, in a win over the Rockies.

"He’s got a good arm, but he hasn’t thrown this year, so we really didn’t know a whole lot of what to expect," Orioles manager Brandon Hyde said. "Give him credit, he threw a really nice game in his first start."

Like the rest of the players confined to a hotel in Philadelphia for more than a week, López became creative in staying sharp. Aguilar did Zumba in his room. Others sprinted in the hallways.

“You have to adapt and adjust to what you're given,” López said. “We spent that time in the room in Philadelphia, so I had to figure it out. We had to throw with a sanitary sock. Throw into a mattress. Throw against pillows, against couches.”

Against Baltimore, López relied mainly on his best two pitches. His four-seam fastball maxed at 94.8 mph, according to Statcast. His changeup averaged 87 mph, and he threw 19 of them, getting five swinging strikes.

“I have been working with that changeup for so long that I know I can trust the grip, and make sure I have good arm speed when throwing it,” he said.

The Marlins claimed the lead in the fifth inning on Francisco Cervelli’s home run off John Means. Cervelli expects to handle a bulk of the catching duties with Jorge Alfaro and Chad Wallach on the injured list.

Eight relievers on Miami’s Opening Day roster tested positive for COVID-19. A couple of new members of the relief corps -- James Hoyt and Richard Bleier -- combined to throw two shutout innings, with three strikeouts. Familiar faces Brad Boxberger and Brandon Kintzler polished off the eighth and ninth innings, respectively.

Even with a makeshift roster, the Marlins came together quickly.

“We didn't gather anyone,” Mattingly said of player introductions the past two days. “All of our meetings today were on Zoom. We were able to Zoom two meetings last night with our pitchers, and then we had a Zoom today with our players.

“Honestly, it's hard, because you can't really get together and talk as a group or anything like that.”