'More stacked' Marlins happy with play at midpoint of 2023

How Miami has achieved its historic season, best record since '09

June 29th, 2023

BOSTON -- When the Marlins broke camp in late March, few people outside of South Florida believed in the club’s chances to compete in the National League East. Miami entered Opening Day with a 23.6% chance of making the postseason.

The Marlins’ 2023 season reached its halfway point after Wednesday night’s 6-2 win over the Red Sox at Fenway Park, and their playoff odds have increased to 67.6%. Garrett Cooper and Jazz Chisholm Jr. went deep while Braxton Garrett tossed five solid innings.

Miami’s fourth straight victory put the club 13 games above .500 (47-34) for the first time since 2009. Since the start of Memorial Day weekend (May 26), the Marlins are tied with the Braves for the best record in the Majors (22-8). Those teams will square off this weekend in Atlanta.

Have the Marlins played their best baseball yet?

“You always say no,” manager Skip Schumaker said. “You hope not, because that'd be a good thing. I just like the way we're competing every day, and every day is a new day -- win or loss. They're going about it the right way. They're preparing the right way, and I just feel like they're confident that they're going to be in the fight every single night.”

How have the Marlins gotten off to their best start since 1997? Here are some storylines:

+33 increase in batting average from 2022-23
That is tied with the Rangers for the second-biggest jump, behind only the D-backs at 35 points. Leading the way is Luis Arraez, the contact-oriented bat the Marlins acquired in a trade with the Twins in January. Not only is he flirting with .400 this deep into the season, but he also brings a joyful energy to the clubhouse.

“It's way, way, way more stacked one through nine,” said Cooper, who reached double-digit homers for just the second time in his career. “It's a team that one through nine can do any damage on any pitch, and runner-in-scoring position. Just having Jazz back lengthens the lineup a little bit more. It's just an all-around team effort this year. There's so many guys doing so many things. Couple guys are hot one week, couple guys are hot the next week, and that's how good teams win. It's not relying on one or two guys, but one through nine.”

19-5 in one-run games
After recording 40 one-run losses in 2022, the most since the 1975 Astros and just three shy of the ‘68 White Sox for the single-season record in the Live Ball Era (since 1920), the Marlins’ fortunes have reversed. Their .792 winning percentage is the best in the Modern Era.

A lot of that can be traced back to doing the little things right. A perfect example was Cooper’s heads-up baserunning to score from second on Jean Segura’s two-run infield single during a go-ahead three-run sixth.

Another reason would be the high-leverage arms throughout the bullpen. In the seventh, southpaw Andrew Nardi struck out pinch-hitter Triston Casas with a runner on to keep it a three-run ballgame. Nardi entered Wednesday with a 90.9% strand rate – tied for seventh best in MLB (minimum 20 innings).

2.80 starter ERA in June
With such high expectations placed upon the young staff, a relatively lackluster beginning to the season came as a surprise. Not only has the rotation righted the ship, but it has done so in dominant fashion. Only the Phillies’ starters have a lower ERA (2.60) this month.

What’s remarkable is the Marlins are without three-fifths of their Opening Day rotation: Edward Cabrera, Trevor Rogers and Johnny Cueto. Plus, the reigning National League Cy Young Award winner Sandy Alcantara hasn’t looked like himself for much of the season, though Tuesday’s seven innings in Boston were a step in the right direction.

Leading the way has been Garrett, who began the season as the club’s long reliever. In five June starts, the 25-year-old southpaw has a 2.22 ERA. He would have gone deeper on Wednesday had it not been for a one-hour, 13-minute rain delay

“We definitely have more,” said Garrett, who has been a different pitcher since the addition of his cutter. “We've been missing Cabbie for a couple starts, and he's going to come back real strong. Sandy looked fantastic the other night. I was telling [Jesús Luzardo] I'm feeling real good about him tomorrow. There's always ways to get better, but we are happy with how we're playing right now.”