MIAMI -- Philadelphia. Atlanta. San Diego. Los Angeles. Tampa Bay. New York.
No competitor likes to lose, but the Marlins knew this tough 31-game stretch was coming. Every opponent they face except the A’s during this juncture of the season is a contending club.
No longer in the National League Wild Card picture and without All-Star Jazz Chisholm Jr., Jorge Soler and Avisaíl García, Miami -- once given an outside shot at the playoffs -- has pivoted its focus post-Trade Deadline to letting the “kids” play. Following Saturday’s doubleheader, manager Don Mattingly didn’t sugarcoat his frustration that yet another season will end this way.
The front office is asking Mattingly and his coaching staff to play JJ Bleday, Peyton Burdick and Lewin Díaz on a regular basis in order to get a good assessment of what they’re capable of moving forward. Sometimes, that will be at the expense of the win column.
“I think the one thing we do see in this is our pitching kind of keeps you in games,” Mattingly said. “There are not many of these games [in which] we don't have some sort of chance or we're fairly close. So the encouraging part of even going through this stretch is you kind of feel at least like we're going to be competitive today, and that we're not going to be down nine runs in the second and just try to get through the game. You feel like if we can put some runs together, catch the ball, don't make mistakes, we're going to be in a game. That's a positive.
“And then on the other side of that question is really you want guys to fight. You want guys to keep fighting, keep playing hard and you find out who they are. You see what guys are like in times like this. Are they going to keep playing hard? Are they going to keep working? Are they going to keep showing up ready to play? And then the organization can make a decision. Is this the right guy for us? Is this the wrong guy for us? Is he good enough or is he not good enough right now? So that's what you're kind of going through right now.”
Take Scott, for instance. Prior to this season, he had one MLB save on his resume. Acquired in a trade with the Orioles during the final days of Spring Training, Scott took over the closer role by mid-June after Anthony Bender and Cole Sulser were given chances.
His 16 saves already have surpassed Dylan Floro's and Yimi Garcia's team-leading total from 2021. It also marks the most by a Marlin in a season since Sergio Romo (17 in 2019). There’s no doubt Scott has the stuff to be a closer. His mantra of “tomorrow’s a new day” is the type of mentality needed to succeed. His issue is a 6.1 BB/9 IP rate entering the series finale.
“Less traffic on the basepaths is a better day,” Scott said of what he has learned. “You’ve just got to keep going pitch by pitch. You're out there, and it's a stressful moment in the game to definitely close it out. Someone hits a leadoff bomb off of you, it's kind of terrible but you've got to try to end with one run, and that did not happen today.”
Before Scott blew his fifth save, left-hander Braxton Garrett held the Ronald Acuña Jr.-less Braves lineup scoreless over six innings despite walking more batters (three) than he struck out (two). In his three previous career starts doing so, he allowed a combined 11 runs (nine earned) in 10 frames. Last August, in fact, Garrett went just three innings against the Braves in what he considers his worst outing.
A year later, Garrett sees a completely different pitcher: He has more confidence to go along with tweaks to his delivery and pitches. Does the 25-year-old Garrett consider every start an opportunity or audition after shuttling between the Majors and Minors?
“I don't necessarily think that far ahead right now,” Garrett said. “Like I've told you guys a few times, I'm start to start. I always feel my back's against the wall. It's just how I've been my whole career. So just taking it day by day, trying to get better and what we do as a team is what we do. I'm going to continue to support us and try to be the best pitcher I can.”