Marlins rookie learns lesson the hard way

August 19th, 2019

DENVER -- “It won’t be the last time. You’ve just gotta work hard and get better.”

Wise words from a 23-year-old second baseman who had just committed two crucial errors in a 7-6, 10-inning walk-off loss to the Rockies, who sealed a three-game sweep at Coors Field on Sunday.

was playing in his 13th Major League game Sunday, and while the Marlins’ No. 5 prospect’s arrival was highly anticipated given his .973 OPS and 23 home runs at Triple-A New Orleans this season, it was his defense that was under the spotlight.

Fellow rookie tossed 5 2/3 strong innings in his first career start in Denver, but the Marlins fell behind, 4-3, heading into the top of the ninth. They then rallied for three runs to put themselves in position to salvage the final game of the series.

But with a runner on first and one out in the bottom of the ninth, Tony Wolters bounced a ball toward second, and it went off Diaz’s glove and into shallow right field, turning a possible game-ending double play into a first-and-third situation. Charlie Blackmon followed with an RBI single, and Trevor Story drove in the tying run with a sacrifice fly.

“I was really just trying to get an out,” Diaz said. “I just took my eye off the ball, just went a little too fast, and obviously the main thing is to catch the ball first.”

With the game tied, 6-6, in the bottom of the 10th, Yonathan Daza led off with a single, and the next batter, Raimel Tapia, hit a slow bouncer to second, where Diaz couldn’t scoop it cleanly. Ryan McMahon followed with a single to load the bases, and following an Ian Desmond strikeout, Garrett Hampson delivered a walk-off single.

When the Marlins got back in the dugout with the game headed to extra innings, veteran middle infielder Starlin Castro had his arms around Diaz.

“It’s something that I think will help him,” manager Don Mattingly said of Diaz. “You don’t want to have to learn that lesson that way. I had to learn it the same way. It’s not an easy one to swallow, but you do come out on the other side of it, and you actually get better from it.”

Growing pains are necessary in any rebuild, and the Marlins are feeling them daily. But there are also small triumphs that indicate things are going in the right direction. For a young starting rotation, one would think navigating the large gaps and thin air at Coors Field would be a daunting task. But rookies Sandy Alcantara and Yamamoto rose to the occasion.

On Friday, Alcantara became the seventh visiting starter in the last five years to go at least seven innings at Coors Field while giving up no more than two runs and three hits. On Sunday, Yamamoto struck out a career-high nine batters while giving up two runs on four hits and walking one over 5 2/3 innings.

It was a strong performance that came after a rough patch for Yamamoto, in which his ERA was 8.28 over five starts. That period came after an outstanding opening to Yamamoto’s career: six starts with a 1.59 ERA, including 14 1/3 scoreless frames at the start.

“It just goes to show what the future of this pitching staff holds,” Yamamoto said. “We’re happy as a staff with what we accomplished this weekend. It could’ve gone better, but it could’ve been a lot worse.”

Yamamoto said the key Sunday was fastball command and using the cutter off of that. Indeed, of the 38 four-seamers he threw, 26 of them were either strikes (five swinging, six called) or fouled away (15). The right-hander got six swinging strikes with the cutter, the most of any pitch he used.

Overall, Yamamoto induced 17 swinging strikes, a career-high. After establishing the fastball early, he was able to use a mix of pitches to put hitters away. All nine strikeouts were swinging -- two on curveballs, two on sliders, two on four-seam fastballs and three on cutters.

The result of Miami’s three-game series with the Rockies was a sweep. But beyond the final score in each game, there was experience gained. For Diaz on Sunday, it was a painful experience. For Yamamoto, it was a confidence-builder.

Either way, the young Marlins hope to look back on this period as a maturing phase that eventually resulted in success both individually and for the club.

Marrero clears waivers, outrighted to Triple-A

Infielder Deven Marrero, who was designated for assignment Friday when Neil Walker was activated off the injured list, cleared waivers and was outrighted to Triple-A New Orleans on Sunday.

When a player's contract is designated for assignment -- often abbreviated "DFA" -- that player is immediately removed from his club's 40-man roster, and 25-man roster if he was on that as well. Within seven days of the transaction (it was previously 10 days), the player must either be traded, released or placed on irrevocable outright waivers.