Contending Marlins aim to 'finish strong'

September 20th, 2020

Clinging to a slim second-place lead in the National League East, the Marlins on Saturday night had an approach at the plate to take matters into their own hands.

connected on a leadoff homer and provided a two-run shot and drove in three. Backed by some early support, allowed two runs in 5 1/3 innings as the Marlins defeated the Nationals, 7-3, at Marlins Park.

The Marlins had a 15-hit attack and stung the baseball. Rojas recorded three hits, falling a triple shy of a cycle. According to Statcast, Cooper’s home run had an exit velocity of 108 mph and a double at 103.2 mph. added a double at 110.4 mph, and one of 's two singles left the bat at 109.5 mph.

“It's a team collective effort,” Cooper said. “We're close to the finish line, and we're close to something that this organization hasn't done in a long time. Everyone knows that. We're trying to keep everything even-keel. It's just everyone trying to do their job. Not one person leading the charge.”

The win keeps the Marlins (27-24) one-half game in front of the Phillies (26-25), winners over the Blue Jays, for second place in the NL East. The top two teams in each division automatically qualify for the postseason. With the Braves' loss to the Mets, the Marlins are two games back of first.

With nine games remaining, the Marlins are aiming to end their 16-year playoff drought, the longest in the NL. The organization hasn’t participated in the postseason since winning the 2003 World Series.

“We've been hitting our stride, a little bit, offensively,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. “We're still going to get stopped by good pitching at times. But I'm starting to look at the board, and I'm seeing everybody in that .270-.280 range. Not only is it just the average. I know the average doesn't mean anything anymore, but it tells me our guys are getting their hits. They're hitting some doubles and some homers. It's good to see the group kind of performing well together.”

For the second straight game, Miami was boosted by a leadoff homer. In Game 2 of Friday’s 14-3 win, connected to start the first inning.

Miami’s offense responded against Patrick Corbin, who was charged with seven runs on 14 hits in six innings.

“It was nice to play from in front tonight,” Mattingly said. “Corbin is tough. I think the guys did a nice job of just taking what he was giving. We put a lot of hits up there. Miggy got us off to a good start.”

Since the Nationals started the lefty Corbin on the mound, Rojas led off in place of Dickerson, who has been used at the top of the order against righties. Rojas delivered his fourth career leadoff blast, and first since July 28, 2019, against the D-backs.

"One of those days, I wasn’t very good," Corbin said. "They came out swinging. They didn’t miss any of my mistakes."

In the third inning, Rojas doubled and Cooper sent a two-out, two-run shot to center. The drive projected at 427 feet.

The early run support was a relief for López, who made it into the sixth, despite not having his best stuff. In 5 1/3 innings, he allowed two runs on three hits, with three walks and seven strikeouts.

For his second straight start, López worked with behind the plate. In those two outings, the right-hander is 2-0 with a 2.19 ERA, with 13 strikeouts in 12 1/3 innings.

Defensively, López received some help from second baseman and Wallach to get out of the fourth inning. Washington closed the gap to 3-2 on Andrew Stevenson’s two-run single, advancing Carter Kieboom to third base. When the Nationals attempted a double steal, Wallach threw down to second and Rodríguez quickly returned a throw home, as Wallach made a nice tag to nab Kieboom for the third out.

The Marlins have taken two straight after dropping Game 1 on Friday, with a doubleheader on tap for Sunday.

“Our goal is to finish strong, and we have an opportunity to do something special, and that's what we've been saying from the first day,” López said. “Our approach has been to go out there and be yourself.”