Any concerns about Pablo López can be put to rest. For that matter, so can any more doubts that the Marlins are serious playoff contenders.
Bouncing back from a forgetful last start, López hurled seven sharp innings, allowing one run with six strikeouts. Miguel Rojas and Starling Marte each homered, and the Marlins rolled to a 6-2 victory over the Phillies on Monday at Marlins Park.
With second place in the National League East on the line, the Marlins (24-21) won five of seven in an unprecedented series, and moved 1 1/2 games in front of Philadelphia (23-23). The first and second place teams in each division automatically make the playoffs.
“This has obviously been fun to watch the guys go through this,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. “I know they're learning so much. This is the best style of ball to be playing, because it turns into a team. It's not your numbers or how you're doing. It turns into how the team is doing.”
In impressive fashion, the Marlins rebounded from a 12-6 loss on Saturday to take the final three games. Strong starting pitching paced the way. The combination of rookies Sixto Sánchez, Braxton Garrett and López combined to allow three earned runs in 19 innings (1.42 ERA).
López, who was 0-2 with a 19.06 ERA in two September outings, regained his August form. He was 3-2 with a 2.10 ERA in his first five starts of the season.
Taking the mound for the first time since his previous start, a disastrous 29-9 loss at the Braves, López found himself down a run one batter into the game. Andrew McCutchen belted a leadoff homer to give the Phillies the early lead, raising immediate concerns about a potential carryover for López from the debacle against the Braves in Atlanta.
“Obviously, I was very eager to show up to the field and get the ball again and get on the mound,” López said. “When that [leadoff homer] happens, you really should not change anything. It was only five or six pitches into the ballgame, and I'm not going to run away from my plan and go from Plan A to Plan B immediately. The main thing was to try to not run away from the strike zone.”
Defensively, right fielder Matt Joyce made two over-the-shoulder basket catches -- in the fifth to rob Scott Kingery and then in the seventh to take away extra bases from Jean Segura.
“Obviously, those were big plays to keep them off the bases,” Joyce said. “Against those righties, coming off the righties’ bats, those balls are going to fade a little bit. I had to turn and catch it over the right shoulder.”
Joyce’s contributions in the field helped López avoid any additional jams. The way he went back and turned on the ball was reminiscent of a football catch.
Those two plays also prompted the Phillies’ bullpen, which is in right field, to holler at him good-naturedly.
“Definitely that football feel in the back of the end zone,” Joyce quipped. “The Phillies’ bullpen was giving me a hard time. 'Stop it! Stop making that play!' I told them it was a touchdown. They said I didn't keep my feet in. So we've got to go back to the replay.”
Isan Díaz, who started at second base, exited in the top of the fourth inning with a tight left groin, and he’s listed as day to day. Brian Anderson, who didn’t start, entered to play third, while Jazz Chisholm moved from short to second, and Rojas went from third to short.
Díaz will be further evaluated in the next day or so. The Marlins are thin on middle-infield depth, especially with Jon Berti on the 10-day injured list with a lacerated right index finger. He is close to being cleared to return. Berti’s IL stint is retroactive to Sept. 8, so the earliest he can return is Friday.
Chisholm had an RBI single, Jesús Aguilar delivered a two-run double and Anderson had a run-scoring double.
It didn’t take long for Anderson to make an impact. In the bottom of the fourth, Anderson laced an RBI double in the fourth that put the Marlins in front, 4-1. Per Statcast, the exit velocity on the liner was 107.9 mph.
After outlasting the Phillies in the series, the Marlins are well positioned to have their first winning season since 2009 and to reach the playoffs for the first time since winning the World Series in ‘03.
“I kind of hope that people are giving us a little bit more credit, because we do have a good team,” Joyce said.
Sandy Alcantara (2-1, 3.97 ERA) will open a three-game series with the Red Sox on Tuesday at Marlins Park. First pitch is set for 6:40 p.m. ET, live on MLB.TV. Boston counters with right-hander Tanner Houck, who will make his Major League debut. Alcantara induces his share of ground balls with his sinker, which averages 96.3 mph. He also has a 48 percent whiff rate on his changeup.