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Lopez keeps game close, makes strides in loss

Rookie effective with curveball, rebounds from earlier outing vs. Atlanta
August 26, 2018

MIAMI -- Rookie right-hander Pablo Lopez (Pache) has shown plenty of promise and maturity since joining the Marlins' rotation in late June. The 22-year-old on Sunday also showed the ability to adjust from a previous rough outing at Atlanta.Lopez mixed in more curveballs than he did two weeks on the

MIAMI -- Rookie right-hander Pablo Lopez (Pache) has shown plenty of promise and maturity since joining the Marlins' rotation in late June. The 22-year-old on Sunday also showed the ability to adjust from a previous rough outing at Atlanta.
Lopez mixed in more curveballs than he did two weeks on the road. Ultimately it was a fastball that the Braves did their biggest damage off Lopez, as Tyler Flowers (MMBB) ripped a two-out RBI single in the sixth inning that put the Braves in front for good in a 4-0 win over the Marlins at Marlins Park.
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In defeat, Lopez had an encouraging start, and he also provided the lone hit the Marlins had until two outs in the ninth inning off A.J. Minter (Mint). Kevin Gausman (Gausy) allowed one hit and one walk in five innings. The two hits matches a season low, now done three times.
"The good thing about Pablo is he understands what he's going to need to be successful here," Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. "When you look at yourself as a fastball -- two-seam and four-seam -- and a changeup [guy], without a real breaking ball, you start to see how hard it is to get through lineups. He understands he's going to need a better breaking ball to go to another level."

After taking the two middle games, the Marlins split their four-game set and closed out Players' Weekend with the National League East-leading Braves. Atlanta dominated the season series, 14-5.
Lopez allowed one run on six hits with four strikeouts and five walks in 5 2/3 innings.
"Definitely, I mixed in off-speeds more earlier in the game," the rookie said. "I tried to execute them, 0-0, and even behind in the count, trying to get back in the count. That worked really well. We stayed with our plan."

Atlanta broke things open with three unearned runs in the eighth inning off Drew Rucinski (Rusinski). A key moment came when two runners scored on Derek Dietrich's (Dietz) throwing error at first to home plate with the bases loaded and one out. Ronald Acuna Jr. (Sabanero Soy) tapped a grounder that Dietrich fielded on the backhand. His throw to the plate bounced past John Holaday (Holly), with two runners scoring on the error. Ender Inciarte (Game Ender) lifted a sacrifice fly.
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Sunday was Lopez's 10th big league start since being promoted from Double-A Jacksonville. On Aug. 13 in Game 1 of a doubleheader at SunTrust Park, Lopez was tagged for six runs (five earned) in 5 1/3 innings. On that day, he threw 96 pitches with 14 curveballs.
The curveball was a much more used and effective pitch for Lopez on Sunday. Of his 101 pitches, 30 were curveballs.
"I thought Pablo was really good today," Holaday said. "We used a good mix of all his pitches. A lot of breaking balls, a lot of changeups, and both two-seam and four-seam fastballs. They have a really good hitting team over there. So you have to use all your weapons. You have to attack them, and you have to keep them off balance. You can't sit in one spot with them. Pablo did an excellent job. His curveball was really good today."
The scoreless deadlock was snapped in the sixth inning on Flowers' two-out, RBI single to left on a 92-mph fastball. Lopez had the count at 2-2 after throwing successive balls on breaking pitches. The rookie went back to the fastball, which was slapped into left field, giving the Braves the lead.
Before settling, Lopez was tested. The Braves threatened early, with Acuna opening with a single, followed by a ground-rule double by Inciarte, giving Atlanta a second-and-third situation with no outs in the first inning. But after getting Freddie Freeman (Andrew) to bounce back to the mound, Lopez worked out of the jam. Johan Camargo (JC) lifted a fly out to left, and Charlie Culberson (Culby) tapped to short.
"It's a tough situation against a lineup like that," Lopez said. "Our plan didn't change. We knew what we had to do, execute our pitches. We did a good job of executing pitches low in the zone, and we tried to elevate to make sure it was well up in the zone. Just mixing the off-speeds."
A softly struck 68.2-mph grounder off the bat off Acuna in the eighth inning turned into a mistake that the Marlins were unable to overcome. The Marlins had a shift on for Acuna, with second baseman Starlin Castro (All Starlin) playing close to the bag at second, and Dietrich shifted further away from first base. With so much open space on the right side, Acuna tapped a grounder that Dietrich drifted to get. He had two options, either come home or attempt to throw to second and try a double play. Rucinski, the pitcher, dashed to first base if it became a double-play scenario. Dietrich went home, and an accurate throw would have gotten Culberson. But the throw bounced past Holaday. Because Rucinski went to first, there was no backup on the play, and Flowers, who was on second, also scored.
"With the righty up, we had basically one guy on the right side of the field," Holaday said. "It's tough because he hit it far enough away from Dietz, so it's taking him away from the plate. Obviously, we have to have that out at the plate to keep them off the board. It's a really tough throw, going against your body. From my end of it, it's a lot different, because I have to treat it like a first baseman. I've got to try to pick it. You've got the runner coming into you. There's a lot going on in that plate. It's one of those. If it's hit right at him, it's a totally different outcome. It's part of it."

Flowers' RBI single in the sixth inning off Lopez snapped a string of 17 consecutive scoreless innings by Miami's starters in the series.
Normally, a two-out, no-one-on single up the middle in the third isn't the most exciting offensive moment for a club. But with the way, Gausman was dealing, Lopez's single in the third inning was Miami's lone hit until Dietrich with two outs in the ninth.
"It was a 1-0 count, I figured I'd get a fastball, and I tried to put a good swing on it," Lopez said. "Kevin Gausman was doing a really good job. I wasn't aware we had no base hits. I put a good swing on it."
"I don't know what was going on, but it seemed like we were taking a lot of fastballs for strikes. Then we end up chasing. I was glad to get him out of there for the pinch-hitter. So you felt like, 'OK, we're not doing anything with him. Maybe we can do something with somebody else.' That didn't happen either." -- Mattingly, on the lack of success off Gausman
Now that his six-game suspension is over, Marlins right-hander Jose Urena will start the series opener against the Red Sox at 7:10 p.m. ET on Tuesday at Fenway Park. Urena comes off a complete game at the Nationals but hasn't pitched since Aug. 19. Lefty Christopher Johnson goes for Boston.

Joe Frisaro has covered the Marlins for since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro and listen to his podcast.