MIAMI -- Without a true power hitter in their lineup, the Marlins are relying on having a collective approach at the plate to help manufacture runs. Rafael Ortega appears to be fitting the mold.Getting an opportunity in the leadoff spot, Ortega on Sunday went 2-for-5 with a run scored and
MIAMI -- Without a true power hitter in their lineup, the Marlins are relying on having a collective approach at the plate to help manufacture runs. Rafael Ortega appears to be fitting the mold.
Getting an opportunity in the leadoff spot, Ortega on Sunday went 2-for-5 with a run scored and two stolen bases. The Marlins ended up losing, 4-3, to the Mets at Marlins Park, but they appear to have a frontrunner as a leadoff batter.
"His at-bats have been good," Marlins manager Don Mattingly said of Ortega. "If you look at Magneuris [Sierra] and [Lewis] Brinson, and you see him, you see a guy who is a little more polished. You see what happens with a guy who is a little more experienced. His at-bats are different. He's been in the big leagues, he's played a little bit more."
Sierra and Brinson are rookies who have had opportunities batting first. Ortega, a non-roster invitee who missed Spring Training due to visa issues, last played in the Majors with the Angels in 2016.
"It's a great opportunity, and it's great the Marlins are showing confidence in me, putting me in the leadoff spot," the Venezuelan native said through an interpreter.
Called up from Triple-A New Orleans on Friday to fill the roster spot vacated when Justin Bour was traded to the Phillies, Ortega has made three starts in left field, and he's led off the past two games.
In the ninth inning, Ortega was in a pressure situation. J.T. Realmuto delivered a pinch-hit single off Seth Lugo, and Ortega ran the count full, before bouncing into a 4-6-3 double play.
"I felt good at the plate," Ortega said. "I felt I had a lot of good swings, a lot of good at-bats. In that last at-bat, I had a lot of good swings there as well. But I just couldn't get the job done."
In the first inning, he gave the Marlins a spark with a leadoff single against Noah Syndergaard on a ball that likely would have been a double, but it struck first-base umpire Gabe Morales. After swiping second, he scored on Starlin Castro's one-out single. Ortega added a single and another stolen base in the fifth before he was stranded at third.
The Marlins fell a run short of coming back on Sunday, and they dropped two of three to the Mets and four of six on the homestand.
John Holaday, Miami's walk-off hero in a 4-3 win in 11 innings on Saturday, added RBI singles in the fourth and sixth innings.
Marlins starter Wei-Yin Chen was hurt by the long ball, surrendering two home runs in six innings. Jose Reyes belted a two-run shot in the second inning, and Michael Conforto added a solo shot in the sixth inning.
"I was just trying to elevate on [Reyes]," Chen said through an interpreter. "I threw a lot of low [in the zone] balls early in the game. I didn't really execute that high pitch well. Reyes is pretty good hitting inside pitches. He did damage on that pitch."
Chen allowed four runs (two earned), and his home ERA is now 2.05, which is dramatically different than his 10.27 mark on the road.
Miami committed a key miscue in the second inning, when Jose Bautista reached on Derek Dietrich's error at first base. Third baseman Martin Prado made a nice play on Bautista's slow roller, but Dietrich was unable to handle the throw. With two outs, Reyes connected on his two-run shot to left, giving the Mets a 3-1 lead.
"On that play, that ball is going to fade a little bit, and you've just got to stay with it," Mattingly said of Dietrich's error. "I hadn't looked at it. But I would think he probably would have thought he should have caught it."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
The Marlins had their chances in the ninth inning after Realmuto's pinch-hit single, and with no outs and a tapped-out bullpen, Mattingly opted not to have Ortega bunt. With the count full, Lugo induced the 4-6-3 double play. Miami still had a shot after Miguel Rojas' single, but Castro grounded to third to end it.
Asked if he thought about having Ortega bunt, Mattingly said: "Not really, [since] our 'pen was out of gas. I'm trying to win the game right there. … He just misses one foul, hooking one down there in that corner, foul. I was just going for the 'W' there instead of going for the tie. With the way our 'pen was, there really weren't many innings down there."
When Brian Anderson threw Todd Frazier out trying to stretch a single to a double in the fourth inning, it was his eighth outfield assist, which leads all rookie outfielders.
HE SAID IT
"The offense looked a little better the last couple of games. It looked like we're coming out of it a little bit, as far as better at-bats, approach, and things like that. Hopefully, we can go into Atlanta and continue this." -- Mattingly
Due to a rainout on Aug. 1, the Marlins and Braves will play a day-night doubleheader on Monday at SunTrust Park. Game 1 starts at 1:35 p.m. ET and the second game at 7:35 p.m. Pablo Lopez will start the opener and Merandy Gonzalez comes up from Double-A Jacksonville to start the night game. Gonzalez last pitched for the Marlins on June 17 at Baltimore. Touki Toussaint will make his MLB debut as Atlanta's starter for Game 1, and Mike Foltynewicz will start the nightcap.
Joe Frisaro has covered the Marlins for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro and listen to his podcast.