No need to panic: Marlins achieve little victories

Four takeaways from Miami's Opening Day loss to New York

March 31st, 2023

MIAMI -- “The relentless pursuit of a win every day.”

That slogan -- emblazoned above the entrance to the Marlins’ clubhouse at loanDepot park -- made its debut on Thursday. First-year manager Skip Schumaker didn’t put it up there, but it aligns with his goal of building a winning culture.

Just like bunting (the fabric variety) around the ballpark is a rite of passage on Opening Day, so are hyperbolic reactions after Game 1 of 162. That will likely be the case on Thursday following the Marlins’ 5-3 loss to the Mets, a 101-win club in 2022 that is considered one of the favorites to win the National League pennant.

“That's a really good team,” Schumaker said. “The Mets are a really good team, and I think that we showed that we can play against them. And Sandy [Alcantara] -- I'll take my chances with Sandy any day of the week. Opening Day -- a lot of people put a lot of stock in the first game. But there's 161 left. … I really believe if we keep fighting like that, we're going to be OK.”

No need to panic with Sandy
For the second consecutive season opener, Alcantara didn’t have his best stuff. He wasn’t alone. Aces Aaron Nola (Phillies) and Jacob deGrom (Rangers) struggled in Arlington.

What stands out in Alcantara’s start was the continuation of a spring trend: command issues. He walked four (two of which came around to score) across 5 2/3 innings. Alcantara issued seven free passes over 17 innings between the Grapefruit League and the World Baseball Classic.

“I don't know,” said Alcantara, who walked a season-high five batters in San Francisco last year to open his NL Cy Young Award-winning campaign. “I think [it’s because it’s the] first game. I know I’ve got more opportunities to not walk anybody. I know what I’ve got, just got to keep positive because I know I’m going to have more opportunities.”

Every at-bat makes a difference
After being held scoreless through five innings by veteran ace Max Scherzer, Miami put up three runs in the sixth, punctuated by ’s game-tying two-run homer.

“Just being here in ‘18 to now, you've seen so many changes from then to now,” said Cooper, the longest-tenured Marlin. “It's a whole different mindset offensively. The offensive coaches we have -- there's a different plan that I've seen this year than in years’ past. We're going to have to battle those guys, those top-end starters where you scratch two or three runs across. But just the organization in general from that point is so, so much better. The starters, those guys could all be Cy Youngs. I think we're in a good spot right now, and hopefully we come out tomorrow.”

New York regained the lead in the seventh against southpaw Tanner Scott. Schumaker kept Scott in to face the left-handed-hitting Brandon Nimmo, who hit the go-ahead two-run double. Righty JT Chargois was warming up to face the next batter, right-handed-hitting Starling Marte.

In the bottom of the frame, Jorge Soler led off with a double, only for the Marlins to go down in order.

“I thought we put together some good at-bats against him, tying it up there late, was really encouraging for us to fight back,” Schumaker said. “The following inning, the top half, we just can't walk guys there, and I think that was kind of the momentum swing. It was kind of a shutdown-type-of inning. And so when that happens, and they score on that walk, I think that's what you need is a shutdown inning.”

Arraez as advertised
Reigning American League batting champion , whom Miami acquired from Minnesota to be the tablesetter, led off with a single in the first inning. He also put the Marlins on the board with an RBI double in the sixth.

“I just go there and try to do my thing,” Arraez said. “I just try to hit the ball, find a barrel and then I find it. I got a couple of barrels, and I'm good with that.”

Is the defense all right?
Miami’s defense was questioned throughout Spring Training, because Arraez’s arrival meant moving to center field and  shifting to third base. 

Outside of Chisholm’s inability to cut off Nimmo’s double (with a 105.6 mph exit velo) and another instance where Chisholm's throw hit the cleats of a sliding runner, the Marlins flashed the leather quite well.

“Credit to them,” Schumaker said. “It was a really well-played game. It really was, just the walks hurt us. The defense – Cooper, Arraez, [shortstop Joey] Wendle, Segura – I'm happy with how they played today.”