The Miami Marlins long, sporadic climb back to .500 will have to wait at least a few more days after their 5-2 loss to the Los Angeles Angels on Wednesday, but it’s a delay they’re willing to wait out.
A day at .500 won’t define the Marlins’ season. A week hovering right around there won’t, either. Miami has less than four weeks left until the trade deadline and Don Mattingly is more concerned with trying to force Bruce Sherman’s hand after a promise the owner made in the early days of the 2022 MLB season.
“I’d love to be a buyer,” Mattingly recalled Sherman saying to him when the season was still young and the Marlins fancied themselves a contender for the 2022 MLB postseason.
“I take him at his word,” Mattingly said, “but we’ve got to do our part.”
At various points throughout the first half of the season, they have.
Although Miami’s six-game winning streak ended Wednesday, the run was the Marlins’ third winning streak of at least five games so far this season and had them right to the brink of a .500 record before a fifth-inning meltdown from starting pitcher Trevor Rogers cost Miami its chance at a two-game sweep of the Angels. If the Marlins get to .500 at any point in the rest of this season, it will be the latest they have had a .500 record since 2016.
Of course, .500, Mattingly made sure to point out, is just a number, even if it is a nice, round one to serve as a baseline for what it takes to really contend for the playoffs. Right now, the teams tied for the third Wild Card position in the National League — the Philadelphia Phillies and St. Louis Cardinals — are five games above .500 and Miami sits three games back with just about half the season remaining. The Marlins are tied for the 17th best record in the Majors and have the ninth best in the NL, and, with the postseason expanded for the first time this year to include seven teams from each league, it’s enough to truly consider them a contender.
Still, everything is temporary when there are still 82 games left in the regular season.
“We put ourselves back in the Wild Card race,” Mattingly said, “and there’s still a lot of baseball to be played.”
Rogers leans on Alcantara, Lopez
As good as the last week has gone for Miami, its loss Wednesday was a reminder of how thin a margin it has. The Marlins went up 1-0 in the first inning when they ended superstar starting pitcher Shohei Ohtani’s 21 2/3-inning scoreless streak, but their inconsistent offense couldn’t generate anything else until they were down by four runs in the ninth—even the first-inning run was unearned. Ohtani, pitching in Miami for the first time, drew 18,741 to loanDepot park — the fourth biggest crowd of the year — and fired seven innings with no earned runs and nine strikeouts to set up Los Angeles for a come-from-behind win. The Angels scored three off Rogers in the fifth inning — and Ohtani drove in two — to take a 3-1 lead, knocking the left-handed pitcher out of the game after just 4 2/3 innings.
Rogers, who went to the 2021 MLB All-Star Game as a rookie last year, now has a 5.57 ERA and has only completed more than five innings once all year, failing to even finish five in five of his last nine starts. The 24-year-old starter was supposed to be a cornerstone of a playoff push and instead he has mostly been a liability, with the Marlins staying afloat in spite of his sophomore slump.
There’s optimism — both from Rogers and Mattingly — about a turnaround, though. Rogers cruised through the first four innings before he gave up an infield single and hit two batters in the fifth. It caused a promising start to get away from him and Rogers felt he was just trying to be a bit too perfect in the costly inning.
It has been his biggest issue all year, he believes.
“Honestly, I’m throwing the ball really well. I feel really good out there and it’s just those little things,” Rogers said. “I’m just trying to be too precise instead of keep attacking, filling up the zone in those later innings. I’ve just got to get through it.”
After his outing, Rogers said he pulled fellow Pablo Lopez aside to pick his brain on his fatal flaw. It was something Lopez, 26, went through when he was at a similar stage of his career and Rogers wanted the starting pitcher’s advice.
“Just attack,” he said Lopez told him.
If there’s reason to believe Rogers will pull out of his season-long slump, it’s his willingness to lean on both Lopez and star starting pitcher Sandy Alcantara.
“It’s life-changing. That’s a little bit of an exaggeration, but life-changing is a good word. It’s huge having those two guys,” Rogers said. “They tell me, Hey, we went through it, too. You’ve just got to be patient. I’m running out of patience, man, but I’ve still got a long way to go.”
Chisholm leads All-Star vote
It’s an open question whether Jazz Chisholm Jr. will be healthy in time for the 2022 MLB All-Star Game on July 19, but the star middle infielder is in good position to land an invitation to Los Angeles regardless.
With All-Star voting set to close Friday, Chisholm had a substantial lead on Atlanta Braves star Ozzie Albies in the two-way race to earn the starting nod at second base for the National League, according to voting numbers revealed by MLB on Wednesday. The 24-year-old Bahamian had gathered 59 percent of the vote in the head-to-head competition, as of Wednesday afternoon.
Both Chisholm and Albies — the two finalists to start at second — are currently on the injured list.
Chisholm earned a spot as one of two finalists on the All-Star ballot by getting the second most votes among NL second basemen in the first phase of polling. The top two players at every position — except outfield and pitcher — advanced to the final phase of voting, which pits those players head to head to see whom fans would prefer start the All-Star Game.
Even though he has been on the IL since last Wednesday, Chisholm still has the NL’s second best power-speed number, which combines home run and stolen base production into one number.
If he gets voted in as a starter, Chisholm can become only the fifth Marlin to start an MLB All-Star Game and the first since outfielder Marcell Ozuna, now with the Braves, back in 2017. He would also be the first Bahamian to participate in the game.
Perez gets Futures Game nod
MLB won’t reveal the full roster for the All-Star Futures Game until Thursday, but MIami already knows who one of its representatives will be.
Starting pitcher Eury Perez, who has posted a 3.21 ERA in 12 starts for Double A Pensacola so far this year, will compete in the annual prospect showcase July 18 as part of All-Star weekend. The 6-foot-8, 19-year-old Dominican is the No. 16 prospect in the Majors, according to MLB.com.
SiriusXM announced a handful of top prospects as participants Wednesday as a teaser for its full Thursday reveal.
The Futures Game features at least one prospect from every team, although teams can have more than one. Given how deep Miami’s farm system is, it’s possible the Marlins could be one of those organizations with multiple prospects headed out to Dodger Stadium for the game.
Up next: Marlins at Mets
After a quick two-game homestand, Miami is back on the road for four games against the Mets this weekend. Starting pitcher Daniel Castano will take the mound for the Marlins on Thursday, facing off against New York pitcher Trevor Williams at 7:10 p.m. at Citi Field.
Miami will miss pitcher Max Scherzer during their trip up to New York: The Mets are giving their star starting pitcher an extra day of rest after he returned from injury Wednesday, meaning he won’t go again until Monday.
After the three games in Queens, the Marlins return home for six more games before the All-Star break.