Timely hits elude Miami Marlins in loss to New York Mets

The Miami Marlins spent this offseason building a lineup that prioritized putting the ball in play and doing so in key situations.

The former has shown up through three games.

The latter has not.

And it played a direct role in Miami’s 6-2 loss to the New York Mets on Saturday at loanDepot park.

The Marlins are 1-2. The Mets are 2-1.

The Marlins have 25 hits through their first three games — including seven total (and four on Saturday) from leadoff hitter Luis Arraez, the reigning American League batting champion acquired in a trade with the Minnesota Twins in January — but they have just seven runs to show for it.

How is that?

Well, the Marlins went 0 for 7 with runners in scoring position on Saturday and are a combined 3 for 22 in those situations so far this season.

Miami last year had just a .229 batting average with runners in scoring position, a mark that ranked as the second-worst in MLB. The additions of Arraez, Jean Segura and Yuli Gurriel were supposed to help remedy that issue.

Instead, six of their seven runs scored in their first three games have come via four home runs. This includes Nick Fortes’ two-run home run in the second inning Saturday — the only runs the Marlins scored in the loss Saturday.

Miami has left 19 runners on base overall, including 10 on Saturday.

“Everybody goes up there thinking they’re going to get a hit,” Marlins manager Skip Schumaker said. “It’s not a lack. of confidence. They’re prepared. Our hitting guys prepare them. It’s just we haven’t [gotten the big hit] yet. We’ve faced some good pitching and they’ve made good pitches at the right time. ... It’s not lack of effort. It’s just we haven’t come through yet.”

The Marlins also have attempted to steal a base through three games after finishing second in the league in 2022 with 128 stolen bases.

Miami Marlins starting pitcher Edward Cabrera (27) delivers a pitch during the first inning against the New York Mets at loanDepot Park on Saturday, April 1, 2023.
Miami Marlins starting pitcher Edward Cabrera (27) delivers a pitch during the first inning against the New York Mets at loanDepot Park on Saturday, April 1, 2023.

Starting pitchers struggling with command

Edward Cabrera on Saturday walked a career-high six batters and made it through just four innings in his first start of the season. He needed 20 pitches to get through the first inning — just eight were strikes — and threw 85 pitches overall, with only 40 being strikes.

“It’s not something that I’m used to seeing in my game, losing control of the zone,” said Cabrera, who has never walked more than four batters in any of his 21 MLB starts heading into this season.

Cabrera isn’t alone among Marlins starters who have had shaky outings to begin the season. Sandy Alcantara and Jesus Luzardo each walked four batters over 5 2/3 innings in their starts on Thursday and Friday, respectively.

That means the Marlins’ three starting pitchers combined have walked 14 batters over 15 1/3 innings.

Now, in their defense, they have minimized the damage in their outings. Alcantara only gave up three runs (just two earned runs) on Thursday. Luzardo held the Mets scoreless on Friday, although JT Chargois bailed him out in the sixth when Luzardo was pulled with the bases loaded and two outs in the frame. Cabrera gave up just two runs Saturday — a second-inning sacrifice fly and fourth inning RBI single, both to Mets catcher Omar Narvaez — and and left with the game tied.

The Mets tacked on two runs in the fifth against reliever Andrew Nardi on a Pete Alonso RBI double and a Mark Canha RBI single. Canha then hit a home run to left-center in the seventh against Braxton Garrett, and Starling Marte had a pinch-hit RBI double in the eighth.

Catcher plan

After Jacob Stallings caught Alcantara in the season opener, Marlins manager Skip Schumaker went with Fortes for each of the next two games with Luzardo on the mound Friday and Cabrera on Saturday.

Schumaker said the plan is to have more of an even split between his two catchers this season. Fortes made 48 starts behind the plate last season, mostly when younger starting pitchers — namely Cabrera, Garrett and Daniel Castano — were on the mound. Fortes and Stallings split starts at catcher when Luzardo pitched, while Stallings caught all 32 of Alcantara’s starts and 20 of Trevor Rogers’ 23 starts.

“They’re both going to play a lot,” Schumaker said. “We really like what Nick does back there [with his] game calling and continuing to grow and building those relationships with the starters. We thought he did great [Friday]. Obviously the offense is real. Just getting guys in the game in a lot of different situations.”

Up next

The Marlins and Mets wrap up their season-opening series at 1:40 p.m. Sunday. Left-handed pitcher Trevor Rogers will make his season debut for Miami, while right-handed pitcher Kodai Senga will start for the Mets.