In their only warm-up scrimmages before Opening Day on July 24th, the Miami Marlins recorded a win and a loss in two action-packed games in Atlanta.
The Braves struck in Game One, coming back to win in walk-off fashion, by a final of 10-9. The Marlins, however, were able to hold onto their lead and come out on top on Wednesday, by a final of 6-2. Pablo Lopez got the three-inning win on the mound.
Over the two days at Truist Park, all of the starting position players saw action, as well as two members of the team’s regular rotation. Here are recaps and takeaways from the final meetings before the 60-game regular season kicks off on Friday.
GAME ONE: MATT ADAMS WALKS IT OFF, BULLPEN COLLAPSES
Miami broke through against Braves starter Mike Foltynewicz in the third inning. Jorge Alfaro, Miguel Rojas, and Jonathan Villar hit back-to-back-to-back big flies, with the latter recording his third of the preseason.
Meanwhile, Jose Urena threw three scoreless innings and the team took an 8-1 lead to the bottom of the eighth, thanks in part to run-driving hits by new additions Corey Dickerson and Jesus Aguilar in the fifth. That’s where the Miami bullpen could hold it together.
Adam Conley and Robert Dugger, both amongst the team’s regular relief staff, combined for eight surrendered runs over two-thirds of an inning. Michael Harris, Freddie Frieman, and Adam Duvall each recorded an RBI single, while Charlie Culberson and Drew Waters drove in a total of three runs with two separate RBI doubles.
The bullpen proved its low value and all the questions surrounding it by costing the Marlins an impressive win. Miami’s #4 prospect, Jesus Sanchez, tied the game in the top of the ninth with a solo shot to right, but Matt Adams won it for Atlanta with a solo homer of his own.
Jonathan Villar continued his good Spring Training/Summer Camp stretch, posting a three-hit performance, followed by Rojas, Aguilar, and Alfaro with two each. Villar now has an OPS of .905 since the start of Spring Training.
If Villar continues fixing his base-reaching abilities, this could be a huge help for a shallow Miami lineup. The Dominican had hit best year in 2016, when he posted a .285 batting average with an OBP of .285, accompanied by league-leading 62 steals and 18 caught stealing.
He then suffered his two worst campaigns. His on-base percentage experienced the biggest downfall, slipping to .241 in 2017 and .260 in 2018. Villar was able to become a top hitter on a talentless Orioles lineup in 2019 by addressing his power-hitting, hitting 24 homers with a .792 OPS. Both figures were either career-high or second-best in his career.
On the one hand, Villar should keep his focus on power. That would benefit a Marlins lineup that was at the bottom of the homerun rankings. On the other hand, an increase in his consistency would help get his OBP where it was during his best years.
POWER IN THE LINEUP
The Marlins, who finished 2019 dead last in MLB with 146 homers, hit four pitches over the fence at Truist Park on Tuesday. Three of those homeruns were by Rojas, Alfaro, and Villar, regular starters come July 24th.
Miguel Rojas is perhaps the biggest surprise here. Rojas went for the contact rather than the power in 2019 and established himself as a prolific contact hitter. He even batted .295 before the All-Star break, 30th-best in that span. Of course, due to his contact hitting, he only hit five homeruns in 483 at-bats.
The homerun on Tuesday was his second in 30 preseason at-bats. This is still meaningless as these games don’t count and the workload is too low in this year’s games. Nevertheless, it will remain interesting whether Rojas will change his focus at the plate.
GAME TWO: LOPEZ SHINES IN A 6-2 WIN
Marlins starter Pablo Lopez was the main contributor to Miami’s 6-2 win on Wednesday afternoon. Lopez, currently the third-choice pitcher, allowed just one of four Braves hits. That was accompanied by a walk, a homerun, and three strikeouts, and his first win of the camp.
Elieser Hernandez had an equally good outing after that. Meanwhile, typical relievers allowed just two hits and struck out two batters over three innings.
Harold Ramirez recorded two hits at the plate, including an RBI double in the third and a two-run homer in the fifth. Garrett Cooper, who drove in a run in the ninth, and Brian Anderson also had two hits each. Austin Riley was the source of the only two Atlanta runs with two solo shots.
BULLPEN SET UP FOR FAILURE?
Relievers that Miami uses less had a pretty clean day on Wednesday. However, the downfall of Game-One on Tuesday might have shown more as to where the bullpen currently is. On the one hand, Brandon Kintzler and Yimi Garcia, the leaders of the group, made no mistakes.
Robbert Duggar and Adam Conley, who combined for over 90 terrible innings, showed they didn’t feel like bouncing back. Again, these games don’t matter much. However, after last year the projections for those two aren’t bright. Until relievers like Tarpley and Stanek are ready to take on a bigger role, the Marlins bullpen will lack depth due to the downfall of two big-name relievers.
MONTE HARRISON THE SNUB?
With a one-hit effort in the team’s last warm-up scrimmage, Monte Harrison finished Spring Training/Summer Camp with a batting average of .360. After Lewis Brinson’s injury, Harrison was expected to at least start in centerfield and even play as a DH.
However, he was sent to an alternate camp in Jupiter following the scrimmages, with Don Mattingly naming Magneuris Sierra to the Opening Day roster. Sierra has hit .225 over his two seasons with the Miami Marlins.
This is a very difficult decision to justify. According to Mattingly, this was done to better develop the #9 prospect. Harrison hit 61 homers in six seasons in the minors. Batting .360 this spring made him the biggest farm-system candidate for the 2020 roster. He could have proven to be the sensation that gives Miami’s lineup the push it so desperately needs. This decision could soon backfire if the Marlins start on a low note due to their lineup.
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