Marlins fans will get to see some once-in-a-lifetime talent in this Angels series
First pitch of this series is tonight, July 5th, at 6:40 PM EST.
After a 4-game series sweep against the Nationals over the holiday weekend, the Marlins return to Miami to square off against the two best players in baseball, hoping that the fireworks did not end Monday night.
Game 1, July 5th
First Pitch: 6:40 PM EST
Probable Starters: Noah Syndergaard (5-6) vs Sandy Alcantara (8-3)
The Marlins enter Game 1 of a 2-game series hoping to come back from the two losses they endured in Anaheim over the second series of the 2022 season, back in April. Nearly 3 months later, both teams are in a completely different position. After sweeping the Marlins, the Angels rode some of their highest highs in late April-early May, but lost their footing towards the end of May into June.
After losing Taylor Ward when he collided with the wall chasing down a ball in Oakland, the Halos spiraled out into a franchise record 14-game losing streak. After shaving his hair into a mohawk, manager Joe Maddon was promptly fired before even getting a chance to show his ballclub. The Angels even resorted to music, changing every player's walk-up song to a song by Nickelback. They've recently lost star third baseman Anthony Rendon and relief pitcher Archie Bradley. The Angels are dragging into Miami on the heels of being swept in a 3- game set by the Houston Astros, who outscored the Angels 21-4 in Houston.
It is hard to bet against Marlins starter Sandy Alcantara in 2022, as he enters Tuesday attempting to enhance his strong case to be the NL starter at the All-Star Game. With his 1.95 ERA in 115.1 innings pitched this season, it is hard to find a stat that the Marlins ace is not ranked in top 10 among starting pitchers. One stat that does not stick out for Sandy is his strikeout totals, proving that a pitcher can still be great without that all-important swing-and-miss stuff. If Sandy continues to induce weak contact, he will be able to ride deep into this one and do what he has done all of 2022: give his team a shot at victory.
The New Thor
On the other side, Noah Syndergaard is familiar face, but not a familiar arm. The former Met
pitched 2 innings in 2021, one of which was against the Marlins in Miami. Syndergaard went 1 inning without allowing a hit and striking out 2. This Noah Syndergaard, however, is not the same guy the Marlins faced during his time with the New York Mets.
Before undergoing Tommy John Surgery in March of 2020, Syndergaard’s average fastball velocity sat anywhere from 97.6 to 98.7 MPH in a single season. In the 2 innings he threw in 2021 and all throughout 2022, his fastball has been an average of 94.2 MPH. If you were not already aware, 3 to 4 MPH added or subtracted is a major difference, especially when the man nicknamed “Thor" could touch triple-digits before his surgery.
This season, Syndergaard has learned a new style of pitching. He is no longer trying to overpower hitters on a consistent basis; now he is pitching on the corners, producing a quality 3.86 ERA in the process. Although his mound presence is no longer as the big, scary, power-pitching righty, he is now scary in other aspects of pitching.
With changes to his style, Thor is now mixing up pitches at a very consistent rate, throwing 4 of the 5 pitches in his arsenal around the same amount throughout the game. If the Marlins want to be successful against him, they need to look for the hard stuff in on the hands, as opponents are batting .429 on such pitches this season. With the lack of velocity, Syndergaard is still trying to adjust to holding runners close to the bag, as he cannot just rely on his pitch speeds to get the ball to the plate anymore. Yet again, the Marlins are going to have to continue to put an emphasis on the basepaths in order to keep pressure on Syndergaard and the Angels' weak bullpen throughout the game. The Marlins are only scoring 2.50 runs a game in Sandy Alcantara’s starts in 2022. However, with a high-powered offense like the Angels have, this one could turn on its side quickly. The Fish are going to have to put up at least 4 or 5 runs if they want a chance to win this one.
Game 2, July 6th
First Pitch: 6:40 PM EST
Probable Starters: Shohei Ohtani (7-4) vs Trevor Rogers (4-6)
It is finally time for the world-renowned Shohei Ohtani to show Miami why he gets the credit
he does. Now I will admit, I have spent a very long time trying to avoid buying into the Shohei hype. But I can no longer deny the talent this guy displays every single night on the baseball field. It is hard not to talk about a player who does it on the mound and in the box, especially when he is posting a 2.68 ERA and slashing .262/.344/.503.
I, like few others, thought that last season was a fluke. My personal reasoning for this was because of his lack of success on the mound prior to the 2021 season. Even though he was sidelined for a lot of his first 3 Major League seasons, Shohei has shocked many by figuring out Major League hitters over the last 2 seasons. After a solid performance on the mound over the course of the 2021 season, Shohei has taken it to another level in 2022, improving his ERA by half a run and bringing his WHIP down to 1.01. What is most exciting about the 2022 season for Shohei is that thus far, he has the chance to show he can do even more; he is well on pace to pass his innings pitched and games started stats from last year. If you can make it out to any games at loanDepot park in 2022, this one is surely the one to do it.
For Miami, Rogers is coming off a solid start against the Nationals, allowing 1 earned run on 2 hits and 3 walks, racking up 4 strikeouts in 5 innings. The main problem here is it was
against the Nationals. In fact, 3 of Rogers’s 4 wins in 2022 have come against the Nationals. If
Rogers wants to be successful against this star-studded lineup, he is going to have to continue to work on limiting the free passes. Even in his start on Friday, Rogers had a BB/9 of 5.4, which is simply not going to win you games against teams that take advantage of the little mistakes.
The lefty is going to have to live low and in on right-handed hitters like Mike Trout and Taylor Ward. Hitters are averaging an 87.5 MPH exit velocity in that zone off him. To left-handed hitters like Ohtani and Jared Walsh, he has to continue to work his slider away and out of the zone mixed with a fastball up and in, where hitters are averaging a poor .091 batting average off him this season. When Trevor does get into trouble, he has to pitch to his strengths and not try to do too much. 11 of his 62 strikeouts(17.74%) have come on pitches over the plate and low. However, opponents are batting .293 with an average exit velocity of 92.8 MPH in that area. If Rogers is going to have success on Wednesday night, he has to avoid this spot with runners in scoring position.
In order to beat Ohtani, the Marlins offense is going to have to have long innings. The best way to win a game Shohei is starting this season is to get him out of it as fast as possible. This game is very reliant on the amount of pitches Shohei throws per inning, as he is on a short leash because of poor ability to stay healthy on the mound throughout his career. When the Marlins get the opportunity to hit with runners in scoring position, they have to capitalize. There is simply not going to be a lot of them if Shohei goes deep into the game. It is crucial that the Fish hit better than the .244 team average they currently have. If they cannot do this, their chances are bleak, as Shohei’s 1.01 WHIP combined with his .97 HR/9 do not make for good odds to hit many multi-run homers.
Game 1: 3-1, MIA. Player of the Game: Joey Wendle
Game 2: 5-2, LAA. Player of the Game: Shohei Ohtani
Series MVP: Shohei Ohtani
The only thing that could have made this series more entertaining would be to see Sandy Alcantara line up against the walking headline known as Shohei Ohtani. It is hard to pick anyone other than maybe Mike Trout as the MVP for any series, but when Shohei gets a chance to showcase both of his All-Star level playing abilities in the same series, this pick seems clear-cut.
Shohei is doing something at a level that we may never get the chance to see again in our lifetime. Even if he does not have a great series with just two average appearances at the plate and a so-so start on the mound, he is still doing it both ways. It's a shame Jazz Chisholm Jr. does not have the opportunity to get playing time, being that he is on the IL; I would love to see some sort of interaction with two of the game's budding stars in the Angels' brief visit to the 305. Marlins fans, I know you have not had many reasons to pack loanDepot park in recent years. But if there was ever a time to do it, it is now. Who knows? This may be the only opportunity you get to see a unicorn. Why miss it?