Can the Marlins get back to .500 against the Pirates at home?
First pitch of this series is tonight, July 11th, at 6:40 PM EST.
After splitting a series they should have won with the Mets in New York, newly named All-Stars Jazz Chisholm Jr., Sandy Alcantara, and the rest of the Marlins return to Miami to face off against the two Pennsylvania teams to complete the last week of the first half of the
season. The Marlins have yet to lose a series in the month of July. Could they continue the trend here?
Game 1, July 11
First Pitch: 6:40 PM EST
Probable Starters: Mitch Keller (2-6) vs. Trevor Rogers (4-7)
The Pirates enter Miami with a team record of 36-50, i.e. bad. However, they surely did not expect this record to land them in 3rd place in the NL central, with a 2-game lead over the 4th place Chicago Cubs.
Young Talent on Display
This week is sure to display a lot of young talent, on both sides. The main 2 pieces that everyone in baseball has their eyes locked on is rookie shortstop Oneil Cruz and 2021 All-Star centerfielder Bryan Reynolds. On Miami's side, Jazz Chisholm could be looking to make an appearance at some point in this series. Although not confirmed, the 2022 National League All-Star second baseman has been on the 10-day IL since June 29th, making the date for his return to be eligible July 9th. This means Miami can reactivate Jazz at some point during this series if they believe he is healthy enough to make his return.
Another young Pirate that has made a splash in 2022 is rookie, Jack Suwinski. Although he
does not hit for high average, batting a mere .206, Suwinski is leading all National League rookies in home runs in 2022 with 14 big flies, and is 2nd in the MLB behind Julio Rodriguez. Between Suwinski and Cruz, the Pirates have two power hitters in the middle of their order who can do some damage. However, this sets up well with Marlins starting pitcher Trevor Rogers, as both of the big power bats swing from the left, favorable for the left-handed
Rogers is coming off a loss against superstar Shohei Ohtani. He still seems to be throwing the majority of his innings with huge pressure looming over him. Against a weak–hitting lineup, similar to the Nationals, he must continue to build confidence that got him to the Mid-Summer Classic in 2021.
Mitch Keller is pitcher that fans always seem to have high hopes for going into the season, just to see him continue down the same path. His 5.21 ERA in 2022 is actually lower than his career 5.77 ERA, which in itself speaks to the disappointment Keller has become. His biggest problem on the mound is leaving the ball over the middle of the plate, as he does not have an overpowering fastball, averaging 93.8 MPH on his 4-seamer. The Marlins need to be patient at the plate, put themselves in good hitter's counts, and take advantage of the pitches Keller does leave over the heart of the plate.
Joey Wendle had a rough series in New York, look for him to refocus and make a lot of loud contact early in the game.
Game 2, July 12th
First Pitch: 6:40 PM EST
Probable Starters: JT Brubaker (2-8) vs. Daniel Castano (1-2)
After a strong 2 starts against the Mets and Nationals, Castano got beat around in New York on Friday, giving up 5 earned runs on 9 hits, fanning just 2 in 4 innings in a 10-0 rout by the Mets. However, I am not worried. Castano has been fairly consistent in 2022, making surprising starts against good lineups and really taking advantage of the bad ones. Last Friday he ran into a really good Mets lineup that saw him less than 2 weeks prior. I really expect him to return to the same Castano we have seen throughout the season in this game
against the Pirates.
The biggest thing to look out for is the way Castano attacks the strike zone. For a pitcher to give up an average north of 2 hits per inning, the mental part of the game can mess with you, which leads to nibbling corners. Castano simply does not have the control to achieve this feat. To have another successful outing, he needs to go back to challenging hitters and letting them get themselves out, and he will be fine.
JT Brubaker has not been as bad as his record represents, posting a 4.34 ERA, 1.47 WHIP, and 88 strikeouts over 87 innings pitched in 2022. Yet, as we have seen with the Marlins
over the years, when your team cannot put up as many runs as you would like, a 4.34 ERA
will land a pitcher many losing decisions. The 28-year-old has a high batting average against in almost every location in the zone, even though his average exit velocities are below league average. This indicates he allows a lot of traffic on the bases and works around
the trouble. The Marlins are going to have to capitalize on something I feel like I have to highlight in every series preview: hitting with runners in scoring position.
Over the weekend, the Marlins continued to strand runner after runner on the basepaths, leading to a series split, even though they had plenty of opportunities to get the job done in a losing-effort on Saturday against the Mets. If you want to beat teams consistently, you have to hit while guys are on base. The Marlins have to do that if they don't want to get beat by inferior teams, such as the Pirates.
Game 3, July 13th
First Pitch: 6:40 PM EST
Probable Starters: Zach Thompson (3-6) vs Pablo Lopez (6-4)
Pablo Lopez really stepped up against the Mets on Friday, getting the win after going 5 innings, allowing just 1 earned run on 4 hits. Pablo handed the ball to the bullpen, which did the job in a 5-2 Marlins win. He seems to finally be getting his legs back under him after having a sensational first 8 starts. Pablo struggled over his next 7, but is slowly returning to the guy Marlins fans saw at the beginning of the season. After throwing 6 no-hit innings against the Nationals two starts ago, he lost it in the 7th and kind of fell apart. Through 5 solid innings against the Mets, Don Mattingly seemed to pull the plug a little early, maybe to have Pablo exit the game feeling good about the work he put in. Another start against a bad Pirates team could continue to push his season back in the right direction as we approach the second half.
The More Contact the Better
Former Marlin, Zach Thompson, is expected to make the start against Miami. Thompson has been so-so, holding a 4.38 ERA and a 1.43 WHIP in 2022. He is not a strikeout pitcher, registering a 6.64 K/9. The Marlins, a high strikeout team, really just need to put the ball in play and it should play out in their favor.
Game 4, July 14th
First Pitch: 12:10 PM EST
Probable Starters: Jose Quintana (2-4) vs. Braxton Garrett (1-3)
Braxton Garrett continues to go out and keep the Marlins in every game he starts, leaving his
latest outing trailing 3-2 after a 2-run Francisco Lindor home run. However, the Marlins seem
to fail to take advantage of what they are getting whenever Garrett performs well. If the Marlins want to beat up on a bad Pirates team, they need to take advantage of what they get from Garrett and score runs whenever he does throw well.
Jose Quintana is continuing a bounce back season after struggling in his 4+ seasons with the Chicago Cubs. He has made himself very valuable and a good option for the Pirates to ship out by the trade deadline on August 2nd. The lefty has a lot of swing and miss in his stuff this year, going to his breaking pitches a lot down and in to right-handed batters and down and away from left-handed hitters. If the Marlins can spit on the pitches out of the zone and put the strikes in play, they could have more success against Quintana than most teams this season.
Game 1: 6-2, MIA. Player of the Game: Joey Wendle
Game 2: 8-2, MIA. Player of the Game: Brian Anderson
Game 3: 7-1, MIA. Player of the Game: Pablo Lopez
Game 4: 4-1, PIT. Player of the Game: Jose Quintana
Series MVP: Joey Wendle
Wendle has been slow getting back to full strength after his IL stint with hamstring issues. I really expect him to have a good series against a bunch of struggling righties he will face. I also expect the Marlins to take advantage of a weaker portion of their schedule, even though the bats have been sluggish this month.