Marlins finish eventful homestand by sweeping Nationals

The Miami Marlins’ latest homestand included 17 shutout innings from Sandy Alcantara, a pair of walk-off wins and a 90-minute, get-it-all-out-on-the-table team meeting. They split a four-game series with one of the best teams in the Majors, swept a three-game set with one of the worst and finished it by beating the Washington Nationals, 7-4, on Thursday to spoil Stephen Strasburg’s long-awaited 2022 debut.

At the end of it, the Marlins are 5 1/2 games back of the second Wild Card spot in the National League, hanging around on the fringes of the postseason picture after their best seven-game stretch since they won seven in a row to end April.

“We’ve been,” manager Don Mattingly said, “getting better.”

It has been a stop-and-start campaign for Miami (25-30) so far. The Marlins’ 15 losses in one-run games are the most in the Major Leagues and their inability to regularly string together victories — they only now have three winning streaks longer than two games this year — have kept them stuck somewhere between 4-8 games below .500 for all but a few days in the last month.

It has all made the first two months of the season a mix of optimism and frustration. This week in Miami was a reason for the former.

They started by getting two wins over the weekend against the San Francisco Giants, who won 107 games last season, and finished it with three straight wins against Washington (21-38) for their second sweep of the season.

Both of their sweeps have come against the Nationals — the only team behind Miami in the NL East — and this one came immediately on the heels of their hour-and-a-half airing of grievances Tuesday. A few hours after the closed-door meeting, Miami began the three-game series with a 10-run rout and followed it up with a 10-inning, walk-off win Wednesday. The capstone — another convincing win in front of 9,108 at loanDepot park — was maybe the most encouraging of the bunch.

On the mound, the Marlins got a five-inning, two-run performance from starting pitcher Trevor Rogers, who entered Thursday with a 5.80 ERA after serving as Miami’s lone representative in the 2021 MLB All-Star Game less than a year ago. At the plate, they tagged Strasburg for three runs in the first inning and then posted four more against the Washington starting pitcher in the fifth to knock him out of the game.

It was only Strasburg’s eighth outing since he won the World Series Most Valuable Player Award in 2019 and it lasted only 4 2/3 innings, as star second baseman Jazz Chisholm Jr. scored twice off a pair of bunt singles and outfielder Jesus Sanchez, who sat out Wednesday due to back tightness, crushed a two-run home run off the right-handed pitcher in the bottom of the fifth to give Miami a 7-2 lead.

“They’re basically doubles,” Mattingly said of Chisholm’s bunt hits. “I don’t know why we ever get away from taking what they give you, right? Trying to score runs any way you can and the better teams are going to find more ways to score.”

Said Chisholm: “I found a little something I can add to my game as a weapon. … I’ll take whatever I can get at this point. I’m just learning how to play the game and take what the game gives me.”

A few minutes earlier, the Marlins were up just 3-2 after Washington threatened to rally with two runs in the top of the fifth. It was the lone blemish for Rogers, who pushed up to the edge of a collapse in the frame, only to escape with the lead still intact. After giving up two hits in the first inning, Rogers set down 10 of the next 11 batters he faced before giving up another lead-off single in the fifth. Two more singles eventually let the Nationals score a pair, but Rogers induced one groundout with the bases loaded and then finished the inning by getting Nationals slugger Josh Bell to fly out to right field.

The 24-year-old left-handed pitcher finished his five innings with six hits allowed, five strikeouts and just one walk — a bounceback performance after he gave up five runs in 3 2/3 innings in his last start June 1.

“I’ve kind of been a little bit too rough on myself because you see what Sandy’s doing, you see what [Pablo Lopez is] doing and I want to get there so bad,” Rogers said. “I want to help this team win and just seeing what those guys can do I’m like, Man, I want to be a part of that.”

It was, in all, the sort of performance Miami will need if it’s going to seriously push for a spot in the MLB postseason.

Above all else, the Marlins’ hopes are tied up in their potential three-headed monster at the top of their starting rotation. Alcantara and fellow starting pitcher Pablo Lopez have delivered. Rogers, so far, has not.

At the same, offensive outbursts like theirs Thursday are becoming less and less rare, too. Miami is now averaging 4.47 runs per game — the 11th most in the Majors — and is averaging 6.89 in its last nine.

“I don’t know what it is, but it seems like guys are settling in,” Mattingly said. “Most of our guys are starting to look like they’re falling into their slots.”

Miami Marlins third baseman Brian Anderson (15) celebrates after scoring a run against the Washington Nationals during the second inning of their baseball game at LoanDepot Park on Monday, May 16, 2022, in Miami, Florida. MATIAS J. OCNER

Marlins’ Anderson gets back injection

After landing on the injured list with back spasms June 1, Brian Anderson saw a spine specialist this week and will receive an injection, Mattingly said.

“He’s getting some type of an injection — I think it’s tomorrow — just to try to get that last little spot out of there and then he’ll just keep working,” Mattingly said. “He still feels better. There’s just not 100 percent freedom there.”

Anderson, who plays both third base and outfield, ranks second on the team with a .374 on-base percentage and started 30 games before going on the IL last week.

The Marlins also held outfielder Jorge Soler out of the lineup Thursday after his back “stiffened up a little bit,” Mattingly said. Mattingly said he was likely available to pinch hit.

“We want to be cautious with him,” Mattingly said.

Up next

The Marlins kick off their longest road trip of the season Friday when they begin a 10-game trip against the Houston Astros at 8:10 p.m. at Minute Maid Park. It’ll be Miami’s first meeting with the Astros since 2017.

The Marlins begin this road trip with three games in Houston, followed by three against the Philadelphia Phillies, and then an off day and four more against the New York Mets. They won’t be back in South Florida until June 21.

This story was originally published June 9, 2022 9:53 PM.

David Wilson, a Maryland native, is the Miami Herald’s utility man for sports coverage.

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