By: Jeffrey Romeu
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Pre – Game Analysis
The Miami Marlins enter the third game of a four-game series with the Nationals still feeling the sting of Thursday’s lost. On that day the Marlins led by as much as 9 runs, when the Nationals staged unbelievable a comeback led by Trea Tuner who hit 2 homeruns and 8 RBIs, ultimately defeating the Marlins 14 – 12. Friday, the Marlins took a surprising 9th Inning walk off defeat as their exceptionally reliable Closer Kyle Barraclough gave up a pinch-hit home run to Mark Reynolds. However, isn’t this what everyone expected from the Marlins after their extremely active offseason?
The Marlins enter Saturday with a record of 36 – 54, 14.5 games away from first place in their division, 18 games under .500, and the third worst record in the MLB. Clearly the Marlins will not be contending for a spot in the playoffs this year or for many years to come after their huge salary dump. Yet, the biggest question they are facing for the rest of the year is – Who will be a Marlins when the season is over? Various teams throughout the MLB have shown interest in their stellar catcher JT Realmuto, second baseman Starlin Castro, and the bullpen of Barraclough, Steckenrider, and Conley.
As for tonight, the Marlins have Wei – Yin Chen on the mound, who will be getting paid over $40 million dollars for the next 2 to 3 years, even after his subpar performances and injury plagued tenure with the Marlins. The Marlins will also expect to showcase another lineup given that Martin Prado isn’t physically ready to play on a daily basis yet after returning from a hamstring injury. In the words of Marlins CEO Derrek Jeter, “Every time you step onto the baseball field you have a chance to win.” But the Marlins will be facing a struggling and confused Nationals team.
The Washington Nationals enter this game energized by their recent victories but filled with questions about their short term and long-term future. The Nationals on Saturday are in 3rd place in the National League East, 5 games behind the Braves and Phillies, something I’m sure most baseball fans didn’t expect. The biggest question mark in the roster is the possible future $400 million-dollar man, former National League MVP, and the 2010 first overall pick Bryce harper.
While Harper has hit a strong 21 Home Runs and driven in 50 RBIs his batting average has dipped to .211 and has struck out 90 times and with over 90 games left, he will be on pace to breaking his own record in strikeouts. He was slated to become the first baseball player to possibly gain a $400 million-dollar contract, however, with the glacial pace of free agency this offseason, his lack of productivity, and the Nationals struggles, where will he be next year and with who?
On the mound for the Nationals will be the dominate Max Scherzer who is in the top 10 in the MLB in ERA (2.16), strikeouts (174), and leads in opposing batting average at .173. I believe it’ll be an easy outing for Scherzer given the Marlins have a batting average of .236 against him this year. However, the larger questions loom for the Nationals and that is – Will they compete for a playoffs spot? Will they be competitive in the playoffs? And who will be a National next year given that so many contracts are up?
From the get-go Scherzer was confident with his stuff, frequently pounding the strike zone with the majority of his pitches. Derek Dietrich clearly figured him out by slapping an opposite field base hit after a tough 9 pitch battle. However, the leadoff single didn’t lead to much as Castro was clearly fooled by the off-speed pitch which made him pop the ball to center, and Realmuto hit a 3 – 1 pitch into the shortstop for an easy 6 – 4 – 3 Double Play.
Chen is hoping to lower his terrible ERA which is above 9. He started off well, after a tough 8 pitch battle with Turner, he got him to pop the ball to second. Soto followed with a soft hit into an easy 6 – 3 groundout and Chen concluded the inning by striking out Rendon looking with an inside pitch.
Justin Bour started the inning outmatched by Scherzer’s pitching arsenal as he struck out swinging in 4 pitches. Garrett Cooper and JT Riddle both hit into easy groundout, 5 – 3 and 4 -3 respectability, ending the inning in which Scherzer only thrown 10 pitches.
A struggling Harper led off in the bottom half of the inning for the Nationals as he singled to right maybe the start of his return to MVP form. Afterwards, Reynolds hit the first pitch he saw into the left field benchers for an early 2 – 0 Nationals lead. Chen did recover by getting Michael Taylor and Wilmer Difo to ground into 5 – 3 groundouts and striking out Severino swinging.
Nationals lead 2 – 0 going in the 3rd
Fun fact – Reynolds homerun marks the second consecutive time he hit a homerun on the first pitch.
Rojas led off the inning by getting jammed by an inside fastball, Rivera grounded easily to third base for an easy 5 – 3 out, and Chen grounded the first pitch he saw to second for an easy 4 – 3 out. Scherzer continued to end at bats for the Marlins swiftly by keeping most hitters tonight to only 1 to 4 pitches.
Scherzer who is a great pitcher/hitter led off taking a huge cut at the ball but ended up in the center fielders glove. Turner popped up to second base and is easily retired and Chen struck out Soto looking with an outside pitch. Chen is surprisingly kept up with Scherzer with Reynolds homerun being the only mistake he threw up to this point.
Scherzer continued to frustrate the Marlins as Dietrich starts the inning getting jammed into a groundout to second for an easy 4 – 3. However, Castro cracked a hanging curveball deep into the left field benchers for a solo homerun making the game 2 – 1, but the show continued! Realmuto knocked another homerun into left on another hanging breaking ball evening the game at 2. This is the first time all year the Marlins have hit back to back homeruns, as they are lacking homerun power without Stanton and Ozuna. Scherzer did response by throwing high heat to Bour striking him out swinging with three 95 plus MPH pitches and striking Cooper out with a heavy curveball.
With the back to back homeruns the Marlins tied the game at 2 going in to the bottom half of the 4th.
Chen did start off well after the mini homerun show by the Marlins, as Rendon grounded to third. However, Harper again showed signs his slump may be over as he rips a low 90s fastball into center right for his second hit of the game and that is followed by an RBI double to the left field corner by Reynolds which scores Harper from first. Chen then walked Taylor but gets Difo to ground into a 6 -3 groundout. With Runners on second and third, Chen jammed Severino as he popped the ball to Castro at second which minimized the damage to only one run.
Nationals lead 3 – 2 going to the 5th
Fun Fact – Chen’s ERA differential between home and Away is almost 8! Pitching well at home and struggling on the road.
Hoping to take advantage of the new one run lead, Scherzer faced Riddle and pounded him with fastballs, but he knocked a tripled with a deep drive in between Taylor and Harper. Which is followed by a jammed single to right by Rojas who tied the game again at 3. Scherzer recovered by getting Rivera to ground into a 6 – 4 – 3 double play. But, facing Chen at the plate who is a 0.93 career hitter, proved to shock him as Chen popped a soft hit into center for his 4th hit of his career! Yet, Dietrich grounded to the 1st Baseman ending the inning.
Marlins tie the game again, 3 – 3
Scherzer apparently wanted revenge on Chen as he led off the bottom half of the 5th with a single of his own, which clearly frustrated Chen as his punches his glove multiple times. Yet, Turner hit to Castro at second, but a double play ball was dropped, and he was only able to get the force out at second. With Turner at first, Soto singled to center making it first and second with Rendon coming to the plate. After a long battle at the plate Rendon hit a deep shot into the left field wall scoring Turner and Soto giving the Nationals a 5 – 3 leads. After Harper is internationally walked, Marlins Manager Don Mattingly took Chen out ending another subpar game for him.
Into the game is the young and sometimes erratic thrower known as Elieser Hernandez who has an ERA of 4.66. How erratic? His second pitch was a 94 MPH wild pitch over the head of Reynolds and his fourth almost hit him with another 94 MPH fastball. Reynolds then singled to left scoring two more runs making the game 7 – 3. Hernandez finally got his first out of the game with a lazy fly to right by Taylor. However, with Reynolds still on first, Difo singled with a half swing into right field extending the already complicated inning for the Marlins. To cap off the inning Severino destroyed a weak breaking ball into left field making it 10 – 3. Finally, the inning ended with a 6 – 3 ground out.
Nationals score 7!!! 10 – 3 lead
Castro led off with a walk as Scherzer who started the game sharp showed signs of struggle, but then got Realmuto to pop to the catcher. Bour then pops to first for another easy out for Scherzer. However, he walked Cooper giving him two walks for the game. He then got out of the inning with another easy pop, this time to the third baseman.
JT Realmuto was removed from the game and Bryan Holaday was added as catcher. He wasn’t removed because of a possible injury, but likely to rest him given the high run differential. Turner began the inning with a walk, but Soto and Rendon both hit opposite field fly for easy outs. Harper then hit his third hit of the game showing more signs that he isn’t slumping anymore. Reynolds came to the plate and launched a center field homerun for his 8th RBI of the game! Nationals now led 13 – 3. The Inning ended as Taylor hits a lazy pop to second.
Fun Fact - Reynolds has 8 RBIs and has hit Harper in every time he’s been on base.
Nationals lead 13 – 3 going to the 7th Inning
Scherzer wasn’t taken out of the game, even though the game is well out of reach for the Marlins and he was well into the 90s in his pitch count. Also, Harper is replaced in the game by Brain Goodwin in order to give him rest much like the Marlins are resting Realmuto. Rojas hits a laser to Rendon at third, but it was picked and easily throw to first. Rivera out of nowhere hits his first major league homerun to center on a ball that didn’t stop rising, making the game 13 – 4. Yet, Scherzer got another easy grounder to second and Dietrich to popped to second for the end of the inning.
Marlins scored one run making the game 13 – 4
7th Inning Stretch – Reynolds has 8 RBIs tonight much like Turner who also hit 8 Nationals in on the 4th July just three days prior.
Difo led off with a walk, but Severino popped to the shortstop for an easy out. Scherzer was finally removed, as the Matt Adams, who has been hitting very well as of late pinch hits for him. Adams hit a soft grounder to third, however, it bounced off the base and into left field for a hit. Turner followed with a single to center to load the bases and Soto hits a double to right scoring two more runs making it 15 – 4 Nationals. Spencer Kieboom was added to the game to replace Rendon and hit a sac fly to center to score another run making it 16 – 4. Don Mattingly finally removed Hernandez for Ben Meyer, after a very long day at the office for Hernandez.
Goodwin who replaced Harper, singles to center and advanced to second on the throw home by Rivera. Amazingly, Reynolds again, singled to left for his fifth hit and 10th RBI making it 18 – 4. The inning ended as Taylor almost hits a homerun to center, but it was caught at the warning track.
Reynolds with 5 Hits, 2 Homeruns, and 10 RBIs!
Nationals lead 18 – 4
Given the fact the run differential is 14, I’ll make this top half straight forward, 3 pop flies and the top half of the inning is done.
Ironically, the bottom half of the inning is pretty straight forward also, 3 pop flies and the 8th inning is complete.
In a very anti – climactic ending, the Marlins hit 3 fly outs again.
Nationals win 18 – 4.
It’s only fair that we call Mark Reynolds performance tonight as one of the greatest in the history of baseball. He becomes only the 15th player in MLB History to get 10 RBIs in one game. This also included 5 hits, 2 homeruns, and since his walk off homerun last night, 6 straight hits. I’m anticipating a nomination for performance of the year at the end of the year awards for Reynolds.
With the third straight win by the Nationals and the 14th straight win against the Marlins, it must feel good for a struggling the team that was recently swept by the Red Soxs. Additionally, Bryce Harper came to life tonight with 3 hits and a walk after working early on his swing from a tee instead of the usual batting practice. Now, the Marlins are not a quality ballclub, so it is unknown if the Nationals will continue to play this well. However, with Strasburg soon to come off the DL, Harper’s possible resurgence, Adam’s hot streak at the plate, and a healthy Scherzer, maybe the Nationals will contend. Only time will tell.
On the other hand, the Marlins Fall to 19 games under .500, with poor pitching performances and lukewarm hitting. Even though the Marlins do have bright spots in their lineup and pitching rotation, I believe they will continue to sell players before the deadline. However, their high asking price for quality prospects may deter buyers from agreeing to take the Marlins talent. As I mentioned in the pre-game analysis, the Marlins are unlikely to be contending anytime within the next 3 to 5 years and that may be even longer if their prospects continue to struggle in the minors like their 2nd Overall Pick in the 2014 MLB Draft Tyler Kolek who is unlikely to make it to the majors given his control issues and injuries.
To Derek Jeter, I say, yes, rebuilds like the Cubs and Astros created powerful teams, however, with anywhere between 6 to 8 teams currently tanking in order to rebuild, the question has to be asked, are you cheap or just delusional?