03 April 2011
Everything seemed to be going the Marlins way threw the first 17 innings of the season, but then things seemed to unravel as the Marlins lose their opening series of 2011 to the Mets. I need to start by saying that while it was far from a must win series for the Marlins, this series against the Mets was still one that they should have won. While in the big scheme of things going 1-2 in the opening series of the season will not mean all that much, after all the Rangers just swept the Red Sox and I am sure Boston will be fine, it was how the Marlins lost is what wat bring some concern. It just seemed like for every good thing that the Marlins did, the same issues as last year crept up to bite the Marlins in the last 11 innings of this series.
Last year the Marlins 2 biggest weaknesses were their bullpen and their defense. Well Saturday saw Leo Nunez give up a run in the ninth and Ryan Webb give up 3 runs without recording an out in the 10th, and Sunday saw Randy Choate also give up 2 runs in an inning of work. On the defensive side, the Marlins played fairly well until Sunday when Choate, Bonifacio, and Hanley were all charged with errors (and I believe Hanley should have been charged with another error on Opening Night). I hate to over shadow the fact that Chris Coghlan played well in Center, Clay Hensley has pitched 2 very good 8 innings, and Brian Sanches pitch 4 almost perfect innings (gave up one walk) on Sunday, but coming off of last year those other mistakes are just to glaring to go unnoticed.
I don't want to be completely negative. Josh Johnson and Ricky Nolasco both pitched very well in their openers and if they can continue to pitch into the 7th inning in their starts, then the Marlins should have a very good year. John Buck and Greg Dobbs both made great introductions to their new home town fans. Buck had 2 doubles in the series versus the Mets and had a Grand Slam on Opening Night to put the Marlins ahead in that game. Greg Dobbs on Saturday was called on to be a pitch hitter in the 9th inning on Saturday with the Marlins down a run, and he was able to produce an RBI single to tie the game. Unfortunately Javier Vazquez, who pitched so well this spring, did not get off to a good start for the Marlins. Sunday he gave up 7 runs (4 earned), off of 6 hits and 5 walks in only 2.1 innings, and 2 of the 7 hits were home runs. Vaquez just seemingly never had control of his pitches, and was meet with several boos as he was pulled from the game in the 3rd.
The other player who stood out to me in this series for the Marlins was Emilio Bonifacio. While he did commit an error on Sunday, on Saturday he made two incredible plays for 2 of the 3 positions he played that night and had a clutch hit to set up Greg Dobbs game tieing single. Bonifacio is actually batting .500 going 4 of 8 in the series versus the Mets. While I am in no way thinking that he should be an everyday player for the Marlins, the way he played Saturday showed why Edwin Rodriguez raved about Emilo several times this spring.
As a team the Marlins were able to get the pitch counts of the Mets pitchers fairly high and were able to get into the Mets bullpen (Dickey 108 through 6, Niese 89 through 7, Pelfrey 97 through 4.1). This is a nice change of pace compared to Marlins teams of the past who would go to the plate swinging as often as possible. While their are quite a few teams in the NL have solid starting rotations, very few have solid bullpens. If the Marlins are able to be patient this year then they are going to win a number of games in the late innings. The Marlins were also very aggressive in their base running in the opener, sealing 3 bases, by failed to seal one base in the last two. Part of this maybe explained by the fact in the last two game the Marlins never really had the right personnel on base during the right situation to steal, and also the Niese's quick delivery makes it hard for players to get a good job. However, I hope that what happened on the opener was not an aberration and that Marlins due continue to be aggressive on the base paths. This team is going to have to manufacture more runs and rely less on the long ball as in years past, and being aggressive on the base paths can go a long way in doing that.
The Marlins also saw Stanton leave the opener with tightness in his hamstring, and the next night Murphy left the game with a right had contusion after being hit with a pitch. Luckily for the Marlins neither of the injuries are that serious. Both players are expected to start in the Marlins next game, Tuesday night versus Washington, and Murphy was even able to pitch hit Sunday in the third inning. Their has yet to be any news on how bad or even if Edward Mujica is injured. Mujica only pitched 0.2 innings Sunday in the third inning in relief of Javier Vazquez, but he did have trainers come check him out.
The worst news for the Marlins the weekend didn't even happen at their game. Friday night Matt Dominguez was hit by a pitch on the elbow in a minor league game, and as a result now he now has a fractured elbow. Dominguez is expected to be out 4-6 weeks. This puts a real wrench into the Marlins plans as they were hoping Dominguez would be brought up to the Majors in a month or two, but now looks like it Dominguez won't be ready to join the Marlins till June or July at the earliest.
Finally I would just like to say that I am proud of Marlins fans for coming out and supporting this team. Over 90,000 people came to Sun Life Stadium over the past 3 days (41,237 on Friday, 32,495 on Saturday, 18,936 on Sunday). I know that the stadium can be hard to get to after work, and it can be hot with a chance of down pours at any moment, and that Rich and Tommy do and amazing job on TV, but Marlins fans please come out and support this team all season like you did this weekend.