December 9, 2022

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Amid frustrations, Luzardo dazzles in debut

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Acquired from Oakland last July, the left-hander from South Florida struggled to fulfill the promise that made him an elite prospect — leading to questions about what he could provide to a Miami rotation stocked with young arms.

For now, questions answered.

The 24-year-old built on the improvements shown at the end of last year and during Spring Training, beginning his 2022 with a career-high 12 strikeouts in five innings against the Angels.

The end result for the Marlins, though, was more aggravation. Tuesday’s 4-3 walk-off loss was the third one-run defeat in a 1-4 season-opening road trip.

Luzardo stellar in ‘22 debut
Luzardo’s brilliance tied two franchise strikeout records. His dozen K’s tied Ricky Nolasco (Sept. 30, 2009) and A.J. Burnett (July 6, 2005) for the most in an outing of five innings or fewer. He also tied for the most strikeouts by a Marlins lefty — joining Dontrelle Willis (who did it twice) and Wei-Yin Chen (May 11, 2016).

“Being paired with Dontrelle Willis, he was a guy I grew up watching,” Luzardo said. “It’s an honor for me.”

Luzardo honed the command that had previously been an issue for him. Most effective in his five-pitch arsenal, in terms of getting swings-and-misses, was his curveball. He threw it 38 times and got Angels batters to whiff on 12 of them. His four-seam fastball topped at 99.2 mph and his sinker clocked in as high as 98.7.

It took Luzardo only nine pitches to get through the first. He fanned Shohei Ohtani and Anthony Rendon on curveballs, and got Mike Trout to pop up on a fastball.

Trout was the recipient of Luzardo’s lone walk. It led off the fourth, and was followed by Jack Mayfield’s hit which landed near the right-field line and skipped by Brian Anderson for an RBI triple. It was one of just two hits Luzardo allowed.

Luzardo recovered to fan the next five batters and cap off an exceptional outing before giving way to Tanner Scott in relief.

Luzardo was lined up to be the Marlins’ fifth starter to begin the shortened Spring Training with prospects Sixto Sanchez and Edward Cabrera hurt. Upon acquiring him from Oakland days before the 2021 Trade Deadline in the deal that sent Starling Marte to the A’s, general manager Kim Ng felt Luzardo gave the Marlins flexibility within the staff.

Pitching for his hometown club, the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High graduate salvaged a 6.61 ERA in 25 games for both the Marlins and A’s by finishing 2021 with some strong starts which helped him gain confidence.

“The way I ended things last year as well as all the work in the offseason and then the outcomes in spring gave me that right step forward,” he said.

A frustrating ninth
The deciding moments Tuesday were not without controversy. With the score tied 3-3 in the bottom of the ninth, Angels pinch-runner Tyler Wade attempted to steal second. Wade’s headfirst slide appeared to carry him off the base as second baseman Jazz Chisholm Jr. applied a tag.

“He was out,” Chisholm said. “I think he knew he was out, too.”

Except second-base umpire Ramon De Jesus called Wade safe. The Marlins challenged, but the call stood.

After being ejected for arguing balls and strikes in the fourth inning Monday, manager Don Mattingly had more reason to complain.

“‘Stands’ is a cop-out call,” Mattingly said. “It’s really frustrating when you see the guy’s hand off the base. Jazz’s foot is in between. I don’t understand. I hate ‘stands.’ I’ve been saying it for the beginning. I’ll say it till I’m done, and when I’m done, I’ll keep saying it.”

Anthony Bender’s next pitch went to the backstop, allowing Wade to move to third. With the infield in, Max Stassi hit a sharp grounder. Shortstop Miguel Rojas bobbled it and threw home, but not in time to get Wade.

Modest improvements in the offense
Chisholm helped to revive the Marlins’ bats with a two-run homer that tied the game in the seventh.

Angels reliever Mike Mayers began the inning by walking Jon Berti. Chisholm’s 353-foot drive carried beyond the reach of right fielder Jo Adell and over the short wall near the foul pole — much to the delight of pretend Cleveland Indians pitcher Ricky Vaughn, who is clearly a member of the Jazz Chisholm Fan Club.

“Oh that’s my guy,” Chisholm said of Charlie Sheen. “He’s one of my good friends.”

On the subject of wild things, Miami hitters showed better plate discipline when it came to pitches out of the zone. They walked seven times — the same amount in the first four games combined.

After scoring five runs on Opening Day, the Marlins scored just two runs in each of the following three contests and were relatively held in check before the seventh inning Tuesday. Bryan De La Cruz made his first appearance in the lineup this season, batting cleanup and playing left field. He reached base three times — two on walks and the other on a third-inning single that resulted in Miami’s first run when it went past Adell for a two-base error.

“Today was a rough day for both sides,” Mattingly said, referring to the late afternoon shadows. “You knew it was going to be a tough time throwing a bunch of knocks up today. So for us to fight through and get some walks is a good thing.”

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