August 15, 2022

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Behind quality Luzardo, Miami marches to 7th straight win

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Three stats that help define the Marlins' big April
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MIAMI — The Marlins (12-8) closed the book on one of their best Aprils in franchise history with a 3-1 victory over the Mariners on Saturday night at loanDepot park. Miami’s seven-game winning streak is its longest since April 24-30, 2016.

Below are a few trends from April that arose in Saturday’s series-clinching win.

34.1% strikeout rate for Jesús Luzardo
With just five strikeouts across six innings, Luzardo’s K rate went down. Still, only six starting pitchers with at least 20 innings have a higher K% than Luzardo: Carlos Rodón (43.2%), Shane McClanahan (39.3%), Kyle Wright (37%), Nestor Cortes (35.9%), Max Scherzer (35.1%) and Corbin Burnes (34.7%).

Luzardo’s success ties quite a bit into his increased velocity, which he credits to the offseason work he put in. Per Statcast, his fastball has gone up by 1.8 mph — the fifth-highest improvement among Major Leaguers. Entering Saturday, ace Sandy Alcantara (97.5 mph) and Luzardo (97.3 mph) ranked fourth and fifth, respectively, for average velocity on fastballs. More importantly, Luzardo has been working ahead and locating his pitches.

Miami’s rotation, which is the foundation of the club’s playoff aspirations, boasts the seventh-lowest ERA (3.03 ERA) in baseball. Pablo López (0.39) and Alcantara (1.78) are ranked first and 12th, respectively, when it comes to individual ERA.

“We pitch really well as a group,” Luzardo said. “Having Sandy and Pablo at the front doing their thing, it kind of makes it easier on the guys in the back. Just kind of follow them, and we feed off each other I would say. But one thing I really noticed, I feel like as a team, we’re just really playing baseball this year.

“Last year, at times, I would include myself in that, I felt like I wasn’t even competitive sometimes. But, now, even at the beginning, we went on that [1-4] road trip — didn’t come out on top — but we grinded out games, one-run ballgames, and we’re playing baseball how we should play. I think as a team, not only a staff, we’re really excited.”

4 relievers with saves
Without an established closer, the Marlins are mixing and matching multiple high-leverage options. Anthony Bender leads the club with six saves, but three others (Cole Sulser, Tanner Scott and Louis Head) recorded one each over the past week.

This plays into another stat: Miami improved to 12-0 when leading after eight innings. Following Luzardo’s first quality start of the season, Anthony Bass (seventh), Sulser (eighth) and Bender (ninth) pitched scoreless frames. The Marlins’ lone blown save of the season came on Opening Day in San Francisco.

“It makes it very, very competitive in our own bullpen,” Bender explained. “If you don’t get out there, there’s another guy waiting right behind you to get into that game. We’ve all been going out there and doing well. We’re all kind of feeding off each other now as well. It’s fun to be in this ‘pen right now.”

77 walks for Marlins batters
Down 1-0 in the fifth against reigning AL Cy Young winner Robbie Ray, Miami orchestrated the decisive three-run inning on RBI knocks from Bryan De La Cruz and Jon Berti. Like in Washington earlier this week, that right-handed-hitting pair started with a tough lefty on the mound. Both are part of a concerted effort to incorporate the entire roster, turn to favorable matchups and keep everyone fresh over a 162-game season.

“I’m very, very happy,” said De La Cruz via an interpreter. “Every single teammate is doing an [outstanding] job, and being able to be a very important piece today makes me very proud. I’m just very happy. The whole team put [up] a great game today against that great pitcher.”

Garrett Cooper capped the scoring with a bases-loaded walk — the third free pass issued by Ray in the frame. Ray entered with just eight walks in his first four starts.

The 77 walks are tied for seventh-most in the Majors. The Marlins also are tied for the sixth-most strikeouts (193). Manager Don Mattingly said it’s less about working counts and more about having game plans.

“You’re getting better counts, and then you stay with your plan,” Mattingly said. “Even during those periods when you get ahead in the count, you don’t just start swinging. Our guys have been steadily working on making sure we have a good game plan when we’re going out there.”

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