July 1, 2022

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With some '97 magic, Marlins bats get going

4 min read
Rogers strikes out season-high 8, walks no batters in 5 1/3 innings
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MIAMI — Though the Marlins didn’t wear their throwback teal to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the franchise’s first World Series championship, the spirit of that 1997 team was felt throughout Saturday night’s 9-3 victory over the Brewers.

Not much has gone right this month for the Marlins, who are 3-10 in May. It looked like more of the same on Saturday, as Miami trailed by a run through three innings. That is until former manager Jim Leyland and retired slugger Gary Sheffield took turns in the TV and radio booths, respectively, in the fourth to discuss members of the 1997 ballclub reuniting at loanDepot park.

Jesús Aguilar and Jorge Soler wasted no time going back-to-back — the second time the Marlins have done so this season — and Brian Anderson added a two-run shot. It marked the 17th time in club history the Marlins have homered three times in the same inning, and the first since June 10, 2021, against the Rockies. Miami tacked on another four runs in the sixth to match its second-highest run total of the season.

“That’s relying a little bit more on home runs than what we want to do,” said Anderson, who was a 4-year-old playing tee ball in 1997 in Oklahoma. “I think all these guys can hit the ball really hard. I think we’re going to see that come up with doubles — not just home runs. Putting together solid at-bats over and over again. We have a bunch of big righties, and obviously you mix in [Jesús Sánchez] and Jazz [Chisholm Jr.] in there, and it’s a good lineup. It’s kind of what we’re expecting: barrels, balls in the gap, baserunners on the move.”

Added manager Don Mattingly: “That’s good to see for us, because that’s a team over there that we know are capable of putting up big numbers and quick. So to be able to add on is a good thing. It’s something we’ve kind of missed. We’ve had some bigger innings, the last homestand we had four and scored one inning the whole game, a couple of different games. So it’s good to see us kind of be sustained.”

On Saturday, five players drove in a run. Every starter reached base. This is what the Marlins envisioned when they improved their lineup over the winter by signing Soler and Avisaíl García.

But Miami has struggled to consistently score runs this season. Despite a 102 wRC+ entering Saturday (15th in MLB) and a .698 OPS (13th), the Marlins have put up three runs or fewer in 55 percent of their games. In fact, in left-hander Trevor Rogers’ first six starts, the Marlins had scored just 14 total runs (2.3 runs/game).

“It’s really important for hitters,” said Aguilar, who called it special to see Sheffield in person after watching him as a kid. “[The pitchers] always give us a chance to win the game. That’s the most important thing. They’ve been good the last couple years, and we appreciate that as hitters. But now it’s time to do our job, and I think we’re going to do it. It’s going to be a long season, and a positive season, too.”

Saturday’s output was more than enough support for Rogers, who didn’t walk a batter for the first time in 2022 and struck out a season-high eight batters across 5 1/3 innings. Rogers has now put together consecutive solid starts (10 1/3 IP, 1 ER), slowly regaining his confidence and 2021 form, when he finished as the runner-up for National League Rookie of the Year.

Coincidentally enough, Liván Hernández also finished second for that award in 1997. More importantly, he earned World Series MVP that fall. Hernández was in attendance for Saturday’s reunion, mingling with Chisholm and others in the dugout before the game.

“I think just the combination of all three [pitches],” said Rogers, who was born less than a month after the Marlins were crowned champions. “My changeup had probably the most depth it’s had all year. Really found the bottom of the zone late with it, and I think my slider today was probably the best it’s ever been in my career. Had a lot of turn, a lot of depth, picked up pace as it was getting closer to the plate. Really just had a three-pitch mix and made my life a little bit easier out there.”

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