Views From the Cheap Seats – June 12th, 2017

After a promising start to the series with prospects of at least dreaming of sweeping Pittsburgh, we’re going to have to settle for the split. Vulnerabilities in our pitching were exposed in the second and third game depleting our arms, costing us. Despite our hot bats giving as much run support as possible, everyone knows you can’t sustain that sort of run production every game and it became evident in the series finale Sunday as Bucs pitcher Iván Nova mowed down Marlin after Marlin. Let’s get to the good, the bad and the at times ugly.

Edinson Volquez took to the rubber Thursday continuing his winning ways, pitching 7 strong innings allowing a poultry 3 hits. Volquez has only given up ONE run in the last 22 innings, collecting 8 strikeouts in the 111 pitch effort. The bullpen greatly benefitted from this, it’s always good when your starter goes deeper into games giving your relievers more rest. Meanwhile, our bats jumped all over Gerrit Cole scorching the man with 7 runs on 11 hits. Somebody pull out the ointment, Cole is going to need it after this stinging loss. On his last 4 starts, Cole has given up an enormous 23 runs on 39 hits in just over 19 innings of work. The Marlins also struck 5 doubles against Cole, two of them in the first inning alone.

Dee Gordon got on base with a bunt single followed by a steal at second, taking advantage of bad throw from catcher Elias Diaz to make it all the way to third. Following a Stanton walk, Christian Yelich hit a double as Derek Dietrich followed suit capping a three-run first. Volquez meanwhile worked out of a bases loaded jam and remained in the driver’s seat from there on out. Dietrich had a terrific night going 3 for 4 with two doubles and 3 RBIs.  Tyler Moore continued his rather productive subbing in for the injured Justin Bour, clubbing a double of his own in the fourth, scoring Dietrich to make it 4-zip. Moore would finish going 2 for 4 with 2 RBIs on the night. Cole was finally chased out in the fifth after grabbing the first two outs without much issue looking like he just might make it to the next inning. Then 5 straight singles and 3 runs later, Cole was KO’ed. Yelich went 3-for-5 with a RBI as the bullpen did its job with Dustin McGowan pitching a clean eighth, though Brian Ellington gave up the sole run in the ninth. Either way, it was a sweet 7-1 victory.

Game 2 of the series turned out to be a major hit parade as the Fish took care of Tyler Glasnow, ushering 7 runs in 4 innings. Moore kept up the sweet hitting going yard not once but twice in the third and seventh inning finishing up with 4 RBIs in the effort. Chew on this: This time around, the Pirates did not let our strikes stand, they hit back and hard with 7 runs and 13 hits. A grand total of 19 RUNS and 31 HITS were recorded, YAO-ZA! Oh and 2 errors. Moore wasn’t the only one pummeling the ball. Giancarlo Stanton hit a homer and a double of his own going 2-for-4 with 3 RBIs and 2 runs. Together, both Moore and Stanton contributed 7 of the team’s 12 scores. The fighting fish continued with their winning formula of scoring early and often, rattling in 5 runs by the end of the third frame. 2 more were added in the fourth and three in the sixth. Dee Gordon also had a great night going 3-for-6 with a RBI and 2 runs, including another stolen base, number 21 of the year. The Bucs had the opportunity to inflict more damage in the third inning with the bases juice and Andrew McCutchen at the plate with 1 out. However, J.T. Riddle performed an awesome, acrobatic play to initiate the double play and ending the threat.

Despite the 12-7 victory, not all was well. This game and the following revealed once again our bullpen’s vulnerabilities as our starters fail to go deep. Vance Worley lasted only 3 and 2/3rds, prompting the bullpen to take over early after giving up 4 runs on 6 hits, issuing 2 walks. McGowan took to the hill, pitching just over a full inning with Kyle Barraclough putting in a pair of frames. The Pirates did manage to threaten late in the game prompting A.J. Ramos to warm up, however, he was ultimately held back as Brian Ellington was pulled after issuing two straight walks and giving up a liner to McCutchen to load the bases. Nick Wittgren cleaned the mess, though they did notch a single to score a run before the next 3 outs were made.

The injury bug claimed another victim in game 3 as Stanton got struck right on the wrist, it sounded like it hit the bat making it all the more painful. Thankfully, the X-rays came back negative but we would be without two power hitters now, for the rest of the game.

We quickly got on the board with 3 runs but the Bucs replied with a triple and then a hit by McCutchen to make it 3-1 in the bottom of the second. Yelich tried to track down the hit by Josh Bell and while he came close, it was a miss and he hit the wall. No worries though, he is a O.K. With runners at the corners, a high fly ball cruised to Ichiro for out number 2. I thought the runner would tag but man this 43-year-old has quite the arm, making it straight to J.T. Realmuto to keep McCutchen at third. Ichiro caught the next fly ball to end the inning, Dan Straily escaped only giving up a run.

The following inning is where things get interesting. Straily plunked David Freese to put runners in scoring position with two outs. I hope that wasn’t revenge for what happened to Stanton, in such a tight game those moves, especially when it puts a man in scoring position, can come back to bite you. In fact, the following batter Josh Bell tapped a shallow fly into the outfield scoring Adam Frazier. Professionalism over revenge, the games matter and all it might achieve is players potentially getting ejected. Or worse, one of our own getting hurt in a scuffle.  McCutchen, in tune with playing the villain for the series, hit a double near the third base line to tie it 3-3. It looked as though it was going to be a shootout, and it was.

The Marlins, like any quality team, responded in the fourth with two straight dingers from J.T. Realmuto and Derek Dietrich with his family on hand to watch the spectacle, retaking the lead 5-3. McCutchen turned slightly, only to stay in place knowing Realmuto’s hit was G O N E. It’s the third time the Miami Marlins hit back-to-back homers this year.

However, Straily got into trouble with runners at the corners and while we do get the double play, a run does score causing the bullpen to stir into action. Given yesterday’s game, the pen was dreading entering the game early and now that Ellington was sent back to Triple-A, we had one less arm. Dee made a terrific catch with runners in scoring position, robbing Gregory Polanco’s liner to end the threat and the inning.

Over in the fifth, Realmuto hit one down the line that eats David Freese alive, it was his second double of the ball game scoring Ozuna to make it 6-4. Nick Wittgren took over as the relief corps tried to overcome another early intervention and while Wittgren and Brad Ziegler kept Pittsburgh off the board in the fifth and sixth, Phelps failed to do the same in the seventh. The Pirates tied it after shortstop Jordy Mercer hit a high fly to center that bounced in-and-out of Yelich’s glove causing him to eat the fence a second time and ultimately resulting in a triple, scoring the runners at first and second. Another hit into right field relinquishes our lead after Suzuki is unable to get to it. It’s all they would need as our hopes at busting out the brooms went out the window.

Going into the series finale on Sunday afternoon, we were 3-3 on the road trip and 11-5 in our last 16 games. The Bucs on their end, were sitting at .500 at home this season. Jeff Locke was our starter and here is a bit of coincidental information: Back in September 2011 Locke made his major league debut in the Pirates organization and against who else? The Marlins. Go figure.

Locke got the first two batters easily enough but then back-to-back-to-back hits give the Pirates the early 2-0 lead. Jordy Mercer almost sends one over the fence but a great catch by Ozuna at the wall keeps it a two-run game. Marcell Ozuna wasn’t the only one making great catches as Ichiro Suzuki leapt up at a liner to prevent the ball from going right over his head. As in late April, Pirates pitcher Iván Nova just dominated us, chopping through our lineup as 9 go up and 9 sit right back down. It wouldn’t be until the fourth that J.T. Riddle recorded our first hit of the game. On the following hit, third basemen David Freese fumbled the ground ball saving us from a double play with Runners at first and second. This was our chance to get something going, though Ozuna flied out and Dietrich lined out, stranding Yelich and Riddle.

While Locke got out of trouble in the fifth, his day came to an end in the sixth after giving up three consecutive hits to load the bases. Brad Ziegler took over with one out but a liner made it 3-0. Then a rather interesting play at home plate occurred, temporarily ending my woes. Pinch-hitter John Jaso hit a grounder to Moore, who quickly tags first and throws to home as McCutchen tries in vain to hurdle over J.T. Realmuto for the double play. That was a cool leap I’ll give him that. We had another opportunity with Yelich at second base in the seventh but nothing comes of it as Dietrich and Moore were retired. Now that Ellington’s demoted, we saw the return of Drew Steckenrider and the youngster managed to get out of a rather important bases loaded pickle, forcing Andrew McCutchen to ground out to shortstop J.T. Riddle. Keep up the good work Drew, I actually have high hopes for you to aid in shoring up the relief staff.

We finally get a run with Ichiro hitting a homer in the eighth but despite even Stanton pinch hitting, with Dee at first, the Fish just could not break through falling 3-1. Too much Nova, too little offense and as we return home the Marlins will have to settle for a split.

Star Performances from June 8-11

I gotta hand it to Tyler Moore, the man’s been doing a great job filling in for the injured Justin Bour. He’s displayed significant power this series launching two long-balls and a double all while collecting 6 RBIs for the Marlins. His presence in the line-up has not gone unnoticed and while I wish for a speedy recovery from Bour, I’m going to continue to enjoy seeing Moore at the plate while I still can.

Derek Dietrich for his part clubbed two doubles and a homer while banging in 5 RBIs with his family there to watch every second of it. Ozuna nabbed another 2 doubles on the season, contributing in the second and third game going 3-for-5 and 2-for-5 respectively, recording 2 RBIs and 5 runs in the process.

J.T. Realmuto had a good first and third game going 2-for-5 and 3-for-4, garnering 3 RBIs in the latter effort. I really enjoyed Realmuto not being fooled by McCutchen’s great leap forward, applying the tag. No Willie Mays Hayes antics here!

Lastly, Edinson Volquez won his third straight start tossing 7 scoreless innings and fanning 8 contributing greatly to our victory on Thursday. Keep it up man, your rough initial starts are definitely behind you.

That second and third game wore out our bullpen and it showed reminding us that we cannot expect the offense to put in 5+ runs every game, try as they might. The pitching needs to churn out more quality starts and while some improvement has been noted on the bullpen ala Phelps, Wittgren, McGowan and Barraclough, it is still a weakness on this team, as shown in Pittsburgh. If one were to ask me which needs more work our rotation or our relief, I’d beg to say both because nothing sucks more than for a starter to put down a solid performance only to watch it disappear in the backend. And while they won’t say it, the pen must be frustrated with repeatedly coming out there and stemming the tide so early into the games. But if I had to pick, I’d say the starters especially at that number 5 slot with Vance Worley. Even then, the only two that I would trust currently to put in a quality start is Volquez and Straily. The jury is still out on Urena for me and Locke only just got back. I’d need to see another pair of starts to see which way I feel with him, though thus far it’s been encouraging. Regardless, the Marlins need longevity from its rotation as a whole in order to avoid wearing out the relievers. The road map remains the same, get through six and allow the bullpen to take over but in some instances the relief corps is taking charge by the fifth or sooner, twice this series. Let’s hope for better outings with the offense keeping to consistency.

Fortunately, the Marlins return home after a day off Monday and great news is being reported as Stanton is expected to be back in the lineup for Tuesday’s tilt against the Athletics. With Bour’s recovery ongoing, we as fans should be breathing a big sigh of relief. It could’ve been worse, a lot worse. Power hitting is one of our strengths and while the team is certainly capable of stepping up, the loss of not 1 but 2 of our giants could very well hurt our run production, and dare I say it… our post-season hopes. Ay, it may be early but given the way the team has been playing, a man can dream. And dream he shall! At least until after All-Star Break. Join us later in the week after we hopefully make quick work of the A’s. Stay frosty.

Stat of the Week: 508. When you think of Ichiro Suzuki what’s the first thing that comes to your mind? His over 3,000 hits not counting his playing time in Japan? His glove? What about that one time he pitched in relief against the Phillies in 2015? Watching him attempt to steal on Saturday made me curious and man this guy has speed. Speed he used to steal his 508th base of his career. Watch out Dee, this man is right on your tail!

Upcoming Games

Oakland Athletics: June 13-14 (Home)

Atlanta Braves: June 16-18 (Away)

Views from the Cheap Seats is a weekly segment where a Miami raised sports nut recaps, screams and analyses a week’s worth of games giving a toast, or the finger, to his hometown team depending on their performance. A truly hopeful but always realistic fan putting thoughts to pen to paper and always striving to improve. Be bold, be good, be you.

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