Since the All-Star break, wins have been hard to come by for the Miami Marlins.
But the slumping Marlins earned a much-needed win on Sunday afternoon, defeating the Washington Nationals 2-1 in Miami to avoid the three-game sweep after dropping the first two games of the series.
The Marlins (66-65) also avoided falling below .500 for the first time since May 25, with Sunday’s win again pushing them over .500 amid their post-All-Star break struggles. The Nationals fell to 61-70.
“I’m happy we won today and I hope we continue winning,” Marlins second baseman Luis Arraez said.
While the Marlins again didn’t generate many runs, their pitching led the way on a day they scored fewer than four runs for the seventh time in the last eight games,
Pitchers JT Chargois, Bryan Hoeing, Steven Okert, A. J. Puk, Andrew Nardi and Tanner Scott teamed up to limit the Nationals to just one run on seven hits Sunday.
“Our bullpen did a great job, obviously, giving up one run in a bullpen type of game,” Marlins manager Skip Schumaker said.
The Nationals’ only run came in the top of the third inning, when Dominic Smith picked up an RBI ground out off Hoeing to give Washington an early 1-0 lead.
The Marlins responded a few minutes later when Arraez led off the bottom of the third inning with a single and Jorge Soler then crushed an 0-2 pitch for a 418-foot two-run homer to put the Marlins ahead 2-1.
Soler finished the three-game series against the Nationals with four extra-base hits, including his team-high 35th home run of the season on Sunday. He has now hit the sixth-most homers in a single season in Marlins history and has racked up an MLB-high 19 go-ahead homers this season.
“Soli (Soler) has been a monster in the middle of the order, leadoff, it doesn’t matter where I put him right now,” Schumaker said. “He’s been winning a lot of games for us.”
Despite Soler’s success, the Marlins are stuck in one of their worst hitting slumps of the season. Miami again shook up the order at the top of their lineup in hopes of producing more offense.
Arraez moved back to the leadoff spot on Sunday for the first time since Aug. 6, Josh Bell returned to the No. 3 slot for the first time in three games and Jazz Chisholm Jr. hit cleanup for the first time in three games.
Arraez, who entered hitting just .226 since the start of August, finished Sunday’s win 1 for 4. Schumaker said he moved Arraez back to the leadoff spot after “talking with Luis and trying to jump start him again.”
“We have to score more runs, so it’s not one-run games because we’re playing with fire in the ninth inning,” Schumaker said after the Marlins improved to 28-12 in one-run games this season. “As good as we’ve been in one-run games, we can’t keep doing that. So adding on would be ideal hopefully moving forward.”
As for the Marlins’ quality day on the mound, Chargois’ first start of the season and fourth start of his MLB career didn’t last long. The usual reliever threw a scoreless first inning before Schumaker made the change to bring Hoeing out of the bullpen at the start of the second inning.
Hoeing was solid in relief, allowing one run on four hits while striking out five in four innings of work to get the win. Against the final better he faced, Hoeing was hit on the foot by a 91 miles per hour comebacker that resulted in a single but Schumaker made clear that Hoeing is “fine” and he was going to be pulled from the game regardless of the result of that at-bat.
Okert then entered to pitch a scoreless sixth inning, Puk threw a scoreless seventh inning and Nardi turned in a scoreless eight inning.
David Robertson, who has been the Marlins’ closer since he was acquired from the New York Mets at the trade deadline last month, did not get the call for Sunday’s save opportunity after blowing his third save on Saturday since joining Miami.
Instead, Scott was used as the closer on Sunday. Scott ran into a bit of trouble, allowing runners to reach first and second base with one out but then threw a slider to induce a game-ending double play off the bat of Jacob Young for his third save of the season.
“Tanner has had a really an incredible year this year,” Schumaker said of his decision to use Scott over Robertson for Sunday’s save situation. “Not that he didn’t have a good year last year because he did. But I think that Tanner has done it before. He had 20 saves last year and he’s got swing and miss and the ability to have done it before. Lefties, righties, it doesn’t really matter, plus-stuff. I just thought maybe we’d give him a shot in the ninth inning.”
Schumaker made clear the Marlins still have “a lot of confidence” in Robertson, but added that he’ll continue to use Scott as the closer moving forward.
Even after Sunday’s win, the Marlins have posted a rough 13-26 record following the All-Star break to go from 14 games above .500 to just one-game above .500.
But the Marlins still find themselves in the middle of the playoff race, sitting at most three games behind the third and final wild card in the National League depending the result of the Arizona Diamondbacks’ game.
With 31 games left on the schedule, the Marlins hope Sunday was a sign of positive things to come rather than just an outlier during a nightmarish close to the season.
Next up for the Marlins is an off day on Monday before opening a two-game series against the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday at LoanDepot Park.
“We just need to keep continuing to work hard and come back strong,” Arraez said. “We got an amazing team. We played really good in the first half. We just need to keep continuing to play like that.”