Improbable playoff run ends for young, improving Marlins

CEO Derek Jeter watched the Miami Marlins’ final game of the season from a sky box at Minute Maid Park in Houston as they underscored a point he had made a few days earlier regarding their climb toward title contention:

There’s still a lot of work to do.

The young Marlins achieved surprising progress in Year 3 of Jeter’s rebuilding effort, reaching the playoffs for the first time since 2003 and sweeping the Chicago Cubs in the wild-card round.

But a drubbing in the National League Division Series showed Miami’s not ready to overtake longtime NL East nemesis Atlanta. The Marlins were swept in the three-game series and shut out over the final 19 innings, including Thursday’s 7-0 loss.

“I’m going to take it as motivation,” shortstop Miguel Rojas said. “I’m going to take it personally. That’s the only way we can get better.”

The Marlins totaled 17 hits in the series and went 3 for 20 with runners in scoring position. They played without catalyst Starling Marté, sidelined by a broken left hand.

“Doesn’t help us,” manager Don Mattingly said. “You don’t know if it changes it.”

Three hitters in the heart of the order — Rojas, Jesús Aguilar and Garrett Cooper — failed to take up the slack. They went a combined 4 for 34 (.118).

The Marlins were hoping that a strong outing by 22-year-old Sixto Sánchez would provide the foundation for a series turnaround. He sailed through the first inning and escaped a bases-loaded jam in the second, but departed after giving up four runs in the third.

“In the first I thought, ‘This guy is going to be lights out today,’” Mattingly said. “And then it seemed like he backed off. He just didn’t seem to be aggressive with his changeup and slider. He left a lot of balls in the beltline and high thigh area, which doesn’t bode well for guys that hit balls hard.”

Sánchez, considered a potential future ace, was the youngest pitcher to start a postseason game for a team facing elimination since 2003. He reached 100 mph several times but allowed. four hits and three walks.

“It was the walks that got me in trouble,” the Dominican said through a translator. “I wasn’t able to execute my pitches, and they took advantage.”

The Marlins lost a postseason series for the first time. They had been 7-0, including World Series titles in 1997 and 2003.

After losing 105 games a year ago, their 2020 season was nearly derailed by a coronavirus outbreak during the first weekend of play. They were forced to make 174 roster moves but still managed their first winning record since 2009 by going 31-29.

For Mattingly, the season ended on the 25th anniversary of his last game as a player. He found cause for consolation.

“It has been the closest group I’ve had as far as guys fighting and united in their stance and where they want to go,” Mattingly said. “I’m really proud of this club and what they’ve been able to accomplish.”

___

More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

___

Follow Steven Wine on Twitter: https://twitter.com/Steve_Wine

Copyright © 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

Related Categories:

MLB News | Sports

More from WTOP

Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up