Could a two-game series have gone any better for the Miami Marlins?
Was there any other way for their thinking, playing and timely moments to play out better?
This season began with the Marlins quarantined in a Philadelphia hotel for a week. It now moves to Atlanta after a sweep of Chicago on a 2-0 win in Game 2 on Friday at Wrigley Field. Here are five thoughts on the series:
1. The Marlins pitching made the Cubs' 25th-ranked offense look worse. The Cubs had nine hits and one run in the 18 innings. Sixto Sanchez picked up in Game 2 against Chicago right where Sandy Alcantara did in Game 1. Five innings, four hits, no runs – everything to allow the Marlins to win this game. The bullpen took it from there again in not allowing a run in the two games. Brad Boxberger, four outs. Then it was the same formula from there of Richard Bleier (two outs), Yimi Garcia (the eighth inning) and Brandon Kintzler with the ninth inning to the end.
"He set the tone,'' Marlins manager Don Mattingly said of Sanchez.
2. Did Garrett Cooper have the most joyous Marlins home run in 17 years – since (take your pick) in 2003? You could say Dee Gordon’s lead-off home run in the game after Jose Fernandez’s death was more memorable. But this was consequential in closing out a playoff series. Cubs starter Yu Darvish was dominant until Cooper’s seventh inning home run just as Kyle Hendricks was deep into Game 1. Those are two veteran pitchers with post-season experience the Marlins beat. Cooper, who missed a chunk of the year after testing positive for the Coronavirus, had six homers and 20 RBI in 34 game this year. That made three, series-changing home runs in the two games for a Marlins team that ranked 25th in the league in homers (60 in 60 games).
"When he’s healthy and playing, he swings the bat pretty good,'' Mattingly said of Cooper.
3. Play of the Day: Matt Joyce’s throw from right field in the fourth inning threw out Chicago’s Willson Contreras at home plate. Contreras made a bad base-running mistake in getting a slow start off second base on the broken-bat single by Jason Heyward. He should have been held up at third base, but Joyce made a perfect, one-bounce throw that catcher Chad Wallach caught and applied the tag.
4. The Marlins can’t buy a marketing break. It’s tough enough they keep playing on the days the Heat are in the NBA Finals. But Friday’s bottom of the ninth inning and ensuing celebration was eclipsed by an ABC special report on President Donald Trump being taken to Walter Reed Hospital with the Coronavirus. (Come on, perspective!)
On to the Atlanta. So much of Marlins history is against the Braves dating to Livan Hernandez’s big playoff game in 1997. Chipper Jones was in those games - now he was in the ESPN/ABC broadcast booth with Jon Sciambi (who was a Marlins announcer in 1997). “It’d be a very intriguing matchup,'' Jones said of the Marlins against Atlanta. "I’d look for ward to it. The Braves have got some good starting pitching out of Ian Anderson and Kyle Wright of late. We’ll see if they can keep it going.”
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