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Don Mattingly had a decision to make. With his Miami Marlins were down four runs after three innings to the Baltimore Orioles on Tuesday, the manager was pulling his starting pitcher and wanted his long reliever out of the bullpen to be able to pitch as long as possible without having to hit.
So Mattingly, even with just four position players on his bench, made a double switch.
Relief pitcher Paul Campbell went to the mound to replace Nick Neidert, who gave up five earned runs and only recorded nine outs. Mattingly slotted Campbell into the No. 6 spot in the lineup, the spot held by second baseman Jazz Chisholm Jr. — the last Marlins batter to hit in the third inning. This ensured that eight position players would hit before either Campbell would have to step in the batter’s box or before Mattingly would use another pinch-hitter.
Jon Berti took over at second base and batted ninth to replace Chisholm.
“I just had to try to leave as much room as I could for Campbell,” Mattingly said, noting the only other option for the double switch at that time was removing third baseman Brian Anderson, who was in the No. 5 spot in the lineup.
Mattingly envisioned the Marlins’ offense potentially putting together a rally, although their comeback bid fell short in a 7-5 loss to the Orioles at loanDepot park to start a two-game series. That’s why he made the switch when he did.
“We were able to kind of creep back into that game,” Mattingly said, “so we were using our pinch-hitters all the way through.”
But an injury to catcher Jorge Alfaro in the bottom of the fourth made the manager’s job a little tougher.
Alfaro was pulled with left hamstring soreness after reaching first on a fielding error by Baltimore second baseman Rio Ruiz. When Chad Wallach replaced Alfaro, Mattingly was left with two position players on his bench with five innings left to play.
He used Garrett Cooper with two outs in the fifth with the Marlins in the midst of a two-run rally and runners on the corners. Cooper grounded out to end the inning and also ended Campbell’s time on the mound after two innings.
“I had to take a shot with Coop there [in the fifth],” Mattingly said. “We were getting back into the game there.”
He used Magneuris Sierra with one out in the seventh with Miami trailing by one run. Sierra also grounded out.
When the pitcher’s spot came up with two outs in the bottom of the ninth and Miami down two runs with no position players left on the bench, Mattingly had to turn to starting pitcher Pablo Lopez — arguably the team’s best hitting pitcher — to try to keep the Marlins alive offensively. Lopez struck out swinging against Orioles closer Cesar Valdez.
Lopez said he realized in the seventh inning, after Sierra’s at-bat, that he might have to pick up a bat in a key situation.
“It’s definitely different,” Lopez said of the pinch-hit appearance. “In the back of my head, I’m like ‘Oh, I don’t want to be the last out.’ It’s a thought. It’s a two-run ballgame, so obviously you’re facing their tough arm at the end of the bullpen. You’re facing the closer.”
The Marlins have been playing with a four-man bench since April 12 after they called up Daniel Castano to join the starting rotation. Mattingly had been able to maneuver around tough decisions for the first seven games.
Tuesday was the first time this season it made a noticeable impact late in a close game.
“Playing short just changes the decisions you make,” Mattingly said. “It’s always better to have that extra guy, but there’s times you have to do what you have to do. You want to take care of your pitching. You want to make sure those guys are protected in the bullpen and not overused. This is a situation that comes back to haunt you a little bit.”