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All Brian Anderson could do for the better part of two weeks was watch. The third baseman was sidelined, on the injured list with an oblique strain. He was far enough away to not be able to help a Miami Marlins lineup that went through its share of slumps on a three-city, 10-game road trip, but close enough to see how much he could help if he was available.
“You want to help any way you can,” Anderson said.
On Tuesday, his first time playing in 11 games, Anderson helped out the Marlins.
He hit a three-run home run in his first at-bat against the Arizona Diamondbacks — sending a Riley Smith sinker a projected 371 feet and beyond the right-field wall at loanDepot park — to give the Marlins an early lead.
The Marlins lineup, in return, made sure Anderson’s big hit and a quality start from Sandy Alcantara wasn’t in vain. Miami used a six-run eighth inning in which 11 batters came to the plate to break open the game late in a 9-3 win over the Diamondbacks to start a three-game series and a six-game homestand. The Marlins are now 12-16. Arizona falls to 15-14.
“The hope as you come off the IL is to have an immediate impact,” Anderson said. “That was really cool just being able to get out in front.”
The Marlins’ eighth inning was pretty cool, too.
It starts with reliever Richard Bleier, who entered the game with the bases loaded after Anthony Bass gave up three hits, a walk and the game-tying run without recording an out.
Bleier responded by recording three consecutive swinging strikeouts, with Josh Rojas and Pavin Smith whiffing on sinkers and Wyatt Mathisen swinging and missing on a cutter.
“Obviously it’s a tricky situation there,” Bleier said. “There’s not a high conversion rate I would say to leave all three stranded. You just take it one pitch at a time and execute.”
“That’s just a huge momentum swing,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly added.
The momentum carried into the home half of the inning.
Jesus Aguilar’s RBI single to shallow right-center scored Miguel Rojas, who led off the inning with a double after a nine-pitch at-bat. Aguilar then went from first to home on a Corey Dickerson groundball single that bounced off Arizona first baseman Christian Walker’s glove and started a slew of Diamondback defensive miscues. Lewis Brinson’s three-run home run to center field — his first home run of the season — and Rojas’ RBI single in his second at-bat of the inning capped the six-run rally.
“It’s creating plays,” Anderson said, “putting pressure on the defense any way we can. ... That just kind of got us rolling and it was hard to stop us after that.”
Importance of having Brian Anderson back
Anderson’s return serves as the first round of reinforcements to a lineup that has had half of its starting position players on the injured list. Outfielder Starling Marte has been out since April 20 with a left rib fracture. Catcher Jorge Alfaro and middle infielder Jazz Chisholm Jr. are both on the IL with left hamstring strains.
Miami’s offense sputtered as a result, averaging just 3.3 runs and 5.7 hits during their road trip that featured four games against the San Francisco Giants, Milwaukee Brewers and Washington Nationals. Miami won just three of those seven games and were held to three runs or fewer six times.
Anderson, a career .263 hitter with power potential to all fields, brings an immediate spark back into the lineup.
He also brings Gold Glove-caliber defense at third base and allows super-utility player Jon Berti, who started 11 consecutive games at third base in Anderson’s absence, a chance to get a break from playing every day.
Anderson helped turn an inning-ending double play in the fourth. He was also on the receiving end of a Brinson outfield assist in the fifth to tag out Asdrubal Cabrera, who tried to turn a hard-hit single to center field into double.
The Marlins optioned outfielder Monte Harrison to Triple A Jacksonville as a corresponding move. Harrison, who was called up on Friday, went 1 for 5 in three games before being sent down. Miami still has five outfielders on its active roster in Dickerson, Brinson, Adam Duvall, Magneuris Sierra and Garrett Cooper.
Berti and Jose Devers are the Marlins’ backup infielders.
Strong showing for Alcantara
Anderson’s home run and the eighth-inning rally backed up a quality start for pitcher Sandy Alcantara, who held the Diamondbacks to two runs (one earned) over six innings. Alcantara struck out six batters and walked one while scattering six hits en route to dropping his ERA to 2.95 after seven starts.
Alcantara relied mainly on his secondary pitches Tuesday. Of the 95 pitches he threw against the Diamondbacks, just 35 were fastballs. He used 35 changeups and 23 sliders, with the two pitches accounting for all six of Alcantara’s strikeouts.
How Campbell’s suspension impacts Marlins
With Marlins pitcher Paul Campbell serving an 80-game suspension without pay after testing positive for dehydrochlormethyltestosterone (DHCMT), a performance-enhancing substance, Mattingly is having to pivot with his starting pitching plans.
The Marlins will now have a bullpen day either Wednesday or Thursday. Campbell was originally scheduled to pitch Thursday before the suspension surfaced. Pablo Lopez is in line to pitch Wednesday but Mattingly is considering giving him an extra day of rest.
“That’s one of the things that we’re talking through,” Mattingly said. “Do we want to give Pablo the extra day? It’s kind of part of the long-range plan of getting these guys extra days anywhere we can.”
Campbell, in a statement released by the MLB Players Association said he has “never knowingly, willingly or intentionally ingested this substance in any form nor have I ever heard of DHCMT prior to this situation.”
Mattingly said he was “obviously surprised” when the announcement came out on Monday.
“I felt bad for the kid,” Mattingly said. “I felt like he was in a tough spot. Again, I felt bad for him. I think his statement that kind of speaks for itself. Basically what he told us is he didn’t willingly or intentionally do anything wrong. And I believe that 100 percent with him.”
Campbell, acquired by the Marlins in the Rule 5 Draft in December and listed as their No. 27 overall prospect by MLB Pipeline, had an 8.74 ERA through five appearances (one start), giving up 14 runs (11 earned) while striking out 13 and walking six over 11 1/3 innings.
In the meantime, the Marlins selected the contract of relief pitcher Anthony Bender to add bullpen depth until they make a decision on how to address the rotation.
Rogers’ rookie rankings
Marlins left-handed pitcher Trevor Rogers was named the National League Rookie of the Year on Monday after a stellar April.
The 23-year-old went 3-1 in five starts with a 1.29 ERA and 38 strikeouts. Only six other rookie pitchers over the last 50 years had the same number of wins and strikeouts with as low of an ERA over the course of a month: Fernando Valenzuela (April 1981), Hideo Nomo (June 1995), Orel Hershiser (July 1984), Jose Fernandez (August 2013), Jack Flaherty (August 2018) and Dwight Gooden (September 1984).
More Marlins injury updates
▪ Elieser Hernandez threw a 30-pitch bullpen session Tuesday and is scheduled to throw a live batting practice session on Saturday.
▪ Edward Cabrera threw a 20-pitch bullpen session on Monday and is scheduled for another bullpen session Friday.
▪ Alfaro has begun doing agility work and catching drills.
▪ Chisholm is being evaluated Tuesday with the anticipation of starting a running progression and light baseball activities.
▪ Marte has not resumed baseball activities.
▪ Sixto Sanchez and Jorge Guzman are both continuing their throwing programs and are throwing from 105 feet.