Don Mattingly said he has noticed a little “twinge of jealousy.” It’s the final week of the Major League Baseball season and a slew of teams — the Atlanta Braves, Philadelphia Phillies and basically the entire American League East except for the Orioles among them — are going down to the wire trying to clinch playoff spots.
The Miami Marlins, the team Mattingly manages, is not one of those teams. The fourth year of the Marlins’ rebuild brought forth under the Bruce Sherman and Derek Jeter ownership group will end with a losing record.
Sooner rather than later, Mattingly hopes the Marlins will finally be in a position to annually be in the postseason conversation at the end of the regular season.
“That’s the kind of baseball,” Mattingly said, “we need to be playing next year. I think all our decisions should be based upon that.”
They certainly didn’t play that kind of baseball on Tuesday. The Marlins were swept in a doubleheader against the New York Mets at Citi Field, dropping the first game 5-2 in seven innings in Game 1 before a 2-1, ninth-inning walkoff defeat in Game 2 at Citi Field (doubleheader games in 2021 are scheduled for seven innings).
There were three errors in the first game, with the final defensive miscue giving the Mets a lead too big for the Marlins to overcome.
There were miscues on the basepaths. Magneuris Sierra was picked off on second base to start the eighth inning of Game 2 (extra innings in the world of seven-inning doubleheader games) when the plan was to bunt him over. Eddy Alvarez, who had two errors in the first game, overran first base on a single and was thrown out to thwart a fourth-inning rally attempt in the second game.
And there was a rushed attempt to field a dribbler of a groundball in the ninth inning of the nightcap by Anthony Bass to seal the Mets’ walk-off win.
Miami is now 69-93 on the year and has lost seven consecutive games.
“I think our guys are playing hard,” Mattingly said, “but I’m not sure we’re thinking very much. ... The minds, certain parts of it, aren’t really locked in.”
That’s not to say there weren’t individual positives to come out of the doubleheader. Several of their top rookies had big moments in the two games.
Trevor Rogers held the Mets (75-82) to one run on three hits over five innings in the second game. Outfielder Jesus Sanchez hit a towering solo home run in the second inning to give Miami an early lead in Game 2 before it withered away. First baseman Lewin Diaz hit a two-run home run in the first game to score Miami’s only runs and pull the Marlins within a run in the fourth inning before the Mets added a pair of insurance runs later in the game.
But the big picture result of the night remains the same: Miami went 0-2 on Tuesday, and self-inflicted wounds played a factor.
“We made too many mistakes,” Mattingly said. “We’re just not playing good baseball.”
Added Rogers: “We’re not in a good spot at all. I think any team that’s lost seven in a row isn’t going to be in a good spot.”
Rogers, at the very least, did his part. The 23-year-old lefty retired the first 11 batters he faced, struck out six and did not walk a batter as he tries to make a final push for his National League Rookie of the Year case.
His lone blemish came when Jonathan Villar and Kevin Pillar recorded back-to-back hits against him with one out in the fifth to tie the game at 1-1.
Over his last two starts, Rogers has given up just two earned runs in 10 1/3 innings with 16 strikeouts against two walks.
“I felt like myself again,” Rogers said. “I had my feet underneath me.”
Through 25 starts, Rogers has a 7-8 record with a 2.64 ERA and 157 strikeouts over 133 innings — all of which are the best among NL rookie pitchers.
According to baseball-reference, only six other pitchers since 1969 (when the mound was lowered) have recorded as many strikeouts and wins in addition to as low of an ERA as Rogers during their rookie season: Jose Fernandez in 2013, Hideo Nomo in 1995, March Eichhorn in 1986, Dwight Gooden in 1984, Fernando Valenzuela in 1981 and Jon Matlack in 1972.
Rogers is in line to potentially make one more start on Sunday in the regular-season finale against the Phillies.
Diaz and Sanchez, meanwhile, are continuing to show their power potential as left-handed hitters.
Diaz’s two-run shot in Game 1 was his second in as many games and his eighth of the season. Five of Diaz’s eight home runs — including Tuesday’s — have had an exit velocity of at least 105 mph. The home run got the Marlins to within 3-2 in the first game but Francisco Lindor hit a two-run home run to give the Mets a pair of insurance runs.
Sanchez hit his 14th home run of the season in the nightcap. The 113.9 mph exit velocity marks the hardest-hit home run of Sanchez’s MLB career while the projected 445 feet marks the second farthest hit home run of his MLB career.
Aguilar has surgery
The Marlins announced that first baseman Jesus Aguilar on Monday underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left knee. Aguilar had been on the injured list since Sept. 8 with what the team had called left knee inflammation.
Aguilar spent the last two weeks rehabbing but it didn’t completely solve the injury.
“Once it wasn’t totally respondent enough, I think it was minor enough that they wanted to take care of it so he ends up having a pretty normal winner,” Mattingly said. “Sounds like it went well.”
Mattingly said the rehab process following the surgery is expected to be about six weeks barring setbacks.
“He should be 100 full-go in spring training,” Mattingly said.
Despite missing the last 18 games, Aguilar is still leads the Marlins with 93 RBI and is tied for the team lead with 22 home runs (matched by Adam Duvall, who was traded to the Atlanta Braves on July 30). Jazz Chisholm Jr., with 49 RBI and 17 home runs entering Tuesday, is now Miami’s active leaders in both categories.
Aguilar is eligible for arbitration one final time this winter before becoming a free agent following the 2022 season. The Marlins’ other internal options at first base are Diaz and Garrett Cooper.