Pablo Lopez just got married, and Jordan Hicks is graduating … in a sense.
That’s the pitching matchup for Thursday night, when Miami Marlins right-hander Lopez (1-0, 0.87 ERA) takes on the visiting St. Louis Cardinals and right-hander Hicks (1-0, 0.00).
St. Louis will vie for a three-game sweep after beating Miami 5-1 on Tuesday and 2-0 on Wednesday.
As for Lopez, he tied the knot on Monday with his girlfriend of five-plus years, Kaylee. They met in Iowa in 2016, when Lopez was pitching in low-A ball for the Clinton LumberKings, a Seattle Mariners affiliate.
Meanwhile, Hicks’ graduation is from reliever to starter. Hicks, 25, has made 114 major-league relief appearances, but he is set to make his first start on Thursday.
Hicks, who has 20 major-league saves and a 3.52 career ERA, opted out of the 2020 season due to COVID concerns and tossed just 10 innings in 2021 before an elbow injury ended his season in early May.
This year, Hicks has pitched twice in relief for a total of four innings, but Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol feels this is the right time to put him into the rotation.
“Can we build him up out of the bullpen? Yeah, but it’s much easier for (Hicks) mentally when he knows he is throwing,” Marmol said. “Jordan has some serious upside as a starter. It’s just a matter of gaining length.”
It’s unlikely Hicks will go deep into Thursday’s game, which would test the Cardinals’ bullpen.
So far this season, St. Louis relievers have been up to the task, including Giovanny Gallegos, Ryan Helsley and T.J. McFarland, who have combined for 12 1/3 innings and a 0.00 ERA.
The Cardinals made a change on offense Wednesday, benching right fielder Dylan Carlson, who is batting just .158 and is in the midst of a 1-for-24 slump.
“It’s frustrating when you are not getting the results you want,” Marmol said of Carlson. “There’s a difference between an off day, when there’s no baseball, and a day off, when you can come in, get some work done and not worry about results that night.”
St. Louis will get back to work on Thursday seeking to beat Miami for the ninth consecutive meeting.
During the streak, which started last year, Miami has scored seven runs. The figure didn’t rise on Wednesday, when the Marlins were blanked on five hits, all singles.
“We just didn’t have a lot of chances,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. “They kept us off balance.”
Miami has been off balance a lot this year. The Marlins have several slumping hitters, including catcher Jacob Stallings, first baseman Jesus Aguilar, shortstop Miguel Rojas, right fielder Avisail Garcia and left fielder Jorge Soler.
All five of those players are starters, and all are hitting .200 or less.
Soler, batting .143, is in the deepest slump. He also came up just short on the biggest play of the Wednesday game in the ninth inning. Nolan Arenado’s game-deciding, two-run homer deflected off the tip of Soler’s glove.
Then again, Soler got off to a slow start last year, too. In the first half of the 2021 season, he hit just .186 with seven homers. In the second half, he rebounded to bat .263 with 20 homers.
–Field Level Media