Manager Don Mattingly is set to return to the dugout on Friday when his Miami Marlins are set to open a three-game series against the visiting Chicago Cubs.
Mattingly, who tested positive for COVID-19 on July 31, will be coming back to a team coming off a brutal 1-5 road trip.
But at least the Marlins beat the San Diego Padres 7-0 on Wednesday, snapping a five-game losing streak.
“There weren’t a lot of wins (on the trip),” Marlins interim manager James Rowson said. “But there was never any laying down. There were a lot of guys battling and grinding.”
Even so, it’s been a lost season for both the Marlins and Cubs as neither team is in playoff contention.
The venue for Friday’s game could make a difference, however, as the Marlins are 27-27 at home, and the Cubs are just 21-37 on the road.
Chicago, which has lost eight straight games, will start right-hander Adbert Alzolay (4-12, 4.71 ERA). Miami will start lefty Jesus Luzardo (3-5, 7.36 ERA).
Alzolay, who has never faced the Marlins, leads the league in a dubious statistic — most losses. He is 0-8 with two no-decisions since he last won a game, which was on June 2 against the Padres.
But he actually has three quality starts during this losing streak.
In some way, Alzolay has pitched better than his record. For example, his 1.162 WHIP is better than his 1.172 number from last year, when he went 1-1 with a 2.95 ERA in six games.
Also, Alzolay is still averaging more than one strikeout per inning. His slider is a put-away pitch, but he has struggled to get ahead in counts due to a poor chase rate.
Luzardo, who has never faced the Cubs, is 1-1 with a 9.31 ERA since being acquired by the Marlins prior to the trade deadline last month. In those two starts, his strikeouts per nine innings are down to 6.5 from 9.5 prior to the trade.
His 1.862 WHIP in those two starts would be the worst of his career if extrapolated over an entire season.
As for the expected lineups for Friday’s game, the Marlins’ hottest hitter may be outfielder Lewis Brinson, who had struggled for much of his four-year MLB career before catching fire over the past several weeks.
Brinson hit just .221 with a .585 OPS in the first half of this season. Since then, however, he is hitting .349 with an impressive 1.104 OPS, including two homers on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, the Cubs are getting contributions from corner infielder Patrick Wisdom and center fielder Rafael Ortega.
Wisdom, who turns 30 later this month, is an impact major-leaguer for the first time in his career. He has 18 homers and 36 RBIs in just 68 games this year. Prior to this season, he had played a total of just 43 MLB games.
“I’ve just kind of simplified things,” said Wisdom, who has slumped a bit of late but still leads National League rookies in homers.
Ortega, a 30-year-old native of Venezuela who is playing for his sixth major-league organization in the past half-dozen years, is batting .333 with six homers in 60 games.
“I’m grateful for the Cubs giving me this opportunity,” Ortega said. “I’m trying to show them I can maintain this type of production moving forward. But I’ve never had a doubt I have the talent to be a major-league starter.”
–Field Level Media