Marlins Use Long Ball to Power Past Cubs in Opener

Marlins Cubs

Miami 5, Chicago 1

In a win that seemed to defy the odds, the  Miami Marlins captured their first postseason victory since 2003 as they bested the Chicago Cubs 5-1 at Wrigley Field. It marks the first official playoff win under the Miami name as all other prior postseason wins came under the then Florida Marlins name.

A Possible Chicago Advantage 

Before the first pitch, it seemed as though Chicago’s offense would steal the show ranked fourth in NL run differential (0.4) and sixth in home runs (74). Meanwhile, Miami came in with a passible offense ranked 17th overall in batting average (.244), and 25th in slugging (.384). Offensively, most signs pointed to a Cubs win but the Marlins offense took over. Miami ended up out-hitting Chicago 8-4 highlighted by a pair of home runs.

Throughout the first four innings of play, there wasn’t much offense to speak of aside from a Jesus Aguilar double and two Chicago singles from Javier Baez and Ian Happ. Ultimately, it was Happ who had the best outing of any Cub as he contributed two of Chicago’s four hits. His second hit of the game helped the Cubs to flex their muscles offensively in the fifth. Happ deposited his first postseason home run on a ball to left-center field to put the Cubs up 1-0. With just a pair of hits allowed by starter Kyle Hendricks, there was plenty to be excited about from Chicago’s perspective.

A Big Seventh Inning

Then the tides started to turn in favor of the visiting Marlins. For a team that ranked 26th in home runs throughout the regular season, they broke out the long ball in a big way Wednesday afternoon. It began in the seventh inning. Miami had been held to just two hits up to that point. Then, the Marlins broke out the bats and it came during a big turning point in the game as Hendricks breached the 100-pitch mark. That’s something that usually might be a red flag for Cubs fans as the Chicago right-hander topped 105 pitches just once in the abbreviated 2020 campaign. Wednesday afternoon, he hit that mark at the fourth time through the Marlins batting order.

With 105 pitches already thrown by Hendricks, he battled Corey Dickerson for the fourth time. Four times through a lineup is tough enough and for Hendricks in his career, his home run rate ballooned from 0.89 to 1.15 per nine innings on the fourth time through a lineup. Wednesday afternoon, that stat line proved true again. It came against Dickerson, who came into the game with 106 home runs against right-handed pitchers. With two on and one out, singles by Miguel Rojas and Chad Wallach led up to the Dickerson blasted home run blast. That gave Miami their first and only needed lead of the game. It marked the first postseason home run for the Marlins since 2003. That was when Alex Gonzalez won the postseason game against the New York Yankees on a walk-off home run.

In total, six of Miami’s eight hits came in that decisive seventh inning. That included Aguilar blasting a two-run shot off of Jeremy Jeffress to boost the Marlins lead up to 5-1. In a season filled with historical markers for the Marlins, that five-run seventh made history. It was the first time since 2003 that a Marlins team scored five or more runs in a single postseason inning. Interestingly enough, that was against the Cubs in game six of the 2003 NLCS.

The Pitching Battle

Coming into the game, the pitching battle was also one that seemed to favor the host Cubs. Chicago brought out the seasoned Hendricks with 51 postseason innings pitched. Despite the home run allowed, the veteran still showed his talents, allowing just three earned-runs while striking out three in six innings of action. On the other end, Sandy Alcantara struck out four while allowing one run through six and two-thirds innings of work.

Going Forward

The Marlins may have the edge but the series is far from over. Yu Darvish will take the bump for the Cubs in a do-or-die scenario in Game Two. Darvish held the league’s second-best WAR mark (3.0) and a strikeout rate of 11.01 K/9. He currently sits fifth in all of baseball in K/BB with a mark of 6.64. Darvish allowed just five hits out of 34 attempts against Miami in 2019 and will look to continue that trend in the 2020 postseason.

For the Marlins, they will bring out rookie sensation Sixto Sanchez. The 22-year old recorded four quality starts in his first five starts. Then again, he is also the same person who allowed nine runs in his final two starts, covering just seven innings of work.

The Wild Card battle number two will begin from Wrigley Field Thursday, October 1st beginning at 1:08 p.m.

Main Photo: Embed from Getty Images

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