Miami Marlins 2, Chicago Cubs 0
NL Wildcard Game Two
Magic struck once again at Wrigley Field as the Miami Marlins continued their improbable run by advancing to the NLDS. Thanks to more seventh-inning magic, the Marlins overcame both the cold and the Chicago Cubs to win 2-0 and earn their third postseason shutout in franchise history.
The bats were once again alive and well for the Marlins who improved to 9-1 in postseason elimination games. Five hits made up the offense highlighted by Garrett Cooper‘s first postseason home run in the seventh and a Magneuris Sierra RBI single also in the seventh. The Marlins are now 7-0 in playoff series and 6-3 all-time against the Cubs in postseason play.
A Sixto Advantage in Pitching Duel
Coming into the game many envisioned a pitchers duel and what they got was exactly that. Yu Darvish took the bump for Chicago while Miami put out rookie Sixto Sanchez for his postseason debut. Darvish seemed like the perfect puzzle as his regular-season opposition included nine playoff teams. He put up an outing worthy of a win with six strikeouts across six-plus innings of work, allowing just two runs. Meanwhile, Sanchez also shinned in his postseason debut, also striking out six but doing so in five innings.
Certainly, both pitchers put up winning performances. There was however, one thing that Sanchez had that Darvish, and any Cubs pitchers this postseason, did not. That would be run support. Over the course of the 18 postseason innings for Chicago, just one run accounted for the entire offensive production. One swing from Ian Happ in game one marked Chicago’s only run production. Under Davish’s watch, however, not even he could help push across a run. In fact, the normal trio of big producers for the Cubs, Kris Bryant, Javier Baez, and Anthony Rizzo who combined to hit just .213 at Wrigley field in 2020 hit just .041 in the Wildcard round.
Meanwhile, the Marlins gave enough to back Sanchez’s strong outing. For a team that came into the postseason in the bottom-third of the league in home runs (60), 85 percent of Miami’s run production has come via the long ball.
Even if the runs didn’t come for Miami, the outing by Sanchez was almost surgical. Speed was the name of the game for Sanchez and the frustrating thing for Cubs fans, the plan wasn’t complex. It was a matter of attacking a weakness for heat for Chicago with a league-worst .195 average against pitches 95 mph or more. It was quite obvious what the plan of attack was for Sanchez. Of his 89 pitches thrown, 65 were fastballs which averaged 98 mph. That included seven pitches clocked in at 100 mph or higher. That kept the Cubs at bay offensively as he became just the second Marlins pitcher since Josh Beckett to post a scoreless start in the postseason.
Game Two held various similarities from game one for both teams as six innings came and went with just four runners finding their way to third base, let alone home plate. The Cubs did have their moments of offensive strength which included the bottom of the fourth. Chicago had just four instances with runners in scoring position all game long and one moment came in the fourth inning after a pair of walks. Chicago’s lone chance at a run was thwarted by journeyman Matt Joyce. The 36-year old recorded just the second outfield assist at home in Marlins history, taking a Jason Heyward single and nabbing Willson Contreras for the out.
The Powerful Seventh
The similarity between game one was none more evident than in the seventh inning. That inning alone has become very special for the Marlins. For the second straight game, Miami struck a home run in the seventh inning. That came courtesy of Cooper who became just the fifth batter to take Darvish for a home run in 2020. Along with Sierra’s RBI single, the Marlins also showed their strength with two outs. Miami now ranks eighth in the league in picking up RBI with two outs (109).
From there, the rest of the Miami bullpen kept the base paths light and shut the door on the 2020 season for the Cubs.
Ever since being labeled “bottom-feeders”, the Marlins have kept surprising people and now will enter the Texas postseason bubble. They will take on division foe, the Atlanta Braves for their third NLDS appearance in franchise history. Similar to the storyline against the Cubs, Miami has faced off against Atlanta just once in postseason play. They did come out of that series on top, besting Atlanta in six games of the 1997 NLCS. This will be the first NLDS appearance between the Braves and the Marlins. However, Miami is 4-2 over Atlanta across postseason play overall.
The first game of that series will begin on Oct. 6 from Minute Maid Park.
Main Photo: Embed from Getty Images