Miami Marlins: Alvarez’s return improves playoff chances

AlvarezThe return of starting pitcher Henderson Alvarez to the Miami Marlins’ starting pitching rotation drastically improves the team’s chances of making the postseason, as the game on Saturday, Aug. 16 showed. Miami’s offense managed only two runs, but with Alvarez on the mound it was enough as the Marlins won 2-1.

Arizona got three hits and the run that Alvarez allowed during the first inning when Alvarez was showing some rust. Diamondbacks’ starter Wade Miley kept the Fish’s bats quiet until the bottom of the fourth inning.

Miami outfielder Giancarlo Stanton led off the inning with a single, then after third baseman Casey McGehee flied out, first baseman Jeff Baker smacked a triple to score Stanton and tie the game. Three innings later, the Marlins got what turned out to be the winning run.

Center-fielder Marcell Ozuna led off the bottom of the seventh inning with a single and advanced to second base on a passed ball. Shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria hit the ball on the right side of the field to move Ozuna over to third. Catcher Jeff Mathis then put the ball in play and watched as Arizona shortstop Cliff Pennington made a throwing error to allow Ozuna to score.

Alvarez finished the night with seven innings of five-hit, one-run baseball, striking out six and issuing only one walk. Mike Dunn pitched a scoreless eighth and then Steve Cishek got save No. 31 with a perfect ninth.

Alvarez’s quality outing was just the latest in a series of similar stellar outings for the Marlins’ current No. 1 starter.

Nine of Alvarez’s last ten starts have been tremendous. If you exclude his rough start on the road against the New York Mets on July 11, he hasn’t given up more than two earned runs in any of the games that he started. Additionally, in eight of those nine games he went at least 6 1/3 innings. Most importantly, Miami is 8-2 in his last ten starts.

To say that the Marlins haven’t been scoring runs in bunches since the All-Star Break is an understatement. In 22 of Miami’s 29 games since the Mid-Summer Classic, the Marlins have scored three runs or fewer. In fact, despite Miami’s record being 17-12 since the break, they have been outscored 107-93. If the current amount of offensive production remains consistent for the Marlins’ remaining 39 games, they will have to win with pitching.

Of Miami’s remaining 39 games, 10 of them are against teams (Colorado Rockies, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Milwaukee Brewers) that are in top 10 in baseball in runs scored. Additionally, 20 of those 39 are against teams that are in the top 10 of MLB in team ERA. Both situations make good pitching a huge priority for the Marlins.

Getting Alvarez back in their rotation makes that prospect more likely. A starting rotation that currently includes Jarred Cosart, Nathan Eovaldi, Brad Hand and Brad Penny wasn’t likely to enable Miami to make up their current 3 1/2 game deficit in the National League wild card standings without him. Those four starters have an average earned run average of 4.33. The simple math of the Marlins’ current offensive production compared to those numbers leads to a clear conclusion of more losses than wins. Adding Alvarez’s 2.43 ERA into that mix makes the math much feasible.

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