Don Mattingly feels like he’s been working all summer, even though his Miami Marlins have played only six games.
And lately, the Marlins manager is making every right move for a gritty team that’s overcome a COVID-19 outbreak and a radical roster change to equal the best start in franchise history and grab hold of first place in the NL East.
Five pitchers combined on a four-hitter for Mattingly’s surprising Marlins, who beat the Baltimore Orioles 2-1 Wednesday night for a doubleheader sweep.
Brian Anderson homered in opener, and Miami won 1-0 despite getting only two hits.
After being holed up in a Philadelphia hotel, having 18 players test positive for COVID-19 and going eight days without playing a game, the Marlins have won three straight at Camden Yards to improve their record to 5-1.
So, guess who owns the best winning percentage in the majors? The Marlins, that’s who. It’s impressive stuff, but it sure hasn’t been easy.
“I feel like we’ve been playing for half a season,” Mattingly said. “It has been a rough trip as far as what has happened to us. And it has just been a different year in the world and with what is going on in sports. But it’s good to put some wins on the board.”
The sweep kept the Marlins atop the division and earned Mattingly his 281st win as Miami’s manager, tying Jack McKeon’s club record.
In a baseball season complete with new rules and an ever-changing, abbreviated schedule, this doubleheader raised the bar on strange. Not only were both games seven innings apiece, but the Orioles were the home team in the opener and the Marlins served as hosts in the nightcap.
And to top it all, the Marlins are unbeaten since emerging from a coronavirus-prompted layoff that left them with a roster filled with callups, free agents and rookies. Miami has allowed a total of one run and 10 hits in those three games at Camden Yards.
“Our pitching has been incredible,” Anderson said. “I don’t know how they go from throwing into a (hotel) mattress to going out and getting big league hitters out like that, but whatever they’re doing we’ve got to keep doing it.”
For sure, this new-look club looks nothing like the team that lost 105 games last year.
“From what I can see, they’ve come out with a lot of energy,” Orioles shortstop José Iglesias said. “They were cooped up for a week. Regardless, we’ve got to do a better job.”
The Orioles entered this series coming off a three-game sweep of Tampa Bay, but their bats have been silent against a Miami pitching staff that is not considered to be anything close to extraordinary.
“I don’t know what it is. Just one of those funks,” manager Brandon Hyde said.
In the nightcap. Jon Berti hit an RBI double off Asher Wojciechowski (0-2) in the first inning and scored on a fly ball by Jesús Aguilar. That proved to be enough offense for the Marlins in a bullpen game managed deftly by Mattingly.
Josh A. Smith started, Brian Moran (1-0) struck out three over one inning and Stephen Tarpley got four outs for his first save.
A bad-hop RBI single by Austin Hays in the sixth ruined Miami’s bid for a third straight shutout. Not that it mattered much.
“I can’t be more proud of these guys, the adversity we have been through, being stuck in the hotel,” Anderson said. “These guys just persevere. In a short season, you want to get off to a great start and it just happens to be us right now.”
In the opener, Anderson produced the game’s lone run with an opposite-field drive to right off Alex Cobb (1-1).
Miami starter Elieser Hernandez gave up a one-out double to Chance Sisco in the fifth and Pedro Severino followed with a single before Nick Vincent (1-0) got Hanser Alberto to hit into a double play, ending Baltimore’s only threat.
Tuesday night’s game was originally scheduled for July 29 and the first game of the doubleheader was a makeup for July 30. The Marlins were to serve as the “home” team in the nightcap and on Thursday to make up for two games scheduled in Miami on July 27-28.
The Marlins’ battle with COVID-19 has cleared the way for two rookies to make their major league debut.
Outfielder Monte Harrison got his first taste of big-league ball Tuesday night, and second baseman Eddy Alvarez — a silver medalist U.S. Olympic speedskater in 2014 — joined the fray Wednesday.
Both are still looking for their first hit.
Marlins: OF Matt Joyce, who missed all of summer camp with the coronavirus, said his antibodies tests have come back negative and he continues to observe protocols. Joyce came off the injured list Tuesday.
Orioles: LHP John Means was placed on bereavement list. Hyde was uncertain if Means would be back for his next start, tentatively Sunday in Washington. “He’s dealing with a family matter and we’re going to give him some space and time,” Hyde said.
Marlins: Jordan Yamamoto will start on Thursday night.
Orioles: Wade LeBlanc (1-0) makes his third start of the season after turning in a solid performance against Tampa Bay on Saturday.
Surprising first-place Marlins stay hot, sweep Orioles