Wei-Yin Chen is the sort of player that is around not because he is skilled, or because he holds a particular place in the hearts of his team and fans, but because he is owed a lot of money on a multi-year contract. He’s 33, doesn’t strike batters out, doesn’t manage contact, and hasn’t broken 125 IP since 2015. The official soundtrack of his tenure with the Marlins, which began in 2016 and is set to run through 2020, is one of those sad bagpipe dirges. And of course there’s the fact that he pitches for the Marlins, which is a special, private desperation that the outside world can’t possibly really come to grips with. I like it when my team faces a pitcher like Chen.
The Marlins spotted Chen a 2-run lead on a double and single in the first and a solo shot from Starlin Castro in the 4th. There was no way that Chen could make that stand up! So of course, baseball being baseball, Chen only gave up one hit, a single to old teammate Marcell Ozuna in the 2nd, across 5 2/3 innings. It wasn’t the deepest foray, but being held scoreless on a single hit for any amount of time when you’re facing Wei-Yin Chen seems impossible. And yet, there it is. 5.2 innings of 1-hit, 2-walk, 4-strikeout baseball.
We got a single from Ozuna in the 6th after Chen was pulled, an infield single from Bader in the 7th, and singles from Matt Carpenter and Ozuna (his third of the night) in the 8th, but we couldn’t string anything together.
In the 9th, we had a real shot at winning it. Old friend Kyle Barraclough toed the rubber to convert the save for the Marlins. Paul DeJong and Harrison Bader singled, then Yairo Munoz allowed himself to be walked, loading the bases with no outs.
At this point, Fangraphs tells us that despite our 2-run deficit, we had a 43% chance of winning the game. The Run Expectancy for bases loaded and no outs is 2.282 runs. It has to be better than that with an excitable and wild Barraclough on the mound. We were playing with shaved dice at this point.
Kolten Wong got rung up on a full count, thanks to the classic “of course that’s way outside, but you’re a lefty so deal with it” call. He should have been the first walk to result in a run. Instead, he walked to the dugout. Run expectancy slips to 1.52 runs in this state and our win probability dropped to 28%, but you still had to like our chances with the hotter-than-the-sun Matt Carpenter standing in.
Barraclough didn’t intentionally walk Carp, but he didn’t get particularly close to the strike zone, either. 1 run walked in, bringing the score to 2-1 with the bases loaded and 1 out. The win probability graph is almost to even money at this point. I can almost taste the joy and the terror of Yairo’s mad dash home from second on Yadi’s impending goat blast, as the svelte infielder scampers toward victory.
Alas, that goat blast never came, and poor Yairo never had a chance. Yadi smashed the ball at the shortstop, who did a 6-4-3 double play. Marlins win, 2-1.
So it’s a bummer we dropped this one, but there’s a lot to like about our season going forward. I miss Tommy Pham and Dexter Fowler (Darn you trades and foot-breaking rays!), but I’m excited to see what the kids do with regular playing time in the outfield. Here’s to hoping O’Neill’s nonspecific, apparently embarrassing groin injury doesn’t affect him when he returns, because I am extremely ready for our outfield to be Short Aaron Judge/Blonde Inciarte/Marcell Ozuna but the Good Version.
By the way, not a bad outing by Luke Weaver, on the whole. And great bullpen management by Mike Shildt. I won’t pretend this is original observation on my part – a certain winged horse pointed it out in a discussion I was following last night – but giving Tyler Webb the ball for 2 low-leverage innings in a close game that we were losing is the sort of commonsense bullpen-saving maneuver that he-who-must-not-be-named was wholly incapable of. Between the ejection of some of the more malignant underperformers and the enormous upgrade in usage, it’s no wonder that our bullpen has gone from a high-priced dumpster fire to an apparently effective unit filled with young guys called up from Memphis, like, overnight.
Cubs won last night, while the Pirates lost and the Brewers were off. We retain sole possession of 3rd place in the Central, with a pretty big 7.5-game deficit to the division-leading Cubs, and a 6-game deficit to the Brewers. On the Wild Card front, we sit essentially tied with the Nationals at 4.5 games behind the Braves for the 2nd Wild Card berth. That race is a plenty steep climb for its own reasons – we would have to separate ourselves from the Nats and pass the Rockies (2.5 games ahead of us), the Dodgers (4 games ahead of us), and the Braves (4.5 games ahead of us). While it’s a smaller deficit, we need bad or neutral things to happen to more teams that we play less games against to move into a playoff spot. So let’s just beat up on the Brewers and Cubs and win the division, shall we?