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Series Preview #19: D-backs vs Marlins

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D-back hitting is restored! Will their momentum be an irresistible force playing against the rebooting Marlins?

Pregame preparation — Lewis Brinson
Pregame preparation — Lewis Brinson
Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images

Rebooting Marlins

The new owners remade the Marlins with breathtaking trades. Trades improved their farm system from near last (29th in 2016 & 2017) to 19th in 2018. The cost was trading away their two All-Stars (Giancarlo Stanton and Marcell Ozuna) plus some half-dozen awesome players.

Increased flexibility. Only three players have contracts beyond this season -- Martin Prado through 2019, Starlin Castro through 2019 with a team option for 2020, and Wei-Yin Chen through 2020 with a vesting option for 2021.

Player opportunities. Players who do well will become part of the core Marlins.

  • High ranked prospects were promoted to the Majors. Lewis Brinson is playing center field. Brian Anderson is playing right field. Three more promotions are expected this season: Magneuris Sierra (outfield), Dillon Peters (rotation), and Sandy Alcantara (rotation).
  • Newly acquired players in the Majors: 7 position players (one on DL) and 2 starting pitchers.
  • Newly acquired players in AAA: 9 position players, 3 starting pitchers, and 6 relief pitchers (1 injured).

Two highly motivated teams

The Marlins are solidly in last place in the NL East. Nevertheless, the Marlins players are highly motivated to win core positions. They will often win games. Five of their first 13 wins were come from behind wins.

In May, the Diamondbacks struggled to get hits, and lost many more games than expected. They are hungry for wins and they are breaking out of their hitting slump. Once they get momentum, they will be an irresistible force.

Goddess Pose
Goddess Pose

Yoga pose of the series: The Goddess Pose

The yoga pose of the series is the Goddess pose, as demonstrated by Min Soo Pata. My Yoga instructor is wearing Diamondbacks attire. She is an authentic woman who knows how to restore herself.

What is it like for me to practice the goddess pose? I feel a solid foundation of strength in my legs. As I stretch out my fingers, I am letting go of weariness from my past struggles. With my arms held out from my body with elbows bent at ninety degrees, they feel like majestic saguaro cactus arms. In that majesty, I ponder restoring myself to who I am. I wiggle my thumbs. I feel inner joy peeking through my face.

The D-backs are letting go of the weariness of May’s slump and are restoring themselves as they are – an awesome team with 9 consecutive series wins and a team headed toward winning the NL West.

Two fabled baseball fans

Goddess Leswella lived on a beach. A majestic palm tree hung over the ocean. Hanging from the palm tree was rope made of twisted vines with a wooden seat at the bottom. She loved to swing while screaming as loudly as she could - cheering for bigger and bigger waves. When the tide was coming in, she would be engulfed with water and happily swim to the local bar for a plate lunch. When the tide was going out, she would whistle for a dragon to carry her to a forest where she would burn her clothes and clear her head.

A closely held secret was that Saint Penelope Cruz, the patron saint of the Diamondbacks, was the niece of Goddess Leswella. Although she would push young Penelope on the swing, eventually it was clear that Penelope loved baseball games more than swinging. Penelope was always cheerful and optimistic at baseball games. Penelope’s presence would often inspire big rallies by her team. Leswella was mightily bothered, but kept alive hope that Penelope would change.

One morning, Leswella awoke in an especially cantankerous mood. She thought, “I must do something.” Being a goddess has its advantages. She pushed the Diamondbacks’ bad luck monstrously aweful – it felt awesome! The fans cheered and screamed louder than ever! And Penelope cheered and screamed loudest of all! Next game, she pushed the team’s good luck marvelously high – that felt awesome, too!

Penelope’s screams were ambrosia to Leswella’s spirit. So she pushed the Diamondback’s luck again and again. Penelope continued to inspire Diamondback rallies. Eventually, Leswella and Penelope would regularly meet to enjoy Diamondback baseball games.

Now you know why the Diamondback team has suffered swings from many joyful series wins to a miserable hitting slump to an amazing breakout in hitting. I always keep a lookout for these two fabled fans!

Who will pitch in this series?

Friday. Elieser Hernandez (150 ERA+, 4.5 SO/9, 0.5 BB/9) vs Clay Buchholz (266 ERA+, 4.1 SO/9, 0.8 BB/9)

The Marlins picked up Elieser Hernandez from the Astros in the December rule 5 draft. A scouting report indicated he has average stuff and a lot of polish. In the spring, he competed with a dozen pitchers for a rotation spot but started the season on the DL due to having his wisdom teeth removed. In May, he made his debut in the Majors.

I feel confident Clay Buchholz’s excellent pitching is for real! This season, he has allowed two earned runs in 11 innings.

The D-backs acquired him as a free agent on May 5th. Acquiring Buchholz on a minor-league deal, when he had years of experience in the Majors, when he clearly was ready to pitch well in the Majors, was another “well-done” by Mike Hazen.

This match-up is slight advantage D-backs.

Saturday. Caleb Smith, lefty (105 ERA+, 11.0 SO/9, 4.2 BB/9) vs Zack Greinke (116 ERA+, 9.7 SO/9, 1.4 BB/9)

In 2017, in his first season pitching in the Majors, Caleb Smith had an average fastball speed of 93.6 mph. His swinging strike rate was 13.0%.

In 2018, Caleb Smith’s biggest plus is he strikes out 1.3 batters per inning. His biggest minus is three times this season he has been pulled after 3 or less innings pitched.

Greinke has been pitching well, but was credited with losses in his last two starts. That streak will be broken as Greinke again pitches a “proper Greinke game.”

This match-up is advantage D-backs.

Sunday. Dan Straily (119 ERA+, 6.6 SO/9, 5.9 BB/9) vs Matt Koch (98 ERA+, 4.7 SO/9, 2.4 BB/9)

This season, due to forearm inflammation, Dan Straily did not pitch until 30 April. In May, his ERA is 2.05.

I am excited to see Matt Koch pitch because in his start on 22 May he kept the Brewers scoreless until the sixth inning. Ignoring his bad start on 16 May, he has an ERA of 3.09. His change-up has improved into an awesome pitch (batting average against went from .200 in April to .111 in May).

This match-up is even.