It’s been a good week for the Arizona Diamondbacks.
It’s been an even better season for the Miami Marlins, who open a three-game home series against Arizona on Monday.
Both teams started the year 1-4.
Since then, the Marlins are 11-5, including a seven-game winning streak that was broken Sunday with a 7-3 setback against the visiting Seattle Mariners. In the past decade, this is just the second time the Marlins had a winning April.
Arizona is in last place in the NL West, but the Diamondbacks have gone 9-5 since their slow start. They took two of three at home against the powerful Los Angeles Dodgers to start last week, then split a four-game road series against the St. Louis Cardinals, falling 7-5 on Sunday.
“I liked our at-bats,” Miami manager Don Mattingly said after the latest defeat. “I felt like we gave ourselves some chances. We really just weren’t able to get that big, big hit to kind of get us over the hump.”
The Monday pitching matchup features two right-handers with sub-1.00 ERA, Miami’s Pablo Lopez (3-0, 0.39 ERA) and Arizona’s Zac Gallen (0-0, 0.60).
Lopez, who leads the majors in ERA, hasn’t been nearly as good in three career starts against Arizona, going 0-1 with a 5.28 ERA.
This season, Lopez has displayed a brilliant changeup, and he enters play Monday with a streak of 18 1/3 consecutive scoreless innings.
Gallen, who made his major league debut in 2019 for Miami, has yet to face the Marlins.
On July 31, 2019, the Marlins traded Gallen to Arizona in a swap that has worked well for both teams. Miami got star second baseman Jazz Chisholm Jr. in return.
This year, Gallen has allowed just one run in 15 innings, yet the Diamondbacks are only 2-1 in his three starts.
Miami ranks eighth the majors with a 3.29 ERA, and pitching helped the Marlins take two of three in the weekend series against Seattle.
“We knew coming into the series that their starting pitching is outstanding,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said of the Marlins, “but their bullpen has a lot of different looks.”
Indeed, the Marlins have four pitchers with at least one save this season, led by Anthony Bender. He has six saves and a 4.32 ERA in 8 1/3 innings. Louis Head (0.00 ERA in 6 1/3 innings), Tanner Scott (5.40 ERA in 8 1/3 innings), and Cole Sulser (0.93 ERA in 9 2/3 frames) each have one save.
The Marlins’ bullpen also includes Steven Okert (1.50 ERA) and Cody Poteet (1.04 ERA). Okert, Richard Bleier (5.06 ERA) and Scott are the bullpen’s lefties.
Arizona, meanwhile, has been winning some tight contests. In the past two series, the Diamondbacks have allowed just six total runs in their four wins.
Three of those victories were by two runs each.
“We’ve learned to embrace close games,” Arizona manager Torey Lovullo said. “We’ve learned to embrace execution in critical moments. We’re prepared to play games like this all season.”
Those close games are likely due to the fact that Arizona’s strength is canceled out by a couple of glaring weaknesses.
The Diamondbacks are ranked 10th in the majors in ERA (3.37), but they also have the lowest batting average (.181) and one of the worst fielding percentages.
Lovullo believes he finally has a handle on his team’s defensive woes, with the players becoming more “engaged” in the field, according to the manager.
“We had been kind of working into games defensively,” he said. “Nobody is good enough to do that.”
–Field Level Media