Marlins, O’s look to continue hot starts in Miami

MLB

The Baltimore Orioles and Miami Marlins, who combined to lose 213 games as two of the three worst teams in the major leagues last year, meet Monday night in South Florida, both sporting winning records in the early going of 2020.

Both teams are 2-1 after Baltimore took a series from the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park, and Miami surprised the host Philadelphia Phillies.

On Monday, Miami will start Pablo Lopez and Baltimore will counter with Asher Wojciechowski in a battle of right-handers who will be making their 2020 debuts.

This will be Miami’s home opener, though the team won’t exactly be well rested after staying in Philadelphia until Monday as a precaution after four Marlins players reportedly tested positive for COVID-19. According to reports, those players are catcher Jorge Alfaro, right fielder Harold Ramirez, DH Garrett Cooper and pitcher Jose Urena, who was supposed to start on Sunday.

When the team does get to Miami, expect Lopez to be ready to go. He had a 3.39 ERA at Marlins Park last year as compared to a 7.36 mark on the road.

Lopez, 5-8 with a 5.09 ERA in 21 starts overall last year, relies on a hard sinker. The 24-year-old Venezuelan is entering his third season but has yet to find a pitch to consistently retire left-handed batters. For his career, righties are hitting just .232 with a .690 OPS against Lopez; lefties are hitting .284 with an .812 OPS.

Wojciechowski, a 31-year-old veteran with the longest name in Orioles history, joined the franchise last year and went 4-8 with a 4.92 ERA in 17 appearances, including 16 starts.

The 41st overall pick in the 2010 MLB Draft out of The Citadel, Wojciechowski has a fastball that hits 94 mph. But he has struggled on the road with a 4-5 record and a 6.84 ERA in 24 career appearances.

Like Lopez, he has trouble with lefty batters (.955 OPS as compared to .767 against righty hitters).

With Urena out Sunday, the Marlins started rookie Robert Dugger as an emergency fill-in. And while the Marlins prevailed 11-6, they needed seven pitchers to get the job done.

And so far, the offense is doing its part to help the short-handed staff. Miguel Rojas, who went 3-for-4 with four RBIs on Sunday, is hitting .700 after an impressive opening weekend.

“It’s a short season, but I think we’re going to enjoy it,” said first baseman Jesus Aguilar, who already has two homers in his first three games since he was acquired off waivers in December by the Marlins. “We just have to keep going.”

Baltimore, meanwhile, also has some hot hitters in third baseman Rio Ruiz (two homers); shortstop Jose Iglesias (.538) and second baseman Hanser Alberto (.500). In addition, outfielder Anthony Santander has four RBIs and a .727 slugging percentage.

Brandon Hyde, who is in his second year as Orioles manager, lost 108 games last year with a pitching staff that was the worst in the majors in ERA (5.59) and homers allowed (305).

Since then, the Orioles traded perhaps their top pitcher, Dylan Bundy, and one of their best hitters, Jonathan Villar — who is now Miami’s leadoff hitter. Villar, who slugged 24 homers and stole 40 bases in 2019, is off to a slow start for Miami (1-for-12, an .083 average).

The Orioles are also missing first baseman Trey Mancini, who had 35 homers and 97 RBIs last season but is out following surgery to remove a tumor in his colon.

“Feeling good — I’m halfway done,” Mancini recently said of his chemotherapy. “I’ll be out there with the team eventually.”

–Field Level Media

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