From a key injury to the pitching matchups, there are several intriguing storylines when the Miami Marlins play host to the Washington Nationals on Sunday afternoon in the fourth game of a five-game series.
The Marlins have won two of the three games so far, but they also suffered a key injury on Saturday, losing catcher Francisco Cervelli to a concussion.
“It hurts our catching, and it also hurts our pitching staff that (Cervelli’s) leadership is gone right now,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. “He’s had a history of concussions. He knew it right away.”
Due to the injury, Jorge Alfaro caught 12 of the 14 innings in Saturday’s doubleheader. Alfaro was on the COVID-19 list all season, returning Friday.
“That’s a lot of work for a catcher in one day. He may need to sleep in an ice bath,” Mattingly said. “I’m a little worried. He’s in great shape, but he’s going to be sore.”
On Sunday, Alfaro is scheduled to catch Marlins rookie right-hander Humberto Mejia (0-1, 5.68 ERA).
Mejia, a 23-year-old native of Panama, has made just two major league appearances, both against the New York Mets. He lasted just 2 1/3 innings in his Aug. 7 debut and four innings Tuesday. Mejia has seven strikeouts in his 6 1/3 innings.
The Nationals will start former Marlins right-hander Anibal Sanchez (0-3, 8.50). Sanchez, 36, went 7-6 with a 2.83 ERA in 2018 for the Atlanta Braves and 11-8 with a 3.85 ERA last year with the Nationals.
This season, though, Sanchez is dealing with a dip in velocity. An average fastball of 89 mph will require precision command, something he has not shown to this point.
Sanchez is 3-2 with a 3.35 ERA in eight career starts against the Marlins.
“He’s not locating any of his pitches,” Nationals manager Dave Martinez said after Sanchez fell to 0-3 after a loss to the Mets on August 12. “He’s falling behind in the count. I haven’t seen him like that, and we need to get him right.”
Offensively, the Nationals are led by star left fielder Juan Soto, who is batting .368 with seven homers and 16 RBIs in just 16 games. He also has a 1.270 OPS.
Nationals shortstop Trea Turner ignites the offense from the leadoff spot. He leads the team with 17 runs scored while batting .295 with five doubles, one triple, five homers and an .891 OPS.
Miami’s hitters have mostly struggled — with the exception of shortstop Miguel Rojas, who has played just five games after missing nearly a month when he tested positive for Covid-19.
In a small sample size of 17 at-bats, Rojas is batting .529 with two homers, eight RBIs and a 1.638 OPS. Rojas sunk the Nationals in the first game of the series with a three-run homer in his first at-bat back from the COVID-19 list.
However, the Nationals cooled him on Saturday as he went 0-3 in the first game of the doubleheader.
–Field Level Media