SB Nation Blog
The opponent in one sentence
The Marlins are probably the most surprising team in all of baseball this year, sitting in second place in the NL East with a clear path to the postseason.
Red Sox 0, Marlins 0
Up. Because of a major COVID breakout on their roster early in the year, Miami has been scrambling to make up games almost all season. That included a bizarre seven-game series over the weekend against the Phillies, and they took five of those in a huge matchup as those two jostle for position in the NL East. They also took two of three from the division-leading Braves before that, giving them seven wins in their last 10 games.
9/15: Tanner Houck vs. Sandy Alcantara, 6:40 PM ET
The Red Sox have an actual exciting starting pitcher taking the mound for Tuesday’s series opener, which has certainly been a rarity this season. Houck is set to make his major-league debut for this one. The former first round pick has had a lot to work on in the minors and has had his repertoire changed up, then reverted. There are still major questions here, but at a certain point the team has to see what he has. The biggest thing to watch here will be what he looks like against left-handed hitters, as this will be the biggest factor in him sticking in the rotation rather than shifting to the bullpen. Houck has started throwing a splitter rather than a changeup to help in this respect, so that offering will be the number one pitch I’ll be looking at in this start.
Alcantara is a former top 100 prospect who pitched in the majors for a full season for the first time last year. He was the Marlins lone All-Star in 2019, but the peripherals never really matched the results as his strikeout rate was surprisingly low. The good news for the righty is that he has upped his strikeout rate in four starts this season. The bad news is he hasn’t improved the control and has had a bit of an issue with the long ball. The sample is obviously small here with just 22 2⁄3 innings, but his 3.97 ERA isn’t matched by his 4.97 FIP. It’s been an every other start kind of year for him through his four starts — he missed pretty much all of August — with two starts in which he allowed only one earned run and two in which he allowed at least six total runs. His last time out, to be fair, three of his six runs were unearned. Alcantara will offer a pair of high-90s fastballs along with a slider and a changeup.
9/16: TBD vs. Trevor Rogers, 6:40 PM ET
The Red Sox only have one TBD start for this series, which has to be a record for them. There’s a distinct possibility of a bullpen game with Dylan Covey and Ryan Weber potentially being used, though with the season getting close to the end now may be the time to get Nick Pivetta up for a start. There’s been no indication as of this writing that is the plan, though.
Rogers was the 13th overall pick back in 2017 who has been pushed fairly quickly through the minors and up to the majors despite being selected out of high school. He was a bit old for his class, to be fair, and now at 22 he’s made four starts in this rookie season. With 26 strikeouts over 18 innings, the stuff is clearly there, but he’s also already allowed five homers, which all have actually come over his last two outings. The lefty is coming off a particularly rough start his last time out when he allowed nine runs over just three innings against the Phillies. There are going to be strikeouts, but the Red Sox have to be ready to jump on mistakes in this one. Rogers will offer a pair of low-to-mid-90s fastballs along with a changeup and a slider.
9/17: Nathan Eovaldi vs. José Ureña, 1:10 PM ET (MLB Network for those out of market)
Eovaldi just made his return from the injured list over the weekend against the Rays, and is now just looking to build up some positive momentum to take into the offseason. The workload is still being built up and he went only three innings in Tampa, so four or five innings is likely the most we can expect in this one. Look for the velocity to still be there without much issue, but the issue will be how much of the plate he is catching.
Ureña was one of the Marlins affected by the team’s COVID outbreak early in the season, and because of that he only was able to join the team at the beginning of this month. The righty has only made two starts so far this season, and he’s struggled to the tune of a 7.71 ERA since his return. Based on his history in the majors, Ureña is not going to get a whole lot of strikeouts and the key for the Red Sox will be to draw some walks and take advantage of mistakes. If he gets into a groove, he can be tough. Ureña will offer a pair of mid-to-high-90s fastballs along with a slider and a changeup.
Notable Position Players
Starling Marte was the big addition made by Miami at the trade deadline and he’ll be right in the middle of their lineup every day. He’s a very aggressive hitter, but he generally will punish mistakes.
Jesús Aguilar has been quite the waiver wire pickup from this offseason, showing a return to form for Miami with big power and great rates on both strikeouts and walks.
Brian Anderson has quietly been a steady performer for the Marlins for a few years now. He’s taken things to another level in 2020, using a high BABIP to vault him to a 129 wRC+.
Corey Dickerson is suffering from a big of bad BABIP luck and isn’t hitting for the power he’s shown in the past, but he puts together tough at bats more often than not.
Matt Joyce is a platoon bat, but he has been extremely tough on righties throughout his career and will be a major test specifically for Houck to start this series.
Garrett Cooper isn’t going to draw as many walks as you’d like to see, but he hits for solid power and keeps his strikeouts at a comfortable level.
Jazz Chisholm is a top prospect who was just recently called up, but he’s struggled early in his career with a strikeout rate above 30 percent.
Miguel Rojas has been Miami’s best hitter this year (although he’s missed time due to COVID), and while it’s partially due to an inflated BABIP he’s also showing great plate discipline and big power.
Jorge Alfaro is struggling in all three of the true outcomes, and a high BABIP is the only reason his total offense this year hasn’t completely cratered.
Brandon Kintzler is the anthesis as what we think of when we talk about a modern closer, as he strikes out fewer than five batters per nine innings. His weak contact, groundball-heavy approach continues to work, though.
Brad Boxberger and Yimi García are the top two set up men in this bullpen, with the former walking a tightrope with his peripherals but putting up good results and the latter absolutely dominating, albeit in a small sample.
Richard Bleier is the top lefty in this bullpen and is a familiar name given his past in the Orioles ‘pen. He is essentially a left-handed version of Kintzler.
Jon Berti suffered a finger injury last week against the Braves. He’ll be out for this series, but it shouldn’t be too long-term beyond that.
Elieser Hernandez was off to a hot start this year, but a lat injury put him on the IL and he was eventually shut down for the season.
Francisco Cervelli is going to miss the season after suffering a concussion, and given his history of head injuries he may have to shut it down for good.
Logan Forsythe went down with an oblique injury last month and will not be able to return.
Magneuris Sierra has been out for a few weeks now with a hamstring injury, and it’s not yet clear when he’ll be able to come back.
Harold Ramirez missed the start of the year after testing positive for COVID, then hurt his hamstring in his first game back and will be unable to return.
Sean Rodríguez has not been able to play this year due to an IL stint for undisclosed reasons.
Drew Steckenrider went down with an elbow injury towards the end of the 2019 season, and he’s aiming for a healthy return in 2021.
Pat Venditte has been out for a few weeks with an oblique injury, and it’s not clear when the switch-pitcher will be able to return.
Stephen Tarpley went down with an oblique injury in late August, and it will come down to the wire if he’ll be able to come back before the season ends.
Brian Moran has been out since mid-August with a knee injury and there hasn’t really been an update since then.
Mike Morin suffered a UCL injury in August, and while he’s still mulling over whether or not to undergo surgery he won’t return in 2020.
Brandon Leibrandt is out for the year with an elbow injury.
Jeff Brigham and Jordan Holloway were both part of the COVID outbreak and have yet to be cleared to return.
There is some possibility for rain all three days for this series, though the probability is relatively low every day as of now. Either way, Miami has a retractable roof, so the games won’t be in danger.