BALTIMORE – Finally back on the baseball diamond after enduring eight days of virus testing, hotel room service and lengthy bus rides, the Miami Marlins scratched out a victory worth savoring.
Following one final delay in their effort to return from a miserable coronavirus-induced hiatus, the Marlins found enough power and pitching within their vastly overhauled roster to beat the Baltimore Orioles 4-0 Tuesday night.
Francisco Cervelli and Jesús Aguilar homered for the Marlins, who had their season halted after 18 players tested positive for COVID-19 following the opening series in Philadelphia.
All the happiness that playing baseball brings was displayed when Cervelli slammed a 3-1 pitch from John Means over the left-field wall to give Miami a 1-0 lead in the fifth. The players in the dugout cheered, and Cervelli saluted them as the rounded third and headed for home.
“These guys love to play, right? That’s what you see," manager Don Mattingly said. “We’ve been in a hotel for a long time. Guys are happy to be out."
Pablo López threw five innings of two-hit ball and the bullpen allowed just one hit in Miami's first shutout victory since Sept. 8 against Kansas City.
“Give him credit. He threw a really nice game," Orioles manager Brandon Hyde said of Lopez. “We just didn't swing the bats well."
Late Tuesday afternoon, the Marlins were still awaiting the result of further COVID-19 tests, a process that stalled their arrival at Camden Yards and pushed back the scheduled 7:35 p.m. start by 41 minutes.
Once they finally got back on the diamond, the Marlins backed up the assertion of president of baseball operations Michael Hill, who said beforehand: “We expect to win games."
So does Mattingly.
“We lost some guys, but we like our guys who are coming up.," he said.
Who knows how it will play out? For now, however, Miami stands atop the NL East in terms of winning percentage. Before this season, the Marlins have never been in first place after June 30.
“Finally we got out on the field and we do what we’re supposed to do," Aguilar said. “Now we’ve got to keep going."
Miami put a whopping 18 players on the injured list and showed up with an equal number of replacements on their 30-man roster — some from their minor league camp, others obtained via trade and a few plucked off the waiver wire. Mattingly wrote up his lineup card, there's a good chance he had to introduce himself to a few of the newcomers.
“We’ve just got to try to hold down the fort and get some guys back, survive this trip and see where we’re at," the manager said. “This one felt good. We’ve been through a lot."
To say the least.
“I’m going to have to write a book after this one," Mattingly said. “You get tested and you persevere and you learn from a lot of situations."
There were plenty of rookies in the dugout, but the only one in the starting lineup was highly touted prospect fielder Monte Harrison, who played center field and went 0 for 3 with three strikeouts in his major league debut.
A matchup between two teams that each lost more than 100 games last year was oddly intriguing because it was Miami’s first game since July 26 and the Orioles were coming off a three-game sweep of Tampa Bay that lifted them into second place in the AL East.
Orioles starter John Means (0-1) allowed one run and two hits in 4 2/3 innings. He retired 13 in a row before Cervelli's first long ball of the season ended the left-hander's night.
Lopez was better, striking out seven and permitting just one runner past first base. The bullpen was also impressive, including Richard Bleier, obtained from the Orioles last week.
The Marlins went up 3-0 in the sixth, and Aguilar hit his third homer in four games.
After the final out, the Marlins lined up and did “air” high-fives in which they didn’t make contact with their hands.
Because of Miami's precarious situation, the Orioles had two games in Florida postponed and opened at home against the Yankees instead of Marlins on July 29-30. In this anything goes, wacky baseball season, Miami will be the home team for the final two games of this four-game series.
Marlins: Ten pitchers were among the 18 placed on the injured list, including lefty Caleb Smith, who led the team in wins last year with 10.
Orioles: SS José Iglesias (left quad) and 3B Rio Ruiz (shoulder) weren't in the starting lineup but available if needed, manager Brandon Hyde said.
Marlins: RH Elieser Hernández makes his season debut in the opener of a 7-inning doubleheader Wednesday. Mattingly did not announce his starter for the nighcap.
Orioles: Alex Cobb (1-0, 2.89 ERA) gets his third start of the season, followed by Asher Wojciechowski (0-1, 7.20).
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