Dave Hyde: Marlins keep winning to go into All-Star break as the surprise of baseball
MIAMI — You never know when it will hit you. It hit Dane Myers during the National Anthem on Sunday. He realized just before this craziest of weeks got even crazier that he actually was here, living his dream, playing in the major leagues as the Miami Marlins center fielder.
“I got a little emotional,’’ he said.
No matter Myers was called up from the minors Monday when Jazz Chisholm suffered an oblique muscle injury. No matter he took over center field when Chisholm’s replacement, Jonathan Davis, suffered a knee injury Tuesday.
No matter Myers got his first big-league hit in his first at-bat, then another hit, then several more, to the point when he came to bat in the bottom of the third on Sunday he was hitting .400.
“It’s been surreal,’’ he said.
The Marlins’ third center fielder this week, their pickup last December who began his pro career as a pitcher, then hit a knuckle-curve from Philadelphia starter Aaron Nola over the right-field wall for his first major league home run in the Marlins’ 7-3 win.
“Wow,’’ he said at one point late Sunday afternoon as it all hit him again.
Now it’s fair to ask: Has it hit you yet, too? Has the past few months broke through apathy built up over the last couple of decades?
You weren’t interested on Opening Day. You knew the New York Mets paid more in bar tabs than the Miami Marlins did in payroll.
You weren’t interested as the Marlins won in May and June. You were busy watching the Miami Heat and Florida Panthers put the surprise in sports.
But as the Marlins won again Sunday, as they won five of seven in this home stretch to gather themselves after a calamity in Atlanta, they’re 14 games over .500. They have the third-best record in the National League at the All-Star break. They have the second-highest win percentage (.576) in franchise history to this point.
It’s intriguing how it’s all happening too. They rank 13th of the 15 National League teams in runs scored. Their ace, Sandy Alcantara, isn’t his dominant self. They’ve been outscored on the year. They’re 21st in fielding percentage.
Yet there on Sunday were the two reasons they’re the surprise story of baseball. The obvious one was left-handed pitcher Jesus Luzardo. He struck out nine and give up two runs in more than six innings of work.
Luzardo symbolizes the kind of development the past couple of years under pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre Jr. that explains how the Marlins can win. Their pitching has been that good, the arms that strong.
Myers symbolizes the other side. The surprise side. You can go down the list: Luis Arraez flirting with .400 until lately; Jorge Soler hitting 23 home runs – or already 10 more than his injury-riddled season last year; Bryan De La Cruz capping a breakout first half of the season with four hits Sunday.
Throw rookie manager Skip Schumaker in there, too. He talked of this staff telling the players they knew what winning looked like, considering all of them had won. But who knew it would translate like this.
“I’m proud of the guys stepping up when we had injuries early and figured out their roles and were OK with everything we’ve given them,’’ Schumaker said. “They’ve grabbed hold of it and attacked it and it’s been fun to watch them grow.”
It all must be particularly gratifying for team owner Bruce Sherman, whose fate was to be blamed for everything wrong with the Marlins in the way their owners always have been. Sherman showed Derek Jeter the door, too, which was like shooting Bambi to the baseball world. Or at least those who didn’t watch Jeter run the show for four years.
Here’s a big example: The baseball draft was held Sunday and if one pick sticks on the 40-man roster it will equal how many of Jeter’s draft picks are on the roster now. He planned to build through the draft, too. Catcher Nick Fortes (fourth round, 2018) is the only one on his picks with the Marlins.
It’s been a surprise to the point people point at the Heat and Panthers say the Marlins are next. But the Heat and Panthers were dreadful much of the regular season. The Marlins are having a regular season no one saw coming.
“I like where we are,’’ Schumaker said.
Or, as Myers said, “I just want this to keep going.”