The Milwaukee Brewers have at least one major edge over the host Miami Marlins during a three-game weekend series that continues Saturday, and it comes at the closer position.
Milwaukee, which beat Miami 2-1 on Friday, is led by left-hander Josh Hader, who has been selected the National League Reliever of the Year three times over the past four seasons. He got the save in the series opener with a perfect ninth inning.
Hader was better than ever last year, posting a career-best 1.23 ERA with 34 saves in 35 chances. This year, Hader has a 0.00 ERA with 18 strikeouts in 12 1/3 innings. He is 13-for-13 on save chances and has allowed just two hits and five walks.
Hader reached 500 career strikeouts in just 293 2/3 innings on Wednesday, making him the second-fastest pitcher in major-league history to hit that milestone. Only Aroldis Chapman got there quicker, in 292 innings.
Hader's 13 saves in 13 appearances to start a season are a major-league record.
Brewers manager Craig Counsell said Hader, 28, makes his job easier.
"If it's possible," Counsell said, "he's only getting better."
Miami, meanwhile, has had much less certainty at the closer role. The Marlins started last season with Anthony Bass, a move that lasted just one week when he blew his first two save chances.
Dylan Floro, 31, who made his major-league debut in 2016, became a first-time closer last year. He got his first save on May 24 and finished the year by nailing down 15 in 21 tries while posting a 2.81 ERA.
This year, however, Floro started the season on the injured list due to a sore arm. He made his 2022 debut on Tuesday, allowing four hits, one walk and three runs in one inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Anthony Bender, who had a 2.79 ERA in 2021 during an impressive rookie year, was handed the closer job this season. However, he has struggled, pitching to a 4.50 ERA and registering only six saves in eight chances before losing his closer role.
With the score tied in Friday's game, Marlins manager Don Mattingly used Tanner Scott to start the ninth inning, and the left-hander took the loss. Bender inherited a bases-loaded, no-out jam and walked Jace Peterson with one out to bring home the winning run.
As for the starters on Saturday, Miami will go with left-hander Trevor Rogers (1-4, 5.00 ERA) while Milwaukee will start lefty Eric Lauer (3-0, 1.82).
The Marlins are just 1-5 when Rogers starts, but he is coming off his best performance of the year. On Sunday, he pitched five scoreless innings against the San Diego Padres, scattering five hits and two walks.
In two career starts against the Brewers -- both last year -- Rogers is 2-0 with an ERA of 0.82 and 13 strikeouts in 11 innings.
Lauer's history against the Marlins is quite the opposite. In three appearances against Miami, including two starts, he is 0-2 with a 7.71 ERA.
This season, the Brewers are 5-0 with Lauer on the mound. He has made four consecutive quality starts, allowing a total of four runs, three earned, in 25 1/3 innings.
Lauer has struck out 32 over his past 19 1/3 innings.
It remains to be seen if Lauer will face Avisail Garcia on Saturday after the Marlins slugger left the Friday game before the start of the seventh inning.
"Something happened to his stomach," Mattingly said. "He was throwing up. He tried to go back out, but there was no reason to push him back on the field."
--Field Level Media