Thu, 21 Sep 2023

Surging Marlins vie for series sweep of Athletics

Field Level Media
04 Jun 2023, 20:55 GMT+10

One of the advantages of hiring a new manager is that every player gets a fresh opportunity.

The Miami Marlins, led by new manager Skip Schumaker, are making the most of their chances lately.

The host Marlins will bid for their seventh win in nine outings overall and a three-game sweep of theOakland Athletics on Sunday afternoon.

Jesus Sanchez is one of those players who is thriving under Schumaker. The 25-year-old outfielder currently owns a career-high .964 OPS.

Sanchez is heading toward his third full season in the majors. He has shown power, hitting 27 homers over his first two full years in just 540 at-bats.

But he will enter Sunday with a .317 batting average -- much higher than his .233 career mark.

Indeed, Sanchez has come a long way this year.

"He didn't have a great spring training," Schumaker said. "It was just OK. I was trying to figure him out. I think he was learning our hitting coaches and building relationships."

Three months later, Sanchez's hard work is paying off as the lefty hitter has become adept at slugging to the opposite field.

"He's becoming a complete hitter," Schumaker said. "He is game-planning."

Sanchez figures to be in the lineup on Sunday as Oakland is scheduled to start right-hander Paul Blackburn (0-0, 2.25 ERA).

Miami will start reigning National League Cy Young Award winner Sandy Alcantara (2-5, 4.93).

Blackburn, a 29-year-old who was the Chicago Cubs' first-round pick in 2012, has yet to face the Marlins. His career record is 13-17 with a 5.04 ERA in 52 appearances, including 49 starts.

He has pitched just once in the majors this season, allowing one run in four innings against the Braves on Monday. Oakland won that game as Blackburn struck out six.

Blackburn hopes to boost the A's, who have lost 14 of their past 16 games overall and 13 straight road contests.

"He brings confidence on the mound," A's manager Mark Kotsay said. "He knows how to manage a game."

Meanwhile, the Marlins are on a roll, outscoring Oakland 16-1 in this series.

Second baseman Luis Arraez leads the majors with a .390 batting average, going 5-for-5 with five RBIs and three doubles on Saturday. His five hits were a career high.

Alcantara, though, is having an off year as the Marlins are 3-8 when he starts. He had a 5.04 ERA through April, and it was only slightly better in May (4.85). He has yet to face the A's in his career.

Still, the way the A's have struggled to score in this series, Alcantara could get back on track Sunday.

Kotsay is well aware of his team's long string of losses through 60 games (12-48).

"We have to be in the present and understand the small victories," Kotsay said. "Rather than dwell on negatives, we focus on the positives and build confidence for the next steps."

--Field Level Media

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