Surprising Marlins chase sweep of Orioles

MLB

Baltimore Orioles left-hander Wade LeBlanc, who turns 36 on Friday, will be hoping for an early birthday present when he faces the red-hot Miami Marlins in the finale of a four-game series on Thursday.

LeBlanc (1-0, 4.09 ERA) is on his eighth major league team, but if he can beat the Marlins, he would even his 12-year career record at 47-47. His career ERA is 4.45.

In two starts this season, LeBlanc has a 0.818 WHIP, which would easily be a career-best mark. He has allowed just eight hits and one walk in 11 innings.

The Orioles have won both games started by LeBlanc this season, beating the Boston Red Sox 7-4 on July 26 and defeating the Tampa Bay Rays 5-4 on Saturday. LeBlanc pitched into the sixth inning in both games but did not finish the frame.

“Pitching to both sides of the plate, changing speeds, front-door cutter, back-door cutter, changeup off of that, pitching inside, pitching ahead,” Orioles manager Brandon Hyde said of LeBlanc after the win against the Red Sox.

On Thursday, the Orioles hope to give LeBlanc similar run support as in his two previous starts. But runs have been tough to produce against Miami in the current series. Baltimore has just one run in 23 innings against a no-name Marlins staff.

Miami used five pitchers to blank the Orioles 4-0 on Tuesday. The Marlins then used four pitchers to shut out Baltimore 1-0 in the first game of Wednesday’s doubleheader. In the nightcap, Miami used five pitchers to nail down a 2-1 win.

LeBlanc hasn’t faced the Marlins since 2017, and Miami’s roster has almost completely turned over since then. For what it’s worth, LeBlanc had a 9.00 ERA in two relief outings against the Marlins in 2017, totaling four innings.

Miami’s current roster is a hodge-podge affair due to 18 Marlins players being sidelined after testing positive for COVID-19.

Even so, the Marlins (5-1) are managing to play good baseball, leading the National League East in winning percentage. Miami is 3-0 since returning from a week of postponements, with all three wins in Baltimore. For the second game Wednesday, the Marlins were the designated home team even while playing in Oriole Park at Camden Yards, and the same will be true Thursday.

When the Orioles finally scored in the sixth inning of Wednesday’s nightcap, it snapped Miami’s streak of 24 consecutive scoreless innings. The last team to score on Miami had been the Philadelphia Phillies on July 26.

The Marlins have cooled off an Orioles team that entered this series coming off a three-game sweep of the Tampa Bay Rays.

Because of all the positive COVID-19 tests, the Marlins had to replace 10 pitchers, and they did so with waiver pick-ups, trades and rookie call-ups.

In the nightcap Wednesday, three pitchers made their Marlins debut: right-handed starter Josh Smith and righty relievers Sterling Sharp and Justin Shafer. For Sharp, 25, it was also his major league debut, and he fired 1 2/3 scoreless innings.

Sharp, who gave up one hit and struck out one, was thrilled with his debut and the team win.

“You can feel it in the clubhouse,” Sharp said. “This is a fun team to be around right now.”

–Field Level Media

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