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Miami Marlins have turned one-run games into a winning strategy

Miami Marlins

The Miami Marlins posted 10 one-run victories out of their first 16 this year. What makes this remarkable is that the Marlins were 10-0 in one-run games as of Thursday, the only big-league team unblemished in this category.

“One month. We’ll see what happens, right?” quipped rookie manager Skip Schumaker.

But then what makes this even more remarkable is the Marlins’ record in one-run games last year. They were 24-40, by far the worst record in the majors. Many of the players are still here and Schumaker told Sportsnaut that “having a start like this really helps a lot of these guys who went through something like that last year.

“It’s really challenging when you get ‘walked off,’ or you get the lead and it gets stolen from you late and you lose by one. Now, these guys understand that we can win these games. Kim (general manager Kim Ng) really addressed the back end of the bullpen.”

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Among the moves Ng made was a spring training swap where she sent disappointing slugger J.J. Bleday to Oakland for right-hander reliever A.J. Puk, who has become the closer. Former Boston All-Star Matt Barnes has helped, as has Bryan Floro.

“I always like ex-closers, guys who have been in those situations,” said Schumaker. “They have been in those situations before so you can put them in the sixth or seventh inning.”

And left-hander Tanner Scott had 20 saves for the Marlins last year.

Puk had five saves, three wins, an 0.73 earned run average and an 0.873 WHIP with 13 strikeouts and two walks for his first 12 innings.

What the trade for Luis Arraez has meant to Miami Marlins

luis arraez
Kyle Ross-USA TODAY Sports

Some of the one-run wins are a result of offense and no player has been better this year than Minnesota acquisition Luis Arraez, who has been hitting .432 and whom Schumaker admits he has compared to Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn, another left-handed hitter. 

“I took some heat for it because he’s as close as I’ve seen for a long time,” Schumaker said.

“In a game where all is talked about is the home run, this guy doesn’t get talked about enough —what a pure hitter he really is. He hits righties and lefties. He just kind looks at which hole he wants to hit it to. It’s pretty amazing to watch. We needed a guy like that.”

Arraez was acquired for top starter Pablo Lopez. “It was a gamble,” said Schumaker. “But it worked out really well for us. He’s got like a .500 on-base percentage, which is incredible.”

In the good news/bad news department, the Miami Marlins were tied for second with the New York Mets in the National League Eastern Division before Thursday’s games. Bad news is that the Marlins are only 1-5 against the division-leading Atlanta Braves and 2-5 against the Mets, having been outscored 48-19 by Atlanta and 29-20 by New York.

The Marlins have been outscored by nearly two runs a game when they don’t win by one run.

The good news is that they already have completed more than half their schedule against those two teams and the Marlins are 13-5 against everybody else. And reigning Cy Young Award winner Sandy Alcantara, who has had to deal with a biceps annoyance is healthy, said Schumaker, even though Alcanatara has but one win.

“At the end of the year, after 35 starts, he’s going to be just fine,” said Schumaker. “That’s the one guy that I’m not going to worry about because the ‘velo’ is there and the health is there.”

The 43-year-old Schumaker, a member of the 2011 St. Louis Cardinals World Series champions, was asked if his hair color was turning gray yet, given the many tight games the Marlins have survived.

“I shave it all off,” he joked. “So I don’t know. I don’t want to know. I shave it so you can’t tell.” 

Rick Hummel, who was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame for baseball writing, is the baseball columnist for Sportsnaut.

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