The Miami Marlins have punched their ticket to the NLDS with a 2-0 win over the Chicago Cubs in Game 2 of the best-of-three Wild Card Series on Friday at Wrigley Field. Hard-throwing rookie righty Sixto Sanchez threw five scoreless innings with six strikeouts in the win for the underdog Marlins. Garrett Cooper hit a solo home run for Miami and Magneuris Sierra added an RBI single for the game's only scoring.
With their sweep, the Marlins extended their undefeated postseason series streak. The club is now 7-0 in playoff series, having won the 1997 and 2003 World Series. The No. 6 seed Marlins will face the No. 2 seed Atlanta Braves in the best-of-five NLDS. Game 1 is scheduled for Tuesday.
Here are four takeaways from the series:
Pitchers duel with Darvish-Sanchez
Friday's game featured a fantastic pitching matchup with Cubs veteran right-hander and NL Cy Young candidate Yu Darvish facing off against Sanchez. Here's a look at both starters' final lines for the night:
Sanchez, just 22-years-old, came out on top in the duel. Having only made his MLB debut in August, the youngster looked primed for the big stage in his first career postseason start. Sanchez faced some trouble in the fifth inning when he found himself facing Cubs right fielder Kyle Schwarber with the bases loaded and two outs. He pitched himself out of the jam and got Schwarber to pop up on an 88 mph changeup for the final out.
We knew Sanchez had power on the mound, but now he's proven he's got poise too.
Sanchez definitely echoes Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez. In fact, Sanchez has cited him as his baseball idol and even has Pedro's No. 45 as a tattoo.
According to MLB's Sarah Langs, Sanchez is the seventh-youngest pitcher with a start of five or more scoreless innings pitched in his postseason debut. The only other younger pitchers to do it are Jim Palmer, Chief Bender, Steve Avery, Wally Bunker, Storm Davis and Waite Hoyt. Furthermore, Sanchez threw 65 of his 89 pitches Friday as four-seam fastballs, with a blistering average of 98.3 mph. In his start, the rookie hit the 100-mph or higher mark on seven pitches, tying him with Nathan Eovaldi for fourth most in a postseason start since the pitch tracking began back in 2008.
Darvish certainly had a solid start, as well, and he's been a steady presence for the Cubs throughout the regular season. The Cooper home run didn't come until his 90th pitch of the game. But Darvish's start was soured by Chicago's offense in Game 2, or lack thereof.
Cubs offense painfully quiet
Speaking of which, the Cubs scored just one run in the two-game series. In the Game 1 loss, the Cubs got their lone run on Ian Happ's two-out homer in the fifth inning. Happ had two of the Cubs' four hits in Game 1. The lineup was not any better in Game 2 with their 2-3-4 hitters ( Anthony Rizzo, Kyle Schwarber and Kris Bryant) going 0-for-11. Yikes. That's a main chunk of the club's championship core from their 2016 World Series run. Jason Heyward was the only one from that 2016 bunch to get a hit in the loss on Friday; he went 2-for-3 while Javier Baez was 0-for-4 with two strikeouts.
The Cubs haven't really found much postseason success since winning in 2016. With their Game 2 loss to the Marlins, the Cubs have now lost nine of their last 13 postseason games. With several of the team's core players nearing free agency, could this signal the end of the road for the group that helped Chicago get its first World Series in 108 years?
Marlins playoff magic continues
The Marlins have continued to add to their magical postseason resume. The franchise now owns a 7-0 playoff series record. The 2020 postseason is just the club's third playoff appearance and first since winning the 2003 World Series. Yes, the undefeated record is impressive. But, right now in this moment, what makes it more impressive is the fact that they added to the win column as major underdogs. Considering their NL Wild Card Series win comes just a few months after the team suffered a massive coronavirus outbreak at the start of the 2020 regular season, it's all the more remarkable.
Just days into the delayed and abbreviated 2020 season, the Marlins suffered at least 20 positive cases of the coronavirus, with 18 total players testing positive. The club was forced to quarantine in a hotel in Philadelphia before gaining clearance to resume their season. And once they did, they played several doubleheaders to make up for the postponed games.
The resiliency of this group of Marlins players is really something special to witness.
Unclear Marte's status of NLDS
As of now, it's unclear whether outfielder Starling Marte will be cleared to play during the Division Series. The Marlins trade deadline pickup suffered a broken hand on a hit by pitch in Game 1. Marte, 31, is arguably Miami's best all-around player. He did not play on Friday.
The club has Marte listed as day-to-day for now, and the Marlins hope he will be able to play through the injury later in the postseason. Marte suffered a nondisplaced fracture of the bone running between his left pinky and wrist on a fastball.