The Marlins are good? They’re off to a strong start

(Associated Press)

(Associated Press)

brushback_harperA week into the season, the Miami Marlins, who open a three-game series against the Nationals on Tuesday, and the San Francisco Giants have the best record in baseball at 5-2. After controversial fire-sales before the 2013 season, the Marlins finished 62-100 under first-year Manager Mike Redmond. The offense was the worst in baseball, but the young pitching acquired in all those trades flashed their potential.

Jose Fernandez had a mind boggling season for a 20-year-old who was called up from high Class A: a 12-6 record, a 2.19 ERA, a 175 ERA+ and the National League rookie of the year award. Starter Henderson Alvarez threw a no-hitter while fellow starter Nathan Eovaldi threw gas. Closer Steve Cishek saved 34 games.

Last September, a Nationals coach lauded the Marlins young arms, estimating they would be much improved in a year or two. “They’re going to be good,” he said. So far this season, the Marlins pitching has been dominant. The team has a 2.43 ERA, the fifth best mark in baseball. The much-improved bullpen has allowed one earned run in 22 1/3 innings.

In an age of baseball where nearly every pitcher throws, at least, in the mid-90s, the Marlins are loaded with fireballers. Fernandez is averaging 95.3 mph on his fastball, Eovaldi is averaging 95.8 mph, Alvarez is throwing 93-mph fastballs, fifth starter Tom Koehler is averaging 92.6 mph and other starter Jacob Turner throws only 90.9 mph fastballs. Based on the pitching probables, the Nationals will be lucky to miss Fernandez and Eovaldi but are scheduled to face Alvarez on Tuesday, Turner on Wednesday and Koehler on Thursday.

The most surprising part about the Marlins fast start? The offense. Last season, Miami ranked last in the majors with 3.17 runs per game. Through seven games this year, the Marlins are scoring six runs per game, and have scored 42 overall. Over 162 games, those numbers will stabilize, but it’s clear the Marlins will have a better lineup around star slugger Giancarlo Stanton. He saw few fastballs in a weak 2013 lineup and still managed to hit 24 home runs and drive in 62 runs with a .845 OPS. The Marlins added Casey McGehee, Garrett Jones, Jeff Baker and Jarrod Saltalamacchia in the offseason. Stanton is off to a scoring start with two home runs, 12 RBI and 1.061 OPS.

With the Philadelphia Phillies aging and hurt, the Marlins are a dark-horse candidate to finish above them in the National League East standings and perhaps even threaten with a .500 record. To do so, the Marlins will rely on their promising pitching staff but need help from their offense.

FROM THE POST

The Nationals need to put third baseman Ryan Zimmerman out of pain and into a position where he can succeed, writes Thomas Boswell.

Matt Williams’s less intense side used to include impressions of players and managers, including a tremendous video of his Babe Ruth impersonation.

FROM YESTERDAY’S JOURNAL

Anthony Rendon off to a hot start

The challenge of baseball’s instant replay system

Takeaways from the first Nationals-Braves series

MINOR LEAGUE BOX SCORES

Pawtucket 3, Syracuse 2: Blake Treinen allowed two unearned runs on three hits over five innings and struck out four. Xavier Cedeno threw two scoreless innings and struck out three. Brandon Laird, Eury Perez, Jhonatan Solano and Emmanuel Burriss each notched two hits.

Harrisburg was postponed.

Potomac 6, Carolina 4: Pedro Encarnacion allowed one run over four innings and walked four while striking out two. Oscar Tejeda went 1 for 4 with two RBI. Stephen Perez went 2 for 4.

Hagerstown was postponed.

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Anthony Rendon off to a hot start