Miami Marlins manager Don Mattingly downplayed any perceived bad feelings in the relationship between his team and Atlanta Braves, blaming the umpires – not the Braves — for inflaming that situation on Friday when starter Pablo Lopez was ejected for hitting Atlanta’s Ronald Acuna Jr. with the first pitch of the game.
The two NL East rivals play the second game on Saturday afternoon in Atlanta. The Marlins could use a lengthy effort from starter Sandy Alcantara (4-7, 3.12 ERA), who will be opposed by rookie left-hander Kyle Muller (1-1, 2.70).
The fireworks from the first game won’t be soon forgotten. It was not the first time Acuna had been hit on the first pitch of the game by the Marlins, with the first one being in 2018 by Jose Urena, who now pitches for Detroit.
Atlanta manager Brian Snitker was outraged when the incident occurred. He stormed onto the field and demanded the umpires take action and eject Lopez.
“I was upset it was the third time they’d hit him with the first pitch of the game,” Snitker said. “I didn’t know what was going to happen. I’ve watched it too much.”
When the decision was made to eject Lopez, crew chief Dan Iassogna told Mattingly it was because of the history between the two clubs involving Acuna.
“There’s been history in the past with a guy who’s not with us anymore,” Mattingly said. “To throw Pablo out, basically they got bullied into it. To tell me this is history? It happened in 2018. He’s not the only guy who gets hit. We get hit plenty of times and we’re not complaining about it. It was mishandled.”
As a result of the ejection, the Marlins had to use five relievers to cover the nine innings. Ross Detwiler, who threw three innings, and Anthony Bender, who threw two innings, may be done for the series.
“It was just mishandled by the umpires,” Mattingly said. “It’s disappointing and it puts us in a bad spot the whole series. We had to run through the whole bullpen. It wasn’t on purpose. We have zero issues with the Braves. I understand Brian is going to be upset. It doesn’t look good, but there’s nothing there.”
Miami’s problem is trying to retire Acuna. In 52 career games against the Marlins, he is batting .330 with 12 doubles, one triple, 20 homers and 49 RBI. It was the fifth time in 240 plate appearances against Miami that he’s been hit by a pitch.
Alcantara will make his 18th start of the year and second against the Braves. He beat Atlanta on June 11 when he allowed two runs and struck out six over six innings. In his last start on Sunday, Alcantara gave up five runs (four earned) in 5 1/3 innings of a loss to Washington.
Muller, the Braves’ second-round draft pick from 2016, will make his fourth appearance and third start of his career. He was sharp in his last start Sunday at Cincinnati when he allowed one hit over five shutout innings and struck out nine.
–Field Level Media