Jesús Luzardo’s start against the Atlanta Braves on Monday night was monumental in more ways than one.
The lefty tied his career-best strikeouts in a single game (12). He held one of the best teams in baseball scoreless through six innings.
Luzardo’s performance, in conjunction with Bryan De La Cruz’s hot bat, led the Miami Marlins to a 4-0 win over the Braves — just the fifth Braves shutout of the season and the first time the Marlins (68-92) blanked Atlanta since Sept. 8, 2020.
While the win doesn’t have much of an impact on the Marlins’ close to the season future, it did leave a significant part of the 2022 playoff landscape undetermined.
The race between the Braves (100-60) and the New York Mets (98-61) to clinch the NL East remains ongoing after Atlanta’s loss Monday and the postponement of New York’s game against the Washington Nationals earlier in the evening. Atlanta wins the division title and a first-round bye in the playoffs with either one over Miami or one Mets loss to the Nationals.
“Being a spoiler, it gives you a little giddy up for sure,” Luzardo said after the game. “Gives you another reason to go out there and try to your best. I’m glad we were able to spoil a little bit, put that champagne on ice at least for another day.”
The last time Luzardo pitched against Atlanta on Aug. 13, he allowed four runs on seven hits with two walks and six strikeouts over five innings. On Monday he threw 101 pitches (67 strikes), allowing four hits and walking one batter to go along with his dozen strikeouts.
Luzardo’s start marked No. 18 this season, matching his career-high. His six innings pitched set a career-high with 100 1/3 on the year. With his last pitch of the game, Luzardo struck out his 120th batter this season – another career high.
His stat line improved greatly from 2021 to 2022. Luzardo went from a 6.61 ERA last year to 3.32. His WHIP dropped from 1.62 in 2021 to 1.04. His batting average against sat at .280 last year versus .191.
“I try not to look at numbers and stuff like that, but for sure health, which obviously the injury, but I finished the year strong and finished it healthy,” Luzardo said reflecting on how the 2022 season fared against his expectations. “Just glad that I was able to come back and bounce back off of last year. I felt like last year was so much of, I wouldn’t even say up and downs, just mainly downs. So being able to come back this year and maintain, come bounce back off bad starts, was really important to me.”
De La Cruz played a role in every Marlins run scored Monday night.
He started with a one-out, RBI double, which sent Jon Berti home (singled, stolen base plus error) to put the Marlins up 1-0 in the bottom of the first. An RBI double from Jesús Sánchez two at-bats later allowed De La Cruz to score, extending Miami’s lead to 2-0.
De La Cruz then smacked a two-RBI homer to center field in the bottom of the third to make it 4-0 Marlins.
A two-out single in the bottom of the seventh had De La Cruz finish just a triple shy of what would have been the first cycle in Marlins history. It was the third time in nine games he’d been in that exact situation.
“This is me,” De La Cruz said of his recent productivity. “This is the guy showed I can be last year. And this is the guy who’s gonna continue for the rest of his career.”
Miami plays Atlanta in the second of a three-game home series Tuesday at 6:40 p.m.
This and that
▪ Jon Berti stole his 40th base of the season in the bottom of the first inning. In doing so he became the 10th Marlin in franchise history to do so and the first since Dee Strange-Gordon in 2017.