Sanchez, Marlins can’t escape early deficit against Mets as four-game winning streak ends

A four-run first inning by the New York Mets proved to be all the offense they needed as they salvaged the final game of a three-game set in Miami, outscoring the Marlins 7-3. The loss snapped Miami’s season-best four-game win streak as the team fell to 15-33.

Right-hander Sixto Sanchez made the start for the Marlins on Sunday, his first career appearance against the Mets. It was immediately apparent that something was off with Sanchez as his velocity was down significantly on all his pitches (he threw a couple of fastballs below 90 mph).

“I think it has to do with my arm positioning,” said Sanchez after the game through a translator. “I think it’s also about warming up better and being able to execute my pitches more effectively.”

The first inning has not been kind to Sanchez in 2024, and that trend continued Sunday. Following New York’s four-run outburst, Sanchez’s 2024 first-inning ERA ballooned to 19.80 (his ERA in all other innings this season is 3.32).

“That’s unacceptable in the first inning,” said manager Skip Schumaker postgame. “If he wants to start at this level, he will have to be better; it’s just what it is. We have to figure if the problem is in his bullpens, if we need to have an opener, not sure. But that just can’t happen at this level.”

When Sanchez returned to the dugout after the almost 18-minute first, Schumaker took him down into the tunnel to ensure his starting pitcher was OK. “We had to have a heart-to-heart with Stott [Mel Stottlemyre Jr., Miami’s pitching coach]. Obviously, he was better in the second through fourth inning, but he put us in a hole early, and at this level, it’s tough to come back from four runs every single time.”

Apparently the chat helped. Following the laborious 40-pitch first, Sanchez settled in and didn’t allow a run for the rest of his outing. His final line was four innings pitched, six hits, four earned runs, two walks and two strikeouts. Sanchez’s velocity returned after the first inning (averaging 94 mph on his fastball).

When asked to explain the extreme fluctuation in his velocity, Sanchez said, “Just need to work harder in the training room while warming up. To be fully sure that I’m warming up correctly and executing.”

“It’s frustrating because this has been a pattern. You’re not going to have swing-and-miss when your first pitch is 87 mph,” Schumaker said. “We’ve tried fewer pitches in the bullpen, more time in the weight room, less time in the weight room. We’ve tried it all, so we have to figure it out.”

Sanchez’s tenure with the Marlins began in February 2019 when he was acquired in a trade that sent star catcher JT Realmuto to Philadelphia. After an impressive rookie season in 2020, repeated shoulder injuries sidelined him from 2021 through 2023.

In addition to having a surprisingly dominant spring training this year, Sanchez was out of minor-league options, so Miami added him to their Opening Day roster to avoid the risk of losing him to waivers. After pitching out of the bullpen for the first three weeks of the season, Sanchez has since slid into Miami’s starting rotation.

“I’m not going to give up on him, but he’s not a top prospect anymore. It’s time to go,” added Schumaker.

As has been the case lately, Miami’s offense kept the game close most of the afternoon. Outfielder Dane Myers hit his first home run of the season in the second to cut the four-run deficit in half. In the bottom of the seventh, catcher Christian Bethancourt launched his first homer as a Marlin to cut it to one.

The Mets continued to lead by one until Anthony Bender allowed three runs in the ninth, highlighted by a towering two-run home run by Brandon Nimmo to put the game away.

Following their third series win of the season, the Marlins will welcome the Milwaukee Brewers to town to begin a three-game set Monday. Left-hander Ryan Weathers will start for Miami.