The road trip lasted 23 days and featured 12 games, five cities, four states and one week of quarantine to contain a coronavirus outbreak that created the extended stay in the northeast.
But after more than three weeks, the Miami Marlins have returned home.
The team landed in Miami around 4 a.m. Thursday after their 14-11 extra-innings win over the Toronto Blue Jays at Sahlen Field in Buffalo, New York, to split the two-game series and ensure the Marlins (8-4) would be in first place in the National League East when they host the Atlanta Braves starting Friday for their home opener at Marlins Park.
Even with the setbacks — namely a COVID-19 outbreak that has 18 players quarantining in South Florida, forced a slew of roster moves, kept the Marlins off the field for a week and created havoc on their schedule to make sure they have a chance to play all 60 games — Miami still came out of the trip winning two-thirds of its games.
“This trip had a little bit of everything,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. “We hung in there. We played some pretty good ball. We had a disaster at the beginning of it in Philly. I don’t know how to describe it. We had a fire alarm at the hotel [Wednesday] at midnight. It just goes on and on.”
The trip was originally only supposed to be six days, two in Atlanta for a pair of exhibition games and then four in Philadelphia for a three-game series against the Phillies.
But a COVID-19 outbreak inside the team’s traveling party forced them to quarantine at their hotel for a week, missing seven games in the process. When they resumed with a roster consisting of 13 players from their Opening Day roster and 17 players brought in from their alternate training site, waiver wires, free agency and trades, it continued on the road. Four games in Baltimore against the Orioles (two with Miami being the designated home team). Three in Queens, New York, against the Mets. And two in Buffalo against the Toronto Blue Jays.
July 21 to Aug. 12. All on the road.
“I am really excited to get home,” Mattingly said. “I know our guys are. It’s been a long time. You think you’re leaving for a few days. You pack hardly enough and the next thing you know it’s a month later and you have to pay rent again.”
The road trip, by the numbers
Just how successful was the extended trip from a baseball standpoint? Here’s a quick look, by the numbers.
▪ .667: The Marlins’ win percentage through its 12-game road trip. It’s tied with the Colorado Rockies for the second-best mark in the National League, training only the Chicago Cubs (.800). The Braves, who sit in second in the NL East, are 11-9 (.550) heading into the weekend series at Marlins Park.
▪ 45: Total number of players the Marlins have used so far this season, including 26 pitchers. For context, the Marlins used 50 total players and only 25 total pitchers all of last season — 26 if you include catcher Bryan Holaday’s one relief appearance.
▪ 9: Marlins players who have made their MLB debuts this year. The group includes pitchers Nick Neidert, Alex Vesia, Jordan Holloway, Sterling Sharp, Jorge Guzman, Humberto Mejia and Daniel Castano; outfielder Monte Harrison; and infielder Eddy Alvarez.
▪ 4-1: The Marlins’ record in one-run games. In 2019, Miami went 16-28 in games decided by one run.
▪ .311: First baseman Jesus Aguilar’s batting average. He ranks 22nd among all qualified hitters in the league and fourth among first basemen. Aguilar is also second on the team with 12 RBI, four of which came Wednesday against Toronto. Aguilar has also struck out just six times in 51 plate appearances.
Home sweet home
Now, the season continues for the next week in Miami. It starts with the Marlins hosting the Braves for three games before a four-game set against the New York Mets takes place Monday through Thursday.
The comforts of home will be nice, but the Marlins know they need to keep increasing the level of competition if they want to hold onto their lead in the division.
“With all the inconvenience and everything that happened, I truly feel happy to be going back to Miami,” outfielder Magneuris Sierra said through an interpreter. “I’m going to see my family and just be there with them. We’re going to Miami, and we’re going to play more baseball there.”
Prior to the home opener on Friday, the Marlins will hold virtual ceremonial first pitches recognizing South Florida’s frontline workers, a moment of silence to honor Cuban Baseball Hall of Famer Tony Taylor as well as those who lost their lives to COVID-19 and an unveiling of a center-field banner recognizing racial equality.