Luzardo leads Marlins to a 1-0 victory vs. Brewers with perhaps best start of his career

Marlins opening day starter Jesus Luzardo has struggled to recreate the results of his breakout 2023 season. The Marlins went 0-4 in his first four starts.

Six days after his fifth start of the year, on April 20, Luzardo was placed on the 15-day injured list with left elbow tightness. “I feel like there’s always a level of concern, as a pitcher, when it’s the elbow or shoulder, but this isn’t anything that I’m too worried about,” said Luzardo on April 26.

His ERA at the time of his injury was 6.58.

Luzardo was correct in not being too worried. He only spent the minimum 15 days on the IL and returned to Miami’s rotation on May 11. Since then, he has made three starts, progressively looking more like the Luzardo of 2023.

And it culminated Wednesday night when Luzardo had arguably the best start of his young career. In Miami’s 1-0 win over the Milwaukee Brewers, Luzardo went a career-high eight innings, allowed three hits, struck out four and didn’t allow a walk or run.

“I think me and Nick [Fortes, the catcher] took a really good plan that we established with Mel [Stottlemyre Jr., the Marlins’ pitching coach] and I thought we executed it very well tonight,” said Luzardo after Wednesday’s performance.

Despite a subtle dip in velocity, Luzardo was still able to keep Brewers hitters off balance and pitch deep into the game, something he has been adamant about doing more often. “Strikeouts, for me, they’re just not that important. It’s more about getting deeper in the game, giving our team a chance to compete and, you know, saving the bullpen at the end of the day.”

Luzardo has surrendered only one walk in 19 2/3 innings in his three starts since his return.

Luzardo also gave credit to Fortes, his caughter for his past 40 starts. “We’re always on the same page,” said Luzardo of Fortes. “He already knows what I’m thinking. He knows what I want to do after a certain pitch and we have a great relationship in that sense. It’s easy for me to throw to him when I view him like a brother.”

Additionally, Wednesday was the fourth shutout Fortes has caught in his last seven games behind the plate.

What’s been the difference for Luzardo since returning from the IL? “His swagger is back,” said manager Skip Schumaker before Wednesday’s career outing against Milwaukee. “I also think it was just the relief that nothing was physically wrong, that it was maybe a little arm fatigue, and I think mentally, he just let it go.”

Arm injuries are a concern for any pitcher, but for Luzardo, the worry is more intense due to his history of elbow trouble. During his senior year at Stoneman Douglas, in Parkland Luzardo underwent Tommy John surgery a few months before being drafted by the Washington Nationals.

“You can just see the confidence back, almost like the opening day Zeus’; you can just see that swagger again,” added Schumaker.

The swagger certainly was there in Wednesday’s contest as he earned his second win of the season. The game’s lone run came in the first inning when Jazz Chisholm Jr. launched his seventh career leadoff home run.

“Before the game, I saw a notification that [Luis] Arraez hit a home run, so that pumped me up a bit,” said Chisholm.

Miami (17-34) secured their third consecutive series win Wednesday night.