Surging Marlins aim to solve Kodai Senga, Mets

Field Level Media

September 20, 2023 at 11:50 am.

New York Mets right-hander Kodai Senga probably isn’t the pitcher the Miami Marlins want to see right now.

The Marlins (79-73), who are a half-game behind the Chicago Cubs for the third and final wild-card berth in the National League, will host the Mets (70-81) on Wednesday evening in the finale of their three-game series.

But Senga is 2-0 with a 1.59 ERA in two starts against the Marlins this season.

Then again, Senga has been good against just about everybody this year, as he is 11-7 with a 2.95 ERA overall.

In fact, he likely is contention for NL Rookie of the Year honors and also the Cy Young Award.

“He’s got to be thought about for those awards. He has to be in the discussion,” Mets manager Buck Showalter said of Senga, a 30-year-old who won 104 games with a 2.42 ERA while playing pro baseball in his native Japan from 2012-22.

“A lot of those awards are decided by how you end your season, and he’s doing his part.”

Showalter is right.

Senga is 4-2 with a 2.47 ERA in 11 starts in the second half of this season. Better yet, he is 1-0 with a 1.42 ERA in three September starts.

Using his famed “ghost forkball” and a 95-to-99-mph fastball, Senga is one of just two pitchers in the majors this year with an ERA lower than 3.00 and a strikeout rate of at least 11 batters per nine innings. The other is San Diego’s Blake Snell, a favorite for the NL Cy Young Award.

Senga, however, will face a Marlins team that has won four of its past five games, including a 4-3 walk-off victory over the Mets on Tuesday night.

Marlins manager Skip Schumaker was thrilled with the win even though his team made two errors and one glaring base-running mistake.

“Not all wins are pretty,” he said. “That was not our cleanest game. It was messy.”

The Marlins played on Tuesday without star second baseman Luis Arraez, who leads the majors with a .354 batting average. He sprained his left ankle after bobbling a ball and stepping on it during pre-game fielding practice and is considered day-to-day.

The Marlins also got a scare in the seventh inning when reliever A.J. Puk was hit in the back by a 97-mph liner off the bat of New York’s Brandon Nimmo.

However, Schumaker said after the game that Puk is “fine.”

On Wednesday, the Marlins will start rookie right-hander Eury Perez (5-5, 3.06 ERA). Perez, 20, has fared well at home, posting a 3-1 record with a 1.69 ERA in eight starts.

However, the slender 6-foot-8, 220-pound phenom seemingly has run out of gas in the second half of the season. He went 5-3 with a 2.36 ERA in 11 first-half starts. In seven second-half starts, he is 0-2 with a 4.11 ERA.

Perez has yet to face the Mets in his career.

On the injury front, the Marlins saw the return of outfielder Bryan De La Cruz on Tuesday. After missing four straight games due to a right ankle injury, he went 1-for-4.

For the Mets, rookie third baseman Brett Baty missed his sixth straight game due to a groin injury.

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