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Monday, September 28, 2020 1:37am

Marlins blank Orioles in long-awaited return following coronavirus outbreak


BALTIMORE — A season of delays produced another one for the Miami Marlins.

The start of Miami’s first game in nine days was delayed 40 minutes as Major League Baseball awaited final coronavirus test results to clear the Marlins to resume play Tuesday at Baltimore.

Multiple coronavirus tests for the Marlins came back inconclusive but were rerun, and all came back negative, a source confirmed to ESPN’s Jeff Passan.

The Marlins were finally cleared to play and arrived at Camden Yards after 5 p.m. ET, but by 6:15 p.m., the teams still had not agreed on a starting time, which was eventually set for 8:15 p.m., 40 minutes past the originally scheduled 7:35 start.

The wait proved worth it. Back from an eight-day hiatus, the Marlins found enough power and pitching within their vastly overhauled roster to beat the Orioles 4-0. Francisco Cervelli and Jesus Aguilar homered for the Marlins.

All the happiness that playing baseball brings was displayed when Cervelli slammed a 3-1 pitch from John Means over the left-field wall to give Miami a 1-0 lead in the fifth. The players in the dugout cheered, and Cervelli saluted them as the rounded third and headed for home.

“These guys love to play, right? That’s what you see,” manager Don Mattingly said. “We’ve been in a hotel for a long time. Guys are happy to be out.”

Once they finally got back on the diamond, the Marlins backed up the assertion of president of baseball operations Michael Hill, who said beforehand: “We expect to win games.”

So does Mattingly.

“We lost some guys, but we like our guys who are coming up,” he said.

The Marlins put a whopping 17 players on the injured list, and starting second baseman Isan Diaz opted out for the rest of the season. They showed up with an equal number of replacements on their 30-man roster — some from their minor league camp, others obtained via trade and a few plucked off the waiver wire. They included an Olympic short track speed skating medalist who had yet to play in the majors (middle infielder Eddy Alvarez) and a couple of pitchers named Josh Smith (Josh A. Smith and Josh D. Smith).

“I won’t say it was a call to arms,” Hill said. “It was a call in need of arms.”

In the wake of their ordeal, the Marlins are technically in first place in the NL East. At 3-1, they have the best winning percentage in the division.

Teams are scheduled for only 60 games each this season and it’s possible not every club will play that many because of disruptions. In that case, with 16 of 30 clubs making the playoffs, the postseason field would be determined by winning percentage.

“We’ve just got to try to hold down the fort and get some guys back, survive this trip and see where we’re at,” Mattingly said. “This one felt good. We’ve been through a lot.”

“I’m going to have to write a book after this one,” he added. “You get tested and you persevere and you learn from a lot of situations.”

The virus infected 21 members of the Marlins’ traveling party and forced the suspension of their season July 26 after just three games. The roster overhaul that has followed will test a farm system much improved since Derek Jeter’s group bought the franchise nearly three years ago.

“We have been able to acquire layers of talent,” Hill said, “and while you never anticipate having to replace 18 players, it’s a credit to the work we’ve done organizationally to build depth to absorb what we are doing today.

“No one is making excuses. We know we have a job to do and we’re ready to go.”

Tuesday’s game, the beginning of a four-game series, was a makeup from July 29, which was supposed to be Baltimore’s home opener. The Orioles instead played the New York Yankees.

ESPN’s Jamison Hensley and The Associated Press contributed to this report.



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