BY SCOTT MORGANROTH
There is nothing better than taking a trip down memory lane from time to time.
So this the perfect opportunity to do just that.
We all know that life and the sports world has been in flux since the COVID-19 outbreak turned our society upside down during the early part of 2020.
FaceTime and Zoom have emerged as the new trends of seeing your friends, family and conducting meetings.
When the Los Angeles Dodgers appeared on the Miami Marlins schedule during a time that I would be in South Florida and not traveling, there was no way that I wouldn’t attend at least one game on Thursday July 8, 2021.
During the years, I’ve experienced many great memories with both organizations.
My first major interview was with the late Hall of Fame Dodgers Manager Tom Lasorda at the 1981 Baseball Winter Meetings in the Diplomat Hotel (Hollywood, FL).
Throughout the years, I’ve covered the Dodgers in Spring Training in Vero Beach, Florida (Dodgertown) and Arizona.
There have been no shortage of memories with the Marlins as I’ve documented all-season long.
What makes today’s game with the Marlins and Los Angeles so special is Miami’s Manager Don Mattingly used to manage the Dodgers.
But the big reason I’m here is to see a team that I watched play against the Milwaukee Brewers on March 11, 2020 in Glendale, AZ at their Camelback Ranch facility.
On that day, it was neat attending a pre-game press conference with the Dodgers outfielder Mookie Betts and I spent time with Alanna Rizzo, who covered the Dodgers.
I met Alanna at the Southern California Sports Broadcasters Awards Luncheon in January of 2020.
The Dodgers defeated the Brewers 4-1 on that Cactus League Wednesday Night Game in the Valley of the Sun.
The starting pitcher for the Dodgers was ace Clayton Keyshaw.
This was no ordinary game. There was inclement weather throughout the day and I wondered whether they would get the game in.
Our planet was on pins and needles as COVID-19 was beginning to cause havoc in our society.
The reality is this Brewers contest turned out to be the last game of Spring Training as the COVID-19 cases continued to rise rapidly and MLB decided to shut things down.
Cancellations throughout the sports world were piling up.
The NBA, NHL suspended their seasons while MLB’s would be reduced to a 60 game campaign.
There would be no College World Series and March Madness.
This list goes on and on.
I tried to talk My father-in-law to come to the game as we were going to buy him a ticket.
Unfortunately, he wasn’t feeling well and never had a chance to see a Spring Training Game, flying in from Milwaukee, WI.
But that was then and this is now.
The Dodgers came to South Florida to face the Marlins at a crucial time from July 5-8. This four-game series was the most important one of the 2021 season for Miami.
The Marlins are in desperate need of momentum going into this weekend’s All-Star Break.
Will they be buyers or sellers at the July 30 trade deadline?
We’ll find out soon enough.
On Tuesday’s Media Availability Call with Mattingly, I asked the skipper how important this series was for his squad.
“It would be great to win at least three games and win the series.”
His team has responded to the challenge by defeating the Dodgers 5-4 on Monday, July 5, they won 2-1 in 10 innings on Tuesday, July 6 and on Wednesday, July 7, the bats came alive in a 9-6 triumph.
What Mattingly had hoped for did occur as the team did win three games, but it was unable to complete the four-game sweep.
Kershaw was scheduled to start on Thursday as he was placed on the 10-day Injured List with forearm inflammation but the injury will keep the southpaw out until after the All-Star Break.
Kershaw had a 9-7 record with a 3.39 ERA over 106.1 innings.
The pitching match-up we ended up getting was Julio Urias (10-3) facing Miami’s Sandy Alcantara (5-7).
After yielding a lead off home run to Jazz Chisholm Jr. that went 446 feet to right-center field in the bottom of the first inning, Urias looked strong as he pitched seven innings, gave up five hits, and held the Marlins to one run while striking out nine, and yielding two walks and giving up just one run.
The Dodgers used a balanced offensive attack and chased Alcantara after four innings for five runs to defeat Miami 6-1 in a game that lasted 3:05.
A crowd of 12,031 watched the Dodgers improve to 54-34 while Miami dropped to 38-48.
Urias improved his record to 11-3 while Alcantara dropped to 5-8.
The big story of this contest is what took place off the field as the Marlins picked up Mattingly’s option for the 2022 season.
GM Kim NG spoke to us during the bottom of the fourth inning.
The video is at the bottom of this story.
Mattingly, 60, is the franchise’s longest-tenured and winningest skipper. He entered this game with a 345-446 mark, (.436) in six seasons.
After consecutive last place seasons from 2018-19, he was named 2020 National League Manager of the Year for leading the underdog Marlins to their first playoff berth since 2003.
During that campaign, Miami dealt with a COVID-19 outbreak and 174 roster moves in a 60-game campaign.
During the video, I asked Ng a few questions but one of them was about the timing of the extension since Mattingly managed the Dodgers from 2011-2015, compiling a 446-363 record, including three straight NL West Division titles.
He became the 15th manager in Marlins history by signing a four-year deal in November 2015, then proceeded to sign a two-year contract extension with a mutual option for 2022 in September 2019.
The Marlins went 1-2 against the Atlanta Braves going into the All-Star Break and finished the first half of the season 39-50.
On Sunday, Pablo Lopez set a major league record by striking out the first nine hitters to start off a game leading the Marlins to a 7-4 win.
Lopez set the mark on the one-year anniversary of his father’s death.
The 25-year old Lopez broke the mark of eight straight strikeouts to begin a game set by Jim Deshaies in 1986 and matched by Jacob deGrom in 2014 and German Marquez in 2018.
Lopez (5-5) threw 30 of his first 35 pitches for strikes. The Venezuelan began the day with 102 strikeouts over 95 innings in 18 starts this season.
Lopez gave up three runs in six innings after his sensational start and he didn’t strike out anyone else in his final three innings. He gave up five hits and walked two, with 65 of his 83 pitches for strikes.
Miami’s biggest contribution came from Jesus Aguilar, who had a three-run homer and had four RBI.
Darby Swanson hit his 14th and 15th homers for Atlanta.
A crowd of 9,456 fans saw Lopez’s historic performance and there were 388 dogs on hand as part of the Miami Marlins first “Bark At The Park” promotion since 2019.
We’ll find out how the Marlins respond after the All-Star Break but at least one thing is for certain. Don Mattingly won’t have to worry about job security for the foreseeable future which suits me fine because I truly enjoy working with this classy manager!
Scott Morganroth can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and you can follow him on Twitter @TribuneSouth.
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