Game #18 First series this season with the Marlins brings new hope!

(Photo by Steve Mears for TalkNats)

If you have been to Marlins Park before, you might not recognize it now as it has been through some major renovations beyond the outfield walls. That should please those who constantly complained about the animatronic “home run” sculpture which was removed from behind the centerfield walls. That sculpture had a few dents in it from Nats players including Jayson Werth who hit “Homer” with his 200th career home run exactly 3 years ago. That area has been replaced by a new multi-level standing-room-only deck called the “Center Field Zone” — a “three-tier millennial park,” as majority owner  Bruce Sherman nicknamed it. That renovation seemed to finally change the interior look from former-owner Jeffrey Loria to the Jeter/Sherman era. There will be two standing-room only areas in the outfield for the 2019 season. The other will be located in right field. Tickets for these areas will be sold for a little as $8 per game. Will it increase attendance? We will see because Marlins ownership seems to be concentrating more on the fan experience than winning.

What became of the $2 million 75-foot home run sculpture named “Homer” you might ask? It was dismantled after last season and is reportedly being stored inside the ballpark awaiting the opportunity to be reassembled after this season on a plaza outside the stadium.

While the leftfield Clevelander remains intact, the rightfield area is new with a section called “Comunidad 305” which will allow fans to showcase their heritage and bring another form of energy to the crowd on game days according to Jeter. The team said the concept for this area was conceptualized from what they saw at the World Baseball Classic. Instruments, flags and noisemakers will be allowed in that area and tickets are planned to be $8 per game.

“It’s amazing that [all of the renovations] got done [before the season],” Sherman said. “That’s a great achievement. It was well researched. … This is an entertainment venue first, and I think we’ve got to provide entertainment. We’ve said that from Day 1.”

Rain is expected tonight in Miami so expect the roof to be closed. Currently, it is sunny and 84°F outside.  Anibal Sanchez is on the mound tonight for the Nationals and lefty Caleb Smith for the Marlins. Sanchez got his MLB career going with the Marlins so this is like being home for him. Last year in Miami, Sanchez dominated the Fish at a 1.59 ERA. These current Marlins do not have much history against him, and likewise the Nationals against Smith where there is little history. Going by splits, lefties have hit Smith better this year at an .800 OPS while righties are at .425. Last time out, Smith blanked the Phillies over 6 innings where he walked 3 batters but only 1 hit.

This is the first meeting this year between the two teams, and the managing owner of the Marlins just wants fans not to worry who wins or loses — just have a good time. That is the equivalent of saying the fans should expect the Marlins to lose but come out to the ballpark and spend money and enjoy the food and drinks.

“You come here to be entertained,” Jeter said in the off-season. “Sometimes people come to games and they don’t know who won or lost. They know if they have a good time, so we invested in their experience, but at the same time, we’ve also invested in our baseball operations department, so we have to get our house in order here, but at the same time, we also have to make sure that we improve on the baseball side.”

The one promise Jeter delivered on was removing the home run sculpture. With that gone, who knows what F.P. Santangelo will talk about on the MASN broadcast. For those wondering about the state of the Nats, there is some good preliminary data on WAR from Fangraphs. Highlighted are eight different points of under-performers so far this season. Of note, Stephen Strasburg is higlighted on the list. While Stras has positive WAR, his ERA of 5.56 has to improve. Every other player on the “watch” list has been covered before.

Of note, we covered last night in a tweet that Carter Kieboom has played 2nd base for the second consecutive game. Normally that would mean little, but this is the first time Kieboom has done this in his entire career. With Brian Dozier batting .176, this could be the time that general manager Mike Rizzo works on a backup plan.

Washington Nationals vs. Miami Marlins
Stadium:  Marlins Park, Miami, Florida
1st Pitch: 7:10 pm EDT
TV:   MASN2; MLB App out-of-market
Nats Radio: 106.7 The Fan and via the MLB app

Line-ups subject to change without notice:


Eaton RF
Rendon 3B
Soto LF
Zimmerman 1B
Suzuki C
Dozier 2B
Difo SS
Sánchez RHP
Robles CF

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