Pablo Lopez spent the All-Star break to visit his girlfriend in Iowa and relaxed his arm as he played mid-school baseball in West Liberty, halfway between Muscatine and Iowa City. The rookie was back on the starting blocks on Saturday, when he started for the fourth time in the league and took care of a 3-2 marlin victory over the Tampa Bay Rays.
"His appearance is different than you would imagine the guy who has three or four starts," said Marlin's manager Don Mattingly. "He's a pretty well-motivated boy."
Lopez, 22, may be too young to know that the Marlins should be bad. But the balanced right turn is one of the reasons why they play a lot better than anyone could imagine.
The Marlins' last win ̵
"I think you're just beginning to see a young team slowly but surely learning how to finish games," said veteran outfielder Cameron Maybin, who claimed victory on Saturday. "We finish much better now."
Working with Lopez, they also started well on Saturday.
Lopez withdrew the first nine batsmen he faced before allowing a leading homer in the fourth Joey Wendle. But it was the only blemish on the pitching line of a young prospect the Marlins had acquired with Seattle for David Phelps last year. Lopez completed six innings and allowed only three hits, drew six of them while he went one.
"This guy dotted well," said Ray's manager Kevin Cash. "A lot of inconsistencies at fastball, which made it good, he cut it, he sank it in. I'm not sure if it was by design or what, but you could tell it was too late for the zone and nobody seemed to judge it well. "
Said Lopez:" I felt pretty good out there. "
The Marlins feel very good these days as well.
They have now won nine of their last 13 series, winning Saturday's series of the season's series against the Rays with their fourth win in five matches.
The Marlins started with a 2-0 lead in Martin Prado's RBI double and a ground-grab by Miguel Rojas.
After Wendles Homer took the lead in the lead, Maybin gave the Marlins some breathing room for his third home run, a solo shot by Hunter Wood.
Kyle Barraclough, who was out of action due to an upset stomach on Friday, relinquished a solo homer to J-Man Choi in ninth, but retained the win for his 10th rescue.
But Lopez was the story Saturday
"He's just getting better," said Mattingly about Lopez, who graduated first in his high school class and was admitted to the medical school he was 16. "He's so sharp that I think he'll learn from the beginning, everything that happens to him out there, I think he'll learn from it, and he'll always be better."