The Miami Marlins don’t have an ace on their staff, but Edinson Volquez pitched like one on Opening Day against the Washington Nationals.
Backed by a strong start from 33-year-old Edinson Volquez, the Miami Marlins nearly stole an Opening Day win at Nationals Park. Their bullpen, which allowed four runs in three innings, allowed the Washington Nationals to win 4-2, but Volquez looked sharp, nonetheless.
After the devastating loss of Jose Fernandez last September, the Marlins looked toward Volquez to be their ace. Volquez, whose only All-Star appearance came in 2008, is still a respectable pitcher, but his days of being a team’s ace are seemingly over.
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With the Kansas City Royals in 2016, Volquez had one of the worst seasons of his career. In 34 starts, he owned a 5.37 ERA and 1.548 WHIP over 189.1 innings. He also led the league in earned runs allowed with 113 and only struck out 139 batters to 76 walks.
On a team with many budding stars in its lineup, having Volquez as the team’s ace seemed like it would be what holds Miami back in 2017. However, if Opening Day is any indication of what’s to come from Volquez this season, the Marlins might be better than expected.
He out-pitched one of the best pitchers in the league, Stephen Strasburg, to start the season. Volquez threw five shutout innings, allowing just four hits, one walk and struck out six.
His command was great, his pitches had solid movement on them, and he would have gotten the win if it wasn’t for Miami’s bullpen or multiple web gem plays from the Nationals’ defense that saved Strasburg.
Volquez rarely allowed base runners on Monday afternoon, but he looked even better when the Nationals were able to get on. Against Volquez, the Nationals went 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position, but went 2-for-4 against Miami’s bullpen. He carved through the middle of Washington’s order, too.
He forced a Harper fly out with two outs in the third inning after an Eaton double. An inning later, after Murphy and Zimmerman started the inning with back-to-back singles, Volquez struck out Jayson Werth and forced Stephen Drew to ground into a double play.
The one downside to Volquez’s start is that he only lasted five innings. That forced Miami to go to their bullpen earlier than they probably wanted to.
That said, Volquez only threw 82 pitches. Miami didn’t want to push Volquez, who is closing in on 34 years of age, in his first regular season start. Instead, they trusted their fully rested bullpen. It didn’t pay off for Miami, but it does show that Volquez could have easily gone six or seven innings if this performance happened later in the year.
Volquez also got in on the action at the plate. He recorded the Marlins’ first hit of the season on a single with two outs in the third inning and finished 2-for-2 at the plate. J.T. Realmuto was the only other Marlin with multiple hits on the afternoon. Not bad for a career .082 hitter.
This is the second straight season Volquez has pitched well on Opening Day. Even though Volquez struggled last season, he pitched six shutout innings as the Royals’ Opening Day starter in 2016. He proceeded to allow just three earned runs in his first four starts (24.2 innings), as well.