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MIAMI — The Miami Marlins and Milwaukee Brewers, who open a three-game series on Monday night at Marlins Park, hooked up for a major offseason trade. So far, if the standings are any judge, the Brewers are thrilled with their return.
Left fielder Christian Yelich, the player Milwaukee acquired from Miami, was named to the All-Star Game on Sunday, and the Brewers (54-36) have the best record in the National League.
Milwaukee, which leads the NL Central by 1 1/2 games over the Chicago Cubs, is also off to its best 90-game start in franchise history.
Meanwhile, the Marlins (37-55) are in last place in the NL East, and the main player they got back in exchange for Yelich — center fielder Lewis Brinson — is on the disabled list with a hip injury.
Miami, though, did get good news on Sunday when J.T. Realmuto became the third catcher in franchise history to secure an All-Star Game berth, joining Charles Johnson (1997, 2001) and Paul Lo Duca (2005).
“It’s nice to break that barrier,” Realmuto said of his first All-Star berth. “It’s been a dream of mine my whole life. It is something I will cherish.”
Milwaukee had three All-Stars named Sunday — Yelich, center fielder Lorenzo Cain and reliever Josh Hader.
Brewers first baseman Jesus Aguilar, who homered twice in Milwaukee’s 10-3 win over the Atlanta Braves on Sunday, could still be added to the team.
Aguilar is tied with Colorado Rockies slugger Nolan Arenado for the NL home run lead with 22. Aguilar, who hit 16 homers last year (a career high at the time), has gone deep 11 times and has 26 RBIs in his past 20 games.
“He’s been brilliant, man, he really has,” said Brewers manager Craig Counsell, a former Marlins infielder who won a World Series title in Miami. “He’s having an MVP season.”
Yelich, meanwhile, is hitting .285 with an .821 OPS. That is above his .802 career OPS, which means the Brewers are likely getting what they expected out of the 26-year-old Californian, who was Miami’s first-round pick in 2010.
The Marlins have caught a break in this series because another player with local ties — former Miami Hurricanes star Ryan Braun — was placed on the disabled list Sunday with a back injury. The six-time All-Star, 2007 NL Rookie of the Year, 2011 NL MVP and 2012 NL home run leader is not expected to return until after the All-Star Game.
As for the Marlins, they collected four prospects from the Brewers in exchange for Yelich as they began yet another rebuilding effort in the offseason. The top prospect was Brinson, who has struggled this year, batting .186 with a .570 OPS as a 24-year-old rookie.
Miami is also high on second baseman Isan Diaz and outfielder Monte Harrison, the two other key players in the deal. Diaz and Harrison are 22 years old, and both are doing well in the minors.
Perhaps in the future, this trade will look better for the Marlins. But, for now at least, the Marlins are taking their lumps.
That was evident this past weekend as they lost three of four games to the host Washington Nationals, including an 18-4 pounding on Saturday and blowing a 9-0 lead before falling 14-12 on Thursday. They also saw the Nationals get a walk-off win on Friday.
On Monday, the Marlins will start perhaps the most hard-luck pitcher of the year in right-hander Jose Urena. He went 14-7 with a 3.82 ERA last year in a breakout season.
This year, his ERA is only marginally higher at 4.18, but his record is abysmal at 2-9. His average fastball registers at 96 mph — three miles per hour faster than the league norm — but the results have not been there in the win-loss record.
Urena’s luck may be starting to turn, however. He is 2-2 with a 3.67 ERA in his past seven starts. This will be his second appearance since a brief stay on the disabled list.
Milwaukee will counter with right-hander Chase Anderson (6-6, 3.99 ERA), whose average fastball clocks in at 92.6 mph. Anderson is coming off a career year in 2017 when he went 12-4 with a 2.74 ERA.
Anderson is a fly-ball pitcher, which bodes well for him at spacious Marlins Park. In three starts here, he has a 3.15 ERA.
Ironically, Urena has yet to win in his home park this season, going 0-7 despite a respectable 3.88 ERA.
Another interesting note regarding Monday’s pitching matchup is how hot Anderson has been in his past three starts, carrying a 1.56 ERA with a 1-0 record.