Jose Reyes was so convinced he had hit a go-ahead homer in Sunday’s eighth inning that he raised his right arm in celebration as he was rounding first base.
But, “I had to put it right back down,” Reyes said.
The ball caromed off the upper half of the fence and bounced back onto the field for a score-tying double. Marlins Park and its large dimensions had deprived the home team of another home run.
But it was nothing compared with the one it stole from John Buck in the bottom of the 11th, a potential game-winning shot that was hit to the deepest part of the ballpark, a blast most everyone agreed would have gone out anywhere else in the majors.
Instead, Buck and the Marlins watched in disbelief as Cincinnati Reds center fielder Drew Stubbs raced back into the “Bermuda Triangle” cutout — next to the Home Run Sculpture that was poised to spring into action — and caught the drive for the final out of the Reds’ 5-4 win over the Marlins.
“The ballpark is big,” Reyes said, stating the obvious. “The ball Buck hit, that’s a home run in any ballpark. What can you do?”
Buck didn’t even bother sticking around to answer questions after the Marlins suffered their 82nd defeat to ensure them of their third consecutive losing season. The loss also prevented the Marlins from recording the team’s first three-game sweep since before the All-Star break.
“I don’t think anybody would have envisioned this,” said Ricky Nolasco, Sunday’s starter for the Marlins, of a stunningly bad season. “You can never say a good team’s going to be good on paper. You’ve still go to go out there and do it, and that’s what’s tough about this game. Obviously a lot of disappointment.”
While the new ballpark has generally received good reviews, its huge dimensions have been a matter of frustration to hitters, both with the Marlins and their opponents.
Giancarlo Stanton has hit 14 home runs in 19 road games since Aug. 7, for example, but only one homer in 18 home games during the same stretch.
Relatively speaking, Marlins Park has been the fifth-most difficult place (out of 30 major-league parks) to homer in this season, according to ESPN’s Ball Park Factors.
But Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen said it works both ways and that if the series had been played in Cincinnati’s Great American Ballpark — a bandbox — the Reds would have swept the series instead of losing it two games to one.
“A lot of people want to talk about if those two balls are gone, we win the game, the ballpark’s too big,” Guillen said. “But they hit some balls, if we were in their ballpark, we not win this series. If we were playing in Cincinnati, we not win any games in this series. Look at those balls they hit this weekend. We would have been outscored by 30 runs because they hit some balls.”
Though the two teams combined for 25 hits on Sunday, not one was a homer. Of the Reds’ 17 hits, 16 were singles. But they made them count, with the biggest coming in the top of the 11th when Ryan Ludwick’s single off Carlos Zambrano scored what proved to be the deciding run.
Zambrano was making his first appearance in nine days, and the layoff showed. Zambrano gave up a pair of singles and a walk to the first three batters he faced before recording outs with the next three Reds hitters.
With Nolasco going just five innings on Sunday, the Marlins used a team-record nine pitchers for the game. The previous mark of eight pitchers had been done 21 times previously.
Jonathan Broxton worked the 11th for the Reds and recorded two quick outs before walking Donovan Solano. That brought up Buck, who battled through eight pitches before belting Broxton’s 2-2 offering high and deep to center.
Stubbs raced back into the cutout, reached up with his glove next to the wall — only inches from the base of the Home Run Sculpture — and made the catch for the game-ending out.