As division rivals, Matt Harvey and Jose Fernandez figure to see plenty of each over the next few years.
So far, though, their first two head-to-head meetings have hardly been memorable for anything they’ve done. Just like on April 29 when the two young guns became mere footnotes in a 15-inning game, the same thing happened Saturday when the Mets and Marlins decided to play 20.
In a game full of heroes for the Marlins, it was Adeiny Hechavarria who delivered the game’s biggest hit.
The rookie shortstop drove home Placido Polanco from second base with a line-drive single to center off Shaun Marcum, lifting the Marlins to a 2-1 victory and sending what was left of an announced crowd of 20,338 at Citi Field home disappointed after 6 hours 25 minutes of baseball on a picturesque afternoon in Queens.
“I know this season has been tough for us, but this is a great win, a great moment where you saw guys grow up and keep persevering, finding a way to win a game. It’s what we’ve been searching for for a while,” said Marlins pitcher Kevin Slowey, who entered the game in the 13th inning and tossed seven innings of relief before Steve Cishek tossed a 1-2-3 inning in the 20th to pick up the save.
“When they shuffled the rotation around [Friday], somebody in the room said, ‘We’ll count on you for the late teens [Saturday].’ We all laughed, and sure enough the late teens came around. I don’t think anybody expected this.”
The game, tied for the longest in franchise history in terms of innings (the Marlins lost to St. Louis 7-6 in 20 innings on April 27, 2003), featured work from seven relief pitchers on each team, who along with Harvey (7 IP, 6 H, 1 ER, 0 BBs, 6 Ks) and Fernandez (6 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 3 BB, 7 Ks) combined to throw 561 pitches in the game.
It might not have gone that long if not for a handful of tremendous defensive plays, none bigger than rookie Marcell Ozuna’s throw to the plate in the 12th inning.
It was only the third time in 28 tries this season that the Marlins won a game in which they scored two runs or less.
In the ninth, Marlins second baseman Derek Dietrich made a tough catch on a hard-hit grounder by Daniel Murphy to stop the potential game-winning run from scoring from second.
With runners at the corners and one out in the 12th, Ozuna made a catch on the run near the right-field line to rob Marlon Byrd of a hit, then went against his body and fired a perfect strike home to nail Murphy at the plate. Marlins catcher Rob Brantly took a vicious hit on the play but held onto the ball and then showed it to plate umpire Alfonso Marquez. It was Ozuna’s National League-leading fifth assist among right fielders.
“He was going to have to make a pretty acrobatic throw, but I mean he threw it and made it a perfect strike and gave me enough time to get the ball and put a tag on him, sort of a tag,” said Brantly, who caught all 20 innings for the Marlins, as did former Marlins catcher John Buck for the Mets.
The Mets, who took a 1-0 lead in the second inning on a run-scoring double by Juan Lagares, finished a franchise-record 0 for 19 with runners in scoring position.
The Marlins strung together singles by Dietrich and Ozuna, and then a sacrifice fly to right by Chris Coghlan in the fourth tied the score at 1.
Miami had a chance to take the lead in the fifth when Juan Pierre stroked a two-out single to center with Hechavarria on second. But the throw home by Lagares was well in front of Hechavarria for the easy third out.
Bad baserunning was a theme for the Marlins. Ozuna got picked off of first base in the fourth, and Hechavarria made arguably the biggest mistake of the game in the eighth when he wandered too far off the bag while Pierre attempted to lay down a sacrifice bunt with two runners on and nobody out.
Buck alertly threw behind Hechavarria at second, and by the time he shifted gears and ran for third, shortstop Omar Quintanilla had more than enough time to throw him out at third. One pitch later, Pierre grounded into an inning-ending, 4-6-3 double play.
The Marlins didn’t really put themselves in position to score again until the 20th when Polanco started a one-out rally with a single to left. Brantly followed by doing the same, setting the stage for Hechavarria.
“You play 20 innings, you want to win,” Marlins manager Mike Redmond said.