June ended with a bang for the Marlins.
The worst club in the majors ended its best month of the season with a grand slam in the ninth by the worst hitter on the team as the Marlins stunned the Padres, 6-2.
Jeff Mathis’ big blast was also the 3,000th home run in franchise history.
“That was awesome,” said Mathis, who took a .115 average to the plate when he belted a 1-0 pitch from Tyson Ross into the Padres’ bullpen to win the game.
Padres manager Bud Black had pinch-hitter Greg Dobbs walked intentionally to load the bases with one out in order to bring up the light-hitting Mathis.
The decision neither surprised nor insulted Mathis.
“I’ve had a bunch of chances with guys on base and really haven’t gotten the job done,” Mathis said, acknowledging Black’s thinking. “And that’s why it feels even more sweet right now.”
Mathis was 0 for 3 this season with the bases loaded before Sunday’s at-bat. His home run was the third game-ending grand slam in Marlins history, equaling an accomplishment achieved by Dan Uggla in 2008 and Giancarlo Stanton in May of last year.
The victory gave the Marlins a record of 15-10 for the month. They had one more win in June than they did in April and May put together.
“After April and May, to do what we did in June is great,” Marlins manager Mike Redmond said. “Are we happy with it? Yes. Are we satisfied with it? No. But you see a different attitude and a different approach out there.”
The Marlins are also an entirely different team than the one that began the month with the dismal mark of 14-41.
Mathis missed the first six weeks of the season with a broken collarbone he sustained in the very first spring training game. Sunday’s starting pitcher for the Marlins, Nathan Eovaldi, spent the first 2 1/2 months on the disabled list with a shoulder injury. Derek Dietrich, who drove in the Marlins’ first two runs Sunday, started the season in the minors, as did Marcell Ozuna, who had a pair of hits to improve his average to .300.
And it was Logan Morrison, another recent addition to the roster, who got things going in the ninth for the Marlins. Morrison, who singled in two previous at-bats, drew a leadoff walk. Ozuna followed with a single to left, and Dietrich lofted a deep fly to right that enabled Morrison to advance to third.
That left Black with a decision: pitch to Dobbs (three hits in his previous four pinch at-bats) or walk the bases loaded in order to face Mathis.
San Diego had a lefty, Joe Thatcher, warming up in the bullpen if Black had wanted to bring him in to face Dobbs.
“We pinch-hit Dobber there, try to make them make a decision, whether they were going to bring that lefty in or walk him, and they elected to walk him,” Redmond said.
Black also used a fifth infielder. He wasn’t needed. Mathis hit the ball over the wall in left.
“[Ross] threw a bunch of fastballs the whole inning, and I knew once I got up to hit, he was probably going back to it,” Mathis said.
The ball was hit deep enough that even had it been caught, Morrison would have tagged from third and scored easily.
“I just knew I got enough of it to get a run in,” Mathis said.
When Mathis saw it go over the fence, he felt even better about it.
“It felt good; real good,” he said.
The win went to Steve Cishek, who entered with a runner aboard and no outs in the ninth, retiring each of the three Padres he faced. Eovaldi didn’t allow a run but was lifted after a sixth inning in which he was struck in the calf by a Kyle Blanks sharp grounder.
Redmond said he took out Eovaldi because his pitch count had reached 89 and he had been “grinding.”
“He didn’t have his best stuff, didn’t have his best command [Sunday],” Redmond said of Eovaldi, who gave up four hits and issued three walks but did not record any strikeouts.