Marcell Ozuna was standing in the on-deck circle in the ninth inning when shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria looked over at him and said, “Me or You.”
The two young ballplayers had been discussing lately how neither had ever delivered a walk-off hit before in the big leagues, and the opportunity had suddenly presented itself in the ninth with one out and runners on the corners Wednesday afternoon.
Hechavarria never got a shot at it.
Ozuna’s sinking fly ball to center field with one out in the ninth against Kyle Farnsworth got just deep enough to allow Giancarlo Stanton to come racing home with the winning run as the Marlins beat the visiting New York Mets 1-0 to complete their third sweep of the season, and a club-record 8-1 homestand.
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“I thought the ball was going to go over second base for a base hit,” said Ozuna, who had struckout in his three previous at-bats Wednesday. “Then I saw the centerfielder get behind the ball and I said, ‘Oh my God.’ [Juan Lagares has] got a good arm. I thought he was going to get the out at home.”
Lagares, who led all center fielders last year as a rookie with 14 outfield assists, rifled an off-balance throw to the plate. But it was off line. Aalthough catcher Anthony Recker lunged to try and tag Stanton out, the ball wasn’t in his glove. It had skipped past him.
The play set off another wet and wild celebration for the Marlins, who won in walk-off fashion for the third time in their last four games.
Set to embark on an 11-day West Coast Trip which begins in San Diego Thursday, the team left Marlins Park Wednesday night with a 19-15 overall record and a major-league best 17-5 record at home.
Last year, they didn’t win their 17th home game until June 30th and they only swept two three-game series at home.
“I wasn't even watching [the celebration]. I was watching the Jumbotron to see Mrs. Doubtfire dancing with the broom,” said Marlins manager Mike Redmond, who when he arrived last season requested the team play the clip from the 1993 comedy after home sweeps.
“[The teams’ third walk-off win in four games is] a huge confidence booster. What it does is it just sets the tone and reaffirms the fact we can win a ball game in the ninth inning at home when we want to.”
Pitcher Tom Koehler was inside on a treadmill when Stanton scored the winning run. For a moment, Koehler said, he thought about running out to celebrate with his teammates. Then, “I realized I had shorts on so I couldn’t go out there,” Koehler said.
For eight innings, the 27-year old right-hander from the Bronx was masterful. He limited the Mets to two hits and one walk on 95 pitches, dropping his ERA to 1.99 on the season and his ERA at Marlins Park in four starts this season to 0.64.
It was the sixth shutout of the season for the pitching staff, which entered the day one shutout shy of the National League-leading Cardinals.
Was there a carryover from Henderson Alvarez’s complete game shutout Tuesday night?
“Absolutely. We have a friendly competition. We all want to go out there and do a little better than the other one,” said Koehler, who after giving up a two-out double to David Wright in the first retired 18 hitters in a row before yielding a seventh inning walk.
“The more important thing is the team getting the win and this was a really nice homestand for us. Hopefully we pack it up on the road and keep it going.”
Now it’s on to the West Coast. The Marlins are 2-10 away from Marlins Park this season. Redmond said he is looking forward to the challenge.
“I know everybody has made a huge deal of the splits on the road, but this team is starting to come together,” Redmond said. “I like where we're at right now. I like the energy. I like the chemistry. Now we’ve just got to go win out of our suitcase and I can't wait to get out there and get started [Thursday] night.”