Two nights after going home from Marlins Park feeling like he was victimized by baseball’s new rule intended to put an end to collisions at the plate, Marlins catcher Jeff Mathis had a similar play that left him frustrated in the eighth inning Saturday night.
Instead of using his left foot to try and stop Ramon Santiago from sliding in with the tying run like he would have before the inception of rule 7.13 this spring, Mathis surrendered the entire left side of the plate to avoid being called for obstruction as he caught a pinpoint throw home from left fielder Christian Yelich and applied the tag a fraction of a second late.
The good news for the Marlins: Saturday’s game didn’t end in anger and bitter disappointment.
After Mathis doubled off Sam LeCure to open the 10th inning and advanced to third on a Reed Johnson sacrifice bunt, Yelich brought him home with the game-winner on a line drive single to center as Miami put an end to a three-game losing skid with a 2-1 victory in front of 25,159 fans at Marlins Park.
The walk-off hit was the ninth of the season for the Marlins (54-56) and the second for Yelich, whose bobblehead toy will be given out to the first 12,000 fans before Sunday's series finale against Cincinnati.
“I’m still wet, but I’ll take it any night,” said Yelich, who received a shower from his teammates who stormed the field with water bottles and drenched him during the celebration.
“Obviously nobody here faults [Mathis] for [what happened Thursday]. Let's get that clear. That's not his fault. He knows it. That's in the past. We're not even talking about that anymore. But for us to get a win tonight and get back on track is important. Obviously we've had a couple tough nights the last couple days. Like I said we have a lot of the season left and we have to keep fighting.”
Mike Dunn picked up his ninth win of the season -- tops among major league relievers -- after he picked up a pair of big strikeouts with the go-ahead run on third base in the 10th.
Marlins starter Nathan Eovaldi pitched his best game since his last win back on June 23. Eovaldi gave up just two hits, two walks and struck out six before Santiago's leadoff single in the eighth brought the hook from manager Mike Redmond.
Bryan Morris came on in relief and the Reds (55-55) eventually tied it with two outs in the inning when Billy Hamilton singled softly to left on a 2-2 pitch and Santiago scored.
“For sure [Thursday was on his mind,” Redmond said. “Back in the day that guy’s out. Next year he’ll be out.”
The Marlins took a 1-0 lead in the third inning when second baseman Jordany Valdespin drove home Yelich, who had doubled, with a single to center off Reds starter Homer Bailey. Valdespin has now had a hit in 10 of the 14 games he's played in since being called up from Triple A New Orleans on July 19. He's also had an RBI in five of his last nine games.
Eovaldi, who came out throwing as hard as he has all season, nearly made it stand. He hit 100 miles per hour once on a heater to Todd Frazier in the first inning and hit 99 miles per hour a dozen times in the game.
“Me and [pitching coach] Chuck [Hernandez] worked with a few things in the bullpen mechanically wise that helped out a lot,” Eovaldi said. “It helped with all my off-speed pitches. I felt they were a lot more consistent being sharp. I was able to work ahead in counts and threw all my off-speed pitches over the plate for strikes and good swing-miss pitches.”
Shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria made a collection of stellar defensiv plays to back Eovaldi including a highlight-reel lunging grab and throw from his knees to retire Devin Mesoraco to open the second inning.
Before Saturday’s gem, Eovaldi was 0-3 with a 6.69 ERA in the six previous starts.
“He looked to me like he was on a mission tonight and knew understood where we were after a couple tough losses for us,” Redmond said. “He went out there to really dominate that game. And he certainly did that.”