After going through a tough time emotionally, the Marlins badly needed a reason to smile. They had watched their best player felled by a pitch to the face, had lost four in a row, and were down 4-1 in the ninth on Sunday to the Phillies.
And then it happened.
The Marlins rallied for four runs in the ninth off Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon and held on for a 5-4 victory that manager Mike Redmond proclaimed to be “by far, the biggest win of the year for us.”
“It’s been an emotional last few days,” Redmond said of the emotional roller-coaster. “It’s been weighing on guys and we needed a win. Not a better way to get one than the way we did tonight.”
After Jarrod Saltalamacchia doubled to open the ninth, the Marlins kept the heat on Papelbon, who caved in a 38-pitch nightmare of a ninth that brought boos from the crowd at Citizens Bank Park.
Papelbon, who was a perfect 18for18 in save opportunities against the Marlins before Sunday, responded by grabbing his crotch in an obscene manner as he walked back to the dugout. Umpires saw it and ejected him.
“The whole thing started because the fans booed him, and he made an obscene gesture,” said crew chief Joe West. “He had no business doing that. He’s got to be more professional than that. And that’s why he was ejected.”
Papelbon stormed out of the dugout and confronted West, who grabbed the pitcher by the jersey and flung him aside.
It was a bizarre ending to a wild week for the Marlins.
Defeat appeared certain for the Marlins when Papelbon took the mound in the ninth. But the Marlins loaded the bases with no outs when Jordany Valdespin was sent in to pinch-hit. Valdespin worked a 12-pitch at-bat off Papelbon, fouling off pitch after pitch, before grounding a ball to first that scored the first run of the inning for the Marlins.
The long at-bat likely took a tool on Papelbon, who then gave up back-to-back RBI singles to Christian Yelich and Justin Bour before uncorking a wild pitch that enabled the go-ahead run to score.
“It was incredible,” said closer Steve Cishek, who watched the comeback unfold from the Marlins bullpen in center field. “Valdespin puts together that long at-bat and I’m thinking, ‘All right, this is going to wear [Papelbon] out.’”
Bour said Valdespin’s at-bat likely tired Papelbon, and the rookie took advantage of the situation by ripping an RBI single into center. It was Bour’s first pinch-hit after going 0for15 in those situations.
“Yeah, it took a little long, but I picked a good time to get one,” Bour said of his pinch-hitting drought.
Until the ninth, the only run for the Marlins came on a Kike Hernandez solo homer off Phillies starter David Buchanan in the fourth. It was Hernandez’s first hit for the Marlins, who acquired him from Houston in a trade deadline deal on July31.
Players agreed that Sunday’s win and avoiding a series sweep to the last-place Phillies was a relief.
“To get swept after losing who I believe is the MVP of the league, it would be tough to right that ship,” pitcher Tom Koehler said. “You see a guy [Stanton] who is one of your friends go down like that, human nature is you’re going to feel bad and it’s going to take a toll on you emotionally. When something like that happens, you’ve got to pick the pieces up as quick as possible and, luckily, [Sunday] it took us to the ninth inning of this series. But we did it. I think a win like [this] gets us back in the right direction.”