Adeiny Hechavarria can recall only one other time he’s won a game with a home run.
It was last year.
On Sunday, Hechavarria did it for real. The shortstop connected on a Brandon Maurer slider, belting the pitch to the base of the Home Run Sculpture and giving the Marlins a 5-2 victory over the San Diego Padres.
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“I wasn’t looking for a home run,” said Hechavarria, who had managed to hit just two all season. “I was just looking for a single, whether it was a broken-bat single, or a little dribbler in the infield.”
Hechavarria’s big blast helped spare the Marlins from a meltdown loss that would have given the Padres a sweep of the series.
With the Marlins leading 2-0 with one out in the ninth following another strong outing from Jose Fernandez, A.J. Ramos gave up a tying, two-run homer to 5-6 Alexi Amarista, the Padres’ shortstop and No. 8 hitter.
But after Martin Prado and Jeff Mathis reached on walks in the ninth, the Marlins’ shortstop and No. 8 hitter — Hechavarria — one-upped his counterpart with a jolt of his own.
“Hallelujah!” exclaimed Marlins manager Dan Jennings after the exciting finish in front 25,228, a number that included 400 canines on “Bark at the Park” day at Marlins Park.
The victory snapped the Marlins’ four-game losing streak and came at the end of an emotional week in which the team traded five players and released another.
“To see guys step up, knowing we just finished the trade deadline, and that we’re not the same ball club we left spring training with. These guys have pride,” Jennings said.
It looked for eight innings that Fernandez would be the day’s storyline.
While Fernandez wasn’t at his best, he was good enough to deliver six shutout innings despite totaling an exhausting 112 pitches. He struck out 10 along the way.
And when he turned the ball over to the bullpen, the Marlins had a 2-0 lead, putting him in position to tie a major league record for most home wins without a loss — 16 — to begin a major-league career.
Fernandez brought 15-0 home mark into the game.
But he wasn’t typically sharp, struggling through a 25-pitch first inning in which the Padres loaded the bases but failed to score, and ending the fifth with 94 pitches after giving up a leadoff triple to Amarista but stranding him at third by retiring the next three hitters.
Jennings could have pulled him at that point. But Fernandez had other ideas.
“I asked to go back out,” Fernandez said. “I felt strong. I felt like my stuff was there. It was not like I was struggling, even though it was really hot.”
Fernandez made it through the sixth. The only other time Fernandez has thrown more pitches was on May 4, 2014, against the Dodgers — the game in which he injured his right arm — when he totaled 114. One week later, Fernandez was on an operating table undergoing Tommy John surgery.
After Fernandez left the game Sunday, it was up to the bullpen to protect the team’s two-run lead.
But after Bryan Morris, Carter Capps and Mike Dunn got the Marlins through the seventh and eighth innings, Ramos took over in the ninth and ran into immediate trouble when he gave a bloop single to Derek Norris.
One out later, he gave up the tying homer to Amarista, eliminating any chance Fernandez would equal the big-league record on Sunday. He’ll get another shot to match it the next time he takes the mound at Marlins Park.
“A.J. just threw a pitch down in the wheelhouse,” Jennings said.
That’s when Hechavarria came through with the first walk-off home run of his career.
“You don’t expect Hech to hit it that far,” Fernandez said. “That was just fantastic.”
Said Hechavarria: “I’ve never won a game with a walk-off home run.”
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