Derek Dietrich’s dependability as an every-day player was key following Dee Gordon’s suspension.
But Dietrich had not been the same player during this homestand before or since Gordon’s return, going 0 for his past 23 at-bats.
That changed in a huge way on Sunday afternoon when he drove a fastball from reliever Matt Bowman into left-center field for a walk-off triple in the bottom of the ninth that lifted the Marlins to a 5-4 victory over the Cardinals.
“To have an opportunity to come through like that, it kind of restarts you a little bit,” Dietrich said.
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Ichiro Suzuki popped out to first base in his lone pinch-hitting appearance in the seventh. He remained two hits away from 3,000 for his major-league career.
Dietrich’s first career walk-off hit was his fourth triple of the season and dropped just out of the reach of center fielder Tommy Pham, who made a sliding attempt to catch it. The ball bounced past him, allowing Adeiny Hechavarria to score from first.
As Dietrich reached third base, the celebration took a funny turn.
After being doused with water, Dietrich’s jersey was ripped off by teammate Miguel Rojas.
Dietrich, however, didn’t have a problem showing off his physique.
“I can’t say I haven’t walked around with my shirt off before,” Dietrich said. “It was a little uncomfortable, but it was a fun moment.”
Dietrich had only four hits in 50 at-bats since July 9, when his batting average was .307. He said his struggles had nothing to do with any concerns over playing time. Dietrich has been used at both first and second base since Gordon came back on Thursday.
“I put myself in the best position possible to help the team,” Dietrich said. “I’m always ready and expecting to help every day.”
The Marlins (57-48) split the four-game series against the Cardinals (56-49) and finished their 10-game homestand with a 5-5 record. The Marlins, who took over sole possession of the National League’s second wild-card spot, won four of seven games against the Cardinals this season.
“These are the kinds of games you play all year long and you notice them later because there’s more on the line,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. “These games have been going on all year long. It’s just now there’s more importance, so there’s more light on them.”
Dietrich’s newest teammate, Andrew Cashner, did not figure in the pitching decision but delivered a quality start in his Marlins debut.
Cashner, acquired Friday in a seven-player trade with the Padres, gave up four hits and two runs but only one earned on a solo homer by Greg Garcia, struck out two and did not walk a batter in six innings.
“I thought he attacked,” Mattingly said. “It looked like his last couple of innings they started to square him up pretty well. It’s one of the things I wanted to watch with him today — he flies in [Saturday], a one o’clock game for him is a 10 o’clock game in California. We wanted to be really mindful his first outing making sure we took care of him.”
Cashner has a 2.28 ERA over his past four starts.
“I think the hardest part was just getting here,” Cashner said. “My flight got cancelled Friday night and then got out the next day, so it’s been a long couple of days. I’m excited to be here on a great, young team, and I’m ready to do my part.”
Cashner didn’t hold back, pitching inside early and often, and hitting Cardinals shortstop Aledmys Diaz on the right hand with a fastball in the first inning. Diaz left the game with a contusion.
Giancarlo Stanton was then hit by Cardinals starter Carlos Martinez in the bottom of the inning.
“I thought they hit [Stanton] on purpose,” said Cashner, who has hit four Cardinal batters with pitches this season. “It was an 0-2 pitch [when I hit Diaz]. That’s never a pitch I’d want to hit a guy. But that’s kind of the Cardinal way over there.”
Marcell Ozuna made the Cardinals pay quickly with a two-out, two-run double that scored Christian Yelich and Stanton.
After a 1-for-15 stretch, Ozuna has three doubles, two home runs and six RBI over his past five games.
J.T. Realmuto then delivered the first of two RBI singles he had in the game to give the Marlins a 3-0 lead after one inning.
But the Cardinals chipped away, scoring a run in the second and third innings before tying the game with a pair of runs in the eighth off Fernando Rodney.
The tying run scored on a throwing error by Hechavarria, whose relay throw to the plate from left field on a double by Stephen Piscotty sailed over Realmuto’s head and into the stands, allowing Pham to score and later Piscotty by rule.
Hechavarria, however, set the table for Dietrich’s game-winning hit with a single with two outs in the ninth.