Not every roster move made by the Marlins over the winter to upgrade last season’s 100-loss debacle has worked out according to plan. Carlos Marmol was a bust. Henry Rodriguez was a flop. And until this weekend, Rafael Furcal was a no-show.
But Casey McGehee is more than making up for those mistakes.
McGehee is making the Marlins look like geniuses for bringing him back from Japan and signing to him to a $1.1 million deal that is looking like one of the steals of the year.
McGehee came through for the Marlins again on Sunday, driving in the tying runs in the eighth with a two-out double and producing the winning run of a 3-2 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 10th with a sacrifice fly.
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“He’s a difference maker,” said Ed Lucas, who scored easily from third on McGehee’s sac fly. “He’s the cog in the middle we didn’t have last year, aside from [Giancarlo Stanton]. It just seems there’s the expectation with him that he’s going to get the job done, as opposed to last year when there was more of a what’s-going-to-go-wrong feeling.”
Sunday’s victory prevented the Marlins from suffering their first home three-game series sweep at the hands of the Pirates since 1993. And it took not only another late-inning comeback to pull off the win, but also a no-outs, bases-loaded escape act in the top of the 10th by Marlins reliever A.J. Ramos.
Unable to solve Pirates pitcher Vance Worley, who held them scoreless for seven innings, the Marlins found themselves trailing 2-0 in the eighth when they put two aboard on back-to-back singles by pinch-hitter Jeff Baker and Furcal.
But after Pirates reliever Tony Watson struck out Reed Johnson and Stanton, it left it up to McGehee to salvage something out of the inning. McGehee did just that with a double into the gap in left-center that scored both runners and tied the score.
McGehee has been coming through like that all season. He began the day with a batting average of .403 with runners in scoring position. Only the Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera (.413) and Colorado’s Troy Tulowitzki (.404) boasted higher averages in those situations.
McGehee’s two-run double in the eighth gave him 30 hits this season with runners in scoring position. To put that number in perspective, consider that last season’s leader in that department for the Marlins, Adeiny Hechavarria, finished with 29.
But McGehee wasn’t done influencing the outcome.
After Ramos put himself into trouble in the 10th by loading the bases with a pair of walks sandwiched around an Andrew McCutchen single, he managed to get Russell Martin to ground to third. McGehee threw home for the force at the plate, where Jeff Mathis fired to first for the double play.
“It was definitely a relief,” said Ramos, who then struck out Clint Barmes to end the inning.
Furcal got things started for the Marlins in their half of the 10th. After fouling a pitch off the outside of his left knee and falling to the ground in pain, he told Redmond not to take him out. Instead, Furcal remained at the plate and lined a single up the middle on the very next pitch from Jared Hughes.
“I didn’t feel good, but I didn’t want to get out of there,” Furcal said. “I wanted that at-bat. It was painful. He wanted to take me out of the game, but I said, ‘No, I want this at-bat. It’s very important right now.’ ”
Lucas was sent in to pinch-run for Furcal, and after Johnson bunted him over to second, Stanton was walked intentionally with first base open. The Marlins caught an extra break when one of Hughes’ pitches to McGehee got away from Russell, allowing both runners to move up.
McGehee did the rest with a long sacrifice to right.
“I was just trying to get the ball up in the air with the infield in right there,” McGehee said. “I know Hughes has got a pretty good sinker, and you’ve got to make him get the ball up, so thankfully I was able to get it deep enough to get Eddie in.”
McGehee’s lastest heroics came as no surprise to his teammates.
“We expect him to get the job done,” Lucas said, “because he’s proved it to us over and over again.”