Pushed to the brink of defeat, the Marlins pulled off a Houdini escape on Tuesday before recovering in dramatic fashion to pull out a 6-3 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers.
After Bryan Morris wiggled out of a no-out, bases loaded jam in the eighth inning, Casey McGehee and Marcell Ozuna belted back-to-back home runs in the ninth as the Marlins kept their wild-card playoff hopes alive.
“Huge win,” said Marlins manager Mike Redmond. “It looked like we were in trouble, no doubt.”
The Marlins appeared to be in a hopeless predicament in the eighth when, with the score tied 3-3, the Brewers loaded the bases off Morris with no outs. But he somehow managed to get out of it unscathed.
Digital Access For Only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
Morris got two force outs at home on weak infield grounders before completing the escape act by retiring Scooter Gennett on a fly ball. Invigorated, the Marlins came up with three runs in the ninth to win it and send Milwaukee to its 13th loss in its past 14 games.
“You talk about an emotional turn,” Redmond said.
Said starting pitcher Tom Koehler, who didn’t factor in the final decision: “That was an example of an amazing team win.”
The Brewers, along with the Pirates and Braves, are all teams that sit ahead of the Marlins in the wild-card standings. All three teams lost Tuesday.
It was one of the most stirring wins of the season for the Marlins.
When McGehee homered off Francisco Rodriguez in the ninth, a two-run shot that landed in the Brewers bullpen, the Marlins’ dugout erupted so loudly the players could be heard celebrating throughout Miller Park.
Rodriguez slammed his glove on the field in anger.
“If ever there was a time for him to hit a big home run, today was it,” Redmond said. “That probably was as good a feeling in the dugout as we’ve had all year. Our guys were fired up.”
The home run for McGehee was only his fourth of the season. But it was special for several reasons, beyond the fact it propelled the Marlins to a big win. It came against the same team with which he began his big-league career.
“It’s a good feeling, and a good feeling for the team,” McGehee said.
McGehee would have never played the role of hero had Morris not gotten out of the eighth. After Khris Davis singled to start the inning and Lyle Overbay reached on a four-pitch walk, Morris bobbled Jean Segura’s bunt for an error, and the bases were loaded.
But McGehee got Rickie Weeks to hit a soft grounder to third, which McGehee fielded and fired home for the force. Then Morris got Carlos Gomez to bounce another ball to McGehee, and the result was the same: another force out at home.
That left it up to Gennett, who swung at the first pitch he saw and lofted it into Giancarlo Stanton’s mitt in right for the third out of the inning.
“You don’t ever want to be in that situation,” McGehee said of the bases-loaded predicament. “But if you’re going to be in it, I’ll take my chances with (Morris). He made pitch after pitch that he needed to with his back against the wall. You’re not going to get out of that spot too often, but that was huge.”
In the ninth, Rodriguez quickly retired Christian Yelich and Donovan Solano, but then lost Stanton on a 3-2 pitch. After Stanton walked, he stole second. McGehee followed with a two-run homer, after which Ozuna followed suit with a solo shot.
Both starters struggled.
Matt Garza only managed to give the Brewers four innings while Koehler made it through five for the Marlins before coming out. It wasn’t a pretty outing for Koehler, who gave up a pair of runs on six hits and three walks.
But Koehler is a bulldog, and even when he doesn’t have his best stuff, he’s still able to eat innings and preserve the bullpen. He has gone at least five innings in all but two of his 29 starts this season.
For the amount of toiling by both pitchers, either lineup was able to deliver the knockout blow.
The Marlins took a 2-0 lead in the third on RBI singles by Solano and Ozuna before the Brewers tied it in the bottom of the inning behind a string of three consecutive hits.
It remained tied until the sixth when Ozuna reached on a one-out walk from Jeremy Jeffress and scored on a Garrett Jones double into the gap in left-center.