The rumor mill is still spinning in regards to J.T. Realmuto.
Will the Marlins trade their All-Star catcher before the upcoming trade deadline or keep him and eventually make him their franchise cornerstone?
Realmuto’s focus Saturday night was much, much narrower.
And in the 10th inning, Realmuto zeroed in on helping the Marlins secure a rare win over the Washington Nationals.
Realmuto’s bloop single that landed just inside the right field line and secured a 2-1 walk-off win in extra innings in front of a crowd of 11,779 at Marlins Park. It was his third career walk-off hit.
It was only the second win for the Marlins (45-61) over the Nationals (52-52) in the past 18 meetings between the division rivals.
“Just for [Realmuto] to put in play and right where their outfielders couldn’t get to it,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. “And to get a win against these guys and a team like that the way they’ve been beating up on us.”
The Marlins are still listening to offers on key players from several clubs including the Nationals who are very much interested in Realmuto.
Bryce Harper even commented after the game to Nationals reporters: “If that guy was on our side, it wouldn’t have happened.”
Realmuto is still on the Marlins’ side as of Saturday night, and it did happen.
Brett Graves picked up his first career victory after pitching a scoreless 10th inning.
Magneuris Sierra led off the 10th with a bunt single.
Miguel Rojas dropped a bunt on the ensuing at-bat and ended up reaching when catcher Spencer Kieboom impeded his path to first resulting in umpire Tim Timmons ruling catcher obstruction. Anderson singled to right loading the bases and setting up Realmuto’s hit.
“I had obstruction because the ball was not in the immediate area of the plate,” Timmons said. “The runner was obstructed. It wasn’t clear whether Herrera was going to field the ball, or the catcher. The catcher can field the ball, but he can’t obstruct the runner and clear the runner out of the way.”
Sierra’s sprint speed to first base on his bunt single according to Statcast was 31 feet per second, which is faster than the highest average this season run by the Twins’ Byron Buxton (30.6 feet per second). Sierra made it from home to first in 3.46 seconds, which was the fastest recorded time by a Marlins’ runner since the Statcast tracking system debuted in 2015.
“I worked a lot on bunting in Triple A and I know how important that part of my game can be,” Sierra said. “I had bunting on my mind going up to the plate. I wanted to take advantage of that opportunity and make a play.”
Trevor Richards, the 25-year old rookie pitcher who took a very unconventional path to the majors over the past three years, tossed six shutout innings on Saturday night, striking out eight for his third consecutive quality start.
Richards threw 91 pitches and gave up three hits, walked two, and worked his way out of jams in the second and sixth innings thanks to a couple of double plays. He struck out seven of the nine starters in the Nationals’ lineup.
Over his past three starts, Richards has pitched 18 2/3 innings and allowed one earned run with 18 strikeouts, five walks and 10 hits. His ERA is 0.48 and opponents are hitting .161 during that span.
Richards, a graduate of Drury University in Springfield, Missouri who was pitching in the independent minor leagues in 2015, has lowered his overall ERA from 5.26 to 4.06 during his past three starts.
Richards continued to show solid fastball command throwing his four-seamer 50 times and getting 14 called strikes as well inducing 12 foul balls.
Richards has credited that for allowing him to set up his plus-changeup better. On Saturday, Richards threw 32 changeups and induced 10 swinging strikes from Nationals hitters.
“My changeup has been my bread and butter my whole career,” Richards said. “But it all starts with my fastball. If I’m locating it and getting ahead of hitters, they’ll swing at the changeup.”
The Marlins’ bullpen nearly made the fragile lead stick as Adam Conley, Brad Ziegler and Drew Steckenrider preserved the shutout until the ninth.
But Kyle Barraclough’s nightmarish July continued as he suffered his second consecutive blown save in as many chances and third this month when the Nationals tied it in the ninth on a single by Daniel Murphy.
After being named the National League’s Reliever of the Month in June, Barraclough has allowed nine earned runs in 9 2/3 innings in July (8.38 ERA) while giving up 16 hits, seven walks while striking out 12 in 11 appearances.
Barraclough hit Harper with a pitch on his foot and gave up a single to Ryan Zimmerman to leadoff the ninth. Juan Soto grounded into a fielder’s choice to put runners on the corners with one out setting up Murphy’s game-tying hit.
“When he gets in trouble is when he’s not getting ahead in the counts,” Mattingly said. “I was glad to see him kind of regroup and keep the game tied [in the ninth].”