Even a week ago, a game like Tuesday would have felt almost impossible for the Miami Marlins to win. After back-to-back shutout losses to the Tampa Bay Rays last Tuesday and Wednesday, the Marlins had put themselves on pace to be one of the worst teams in MLB history. Scoring runs — let alone winning games — sometimes felt like a Herculean feat for a team averaging the fewest runs per game since World War II.
In four games, something has swung for Miami. The Marlins swept a three-game series against the New York Mets over the weekend in Miami, then led nearly the entire way against the Detroit Tigers on Tuesday, only to let a two-run lead slip away in the ninth. Even a week ago, the Marlins might have folded. On Tuesday, they regrouped and beat the Tigers, 5-4, in Detroit.
“I think it makes it a little tougher, but we’re not there, so I don’t have to talk about it,” manager Don Mattingly said. “But I do think it would’ve been tougher and this would’ve been a tough loss because we really played well all day and then again just kind of shoot ourselves in the foot a little bit there in the ninth and to lose that one would’ve been a tough one for that reason. But it is good to be able to pull it out.”
First came a spectacular meltdown for Miami. Errors, infield singles and replay reviews compounded for a pair of earned runs to force extra innings in Michigan. Then came heroics from the Nos. 8 and 9 hitters in the Marlins’ order. Backup catcher Chad Wallach, starting behind the plate as fellow catcher Jorge Alfaro recovers from a left calf strain, ripped an RBI double to center field in the top of the 11th to send home Miguel Rojas for the game-winning run after the infielder legged out an infield single. A once-raucous crowd of 15,565 was dulled to a smattering of boos.
The extra-inning heroics helped the Marlins (14-31) salvage one of their most complete offensive efforts of the season.
“Really a clean game up until the night,” Mattingly said. “You get frustrated in that inning because we kind of shoot ourselves in the foot a little bit.
Miami clawed out five extra-base hits for only the fifth time this season, took a lead only three batters in and padded its lead with solo home runs by both the established — Brian Anderson — and the unproven — Harold Ramirez — at Comerica Park.
Those first four runs and eight hits all melted away in eight batters in the ninth. The inning began in controversial fashion and only got uglier for the Marlins. Super utility man Niko Goodrum began the frame by bouncing a grounder to first base. Neil Walker flipped the ball to Sergio Romo, who appeared to step on the edge of first and beat Goodrum. The Tigers (18-27) challenged and the call was reversed to give Detroit a lead-off runner. Romo responded with a strikeout, then chaos.
Outfielder Nicholas Castellanos, an Archbishop Edward A. McCarthy High School alumnus, hit a fielder’s choice to third, but second baseman Starlin Castro dropped Anderson’s throw. Miguel Cabrera hit a hard grounder to third, but the ball bounced off Anderson’s glove, and rolled into the outfield to send Goodrum home, and Castellanos to third. Infielder Ronny Rodriguez hit a game-tying sacrifice fly to left, but even that wasn’t simple — Ramirez dropped the ball on the transfer and Rodriguez was initially ruled safe at first before replay overturned the call, leading to Tigers manager Rod Gardenhire being ejected.
Miami went down in order in the 10th and so did Detroit against Nick Anderson. The Marlins then pounced on relief pitcher Joe Jimenez, the Tigers’ lone All-Star in 2018, while Anderson (1-1) closed out the win with five strikeouts in seven batters.
“Everybody every time their name gets called, every position player every time they’re up there at bat or if you’re on the mound you’re going out and trying to do your job no matter what the score is,” the relief pitcher said.
Jimenez (1-1) got two quick outs in the 11th and nearly a third until Rojas legged out an infield single. With the go-ahead run on base, Wallach nearly pulled a double to right field only for it to squirt foul. A few pitches later, he straightened his rocket out to center to win the game for Miami.
“I was just trying to battle,” Wallach said. “It was a tough pitcher, tough at-bat and I was just trying to put something in play, and I was able to hit one in the gap and Miggy was stealing.”
The sloppy inning nearly wasted what would have been a rare complete effort from the last-place Marlins. Starting pitcher Caleb Smith struck out seven, and allowed two runs on three hits in five innings, although that wasn’t unexpected. The all-around success was due to the offense, which smacked four extra-base hits for only the sixth time all year to give Miami its near wire-to-wire win. The Marlins scored just three batters into the game when Anderson hit a sacrifice fly to bring home outfielder Curtis Granderson, then built their lead on solo home runs by Anderson and Ramirez, and an RBI double by Wallach.
Still, Miami regrouped to win. Now the Marlins’ best winning streak of the season is up to four games and they managed to build on the weekend sweep despite a below-average start from their ace in the opener of a three-game series
Since those two shutout losses to the Rays, Miami has put up 18 total runs and gone undefeated.
“Confidence grows when you win and we’ve been able to put some wins together,” Mattingly said, “and then you start to feel like you’re going to win the game.”
Dean gets latest MLB shot after Berti injury
The Marlins’ outfield carousel is spinning once again and this time Austin Dean is heading back to the MLB because of an injury.
Before kicking off a three-game series with the Detroit Tigers on Tuesday at Comerica Park, the Marlins placed Jon Berti on the 10-day injured list with a left oblique strain, clearing the way for Dean to get his latest shot in the Majors.
Berti, who is primarily a second baseman and third baseman, was scratched before Miami’s win against the Mets on Sunday because of the oblique injury. The 30-year-old rookie was slated to lead off and start in center field at Marlins Park, just as he did in the previous two games against the Mets and in two of Miami’s three games before those. Berti will refrain from any activity until he is symptom free.
Bringing up Dean isn’t a one-for-one swap. Although he’s primarily an outfielder, Dean exclusively plays the corners and could also spent some time with Triple A New Orleans working at first base. Dean went 5 for 22 with one home run and two doubles first stint with the Marlins this season.
With Berti gone, Miami’s options in center field are limited. Utility man Rosell Herrera has the most experience at the position, but Mattingly turned to Ramirez in center Tuesday. The outfielder played some center field in spring training and in the Venezuelan Professional Baseball League in the winter.
“I just think he can handle it. In spring, we put him in center, we put him in left, we put him in right,” Mattingly said. “He seemed to handle all of them fairly well, so for today at least it’s the best combination.”
This and that
▪ Relief pitcher Riley Ferrell is progressing with his rehab and the Marlins are moving him up to the New Orleans Baby Cakes. A Rule 5 draft pick, Ferrell has spent the entire season on the IL because of right biceps tendinitis. The right-handed pitcher will make his Baby Cakes debut Wednesday.
▪ Relief pitcher Julian Fernandez threw a 21-pitch bullpen session Tuesday in Jupiter. The righty, whose fastball has been clocked at 102 mph, hasn’t pitched since 2017.
▪ Slugger Peter O’Brien is progressing with baseball activity. The former Miami Hurricane has been on the IL since May 11 with a left rib cage contusion.