The Miami Marlins’ infield huddled together near the pitcher’s mound at Busch Stadium in the 11th inning on Thursday as they waited for play to resume as umpires reviewed a play at home plate.
St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Jack Flaherty, pinch-running for Yadier Molina, represented the tying run at second base. Get him home, and the Cardinals at the very least would extend this four-and-a-half-hour marathon of a game another inning.
Miguel Rojas, the veteran infielder who moved over to first base at the start of the inning, made the call.
“Let’s run the play,” Rojas told the group.
Romo turned to Yadiel Rivera, who was handling shortstop after flipping positions with Rojas.
“Are you ready?” Romo asked.
“All right,” Rivera replied.
Romo stepped back to the mound as pinch-hitter Matt Weiters stepped up to the plate looking to keep the Cardinals’ hopes of clinching the series alive.
He never saw a pitch.
Romo twirled around counter-clockwise and fired the ball to Rivera, who tagged Flaherty out at second for a game-winning pickoff. It sealed a wild 7-6 win for the Marlins, a rebound performance after the Cardinals hit an 11th-inning walk-off home run the night before.
“Would have liked to make a better throw so that it wouldn’t have been so nerve wracking ... but Yadi is a premiere defender,” Romo said. “Yeah, that’s pretty impressive.”
Rivera added: “Perfect timing. We had a pitcher running on second base. He just came off the bench fresh. Miggy talked about it, we put it in play, and we got it.”
And manager Don Mattingly’s reaction: “They always work best when the players use them and they’re not coming from the bench.”
The play served as a fitting ending to a four-game series that saw both teams alternate shutout wins in the first two games and then swap 11-inning victories to close out the series.
And the competition was amped up from start to finish on Thursday.
Marlins starting pitcher Zac Gallen impressed in his MLB debut, giving up just one earned run on five hits while striking out six over five innings. The offense rallied on three occasions to keep the Marlins in line for the win, capped by JT Riddle’s two-run home run in the 11th that gave Miami the lead for good.
And Romo and the defense came up big on the final play bullpen — Romo included — gave up five runs in the final five innings.
“Baseball’s an amazing sport,” Romo said. “It gives you these opportunities on what seems like a daily basis to step up in make or break moments every game. Today was pretty cool that it came out our way. ... Just a really legit ball game. It’s good for us. This helps us. It’s happy fight time.”
Romo continued: “It’s just hard to win there. We’ll see what it does for us. We can only keep going. The best thing is there’s a lot of fight here. With our starters doing what they’ve been doing, it’s hard not to be in ballgames. We’ll see if we can catch up to our starters.”
Both Garrett Cooper and Jorge Alfaro left Thursday’s series finale with injuries. Cooper exited in the fifth with left triceps tightness while Alfaro was replaced in the ninth inning to be evaluated for a possible concussion after taking a swing off the back of the head from Marcell Ozuna and a foul ball off the face mask.
Mattingly postgame seemed more concerned about Cooper’s status of the two.
“With Coop, it’s that same triceps again,” Mattingly said. “It tightened up on him. We’ll see. We’ll probably have to do some type of testing now.”
Before exiting the game, Cooper went 1 for 2 at the plate with a double and a runs scored to extend his hitting streak to a career-long 12 games.
As for Alfaro, Mattingly said: “Everything was good when he came out of the game. He may be a little sore or something. ... We think he’s OK.”