Martin Prado refused to yield.
With the bases loaded and the score tied with one out in the ninth on Sunday, Marlins veteran Prado dug in against Mets reliever Tyler Clippard.
“When [the count] got to 3-2, the game was on,” Prado said.
Prado fouled off six consecutive full-count pitches before delivering the game-winner, a line-out sacrifice to left that gave the Marlins a 4-3 victory and stalled the Mets in their playoff push.
“You’ve got to be around the game a long time to see a better at-bat,” said Marlins manager Dan Jennings after Prado produced a walk-off win for the second time in three days.
It would have never reached that point had Justin Bour not stepped up as a pinch-hitter with two outs in the eighth and crushed a homer off Clippard into the upper deck in right.
What was the first pinch-hit homer all season for the Marlins, and the first given up to a left-handed hitter by Clippard, tied the score and set up the dramatic ending in the ninth.
The Mets had the first shot at taking the lead when they loaded the bases off Marlins reliever A.J. Ramos with one out. But Ramos got pinch-hitter Travis d’Arnaud to bounce into an inning-ending double play.
Then came the bottom of the ninth. Jeff Mathis struck out to start the inning but reached first when the ball got past Mets catcher Anthony Recker.
“It shouldn’t go unrecognized the impact Jeff Mathis had on this game,” Jennings said.
“He not only caught and called a great game, and gave us the lead with a home run, but made an outstanding play in the third inning when he threw out a runner at third. And then he had the wherewith all to reach first base after strike three, and that proved to be the winning run.”
After Clippard struck out Ichiro Suzuki, Dee Gordon singled to right, putting runners at the corners. The Mets walked Christian Yelich intentionally, setting up a force play at every base.
That brought Prado to the plate. He fell behind 1-2 in the count before working it to 3-2.
Prado said he was so focused he was able to block out the crowd noise.
“But I’m human,” he said. “My heart was racing like a race car.”
Six foul balls later, he lined a shot to left that gave the Marlins the series win.
Giancarlo Stanton acknowledged for the first time that there’s a chance he might not play again this season because of a hand injury that has been slow to heal.
“There’s always a possibility [of not returning], but [that’s] not what I’m looking for,” said Stanton, who is continuing to strengthen his surgically repaired left hand in hopes of getting back on the field.
But Stanton said he has “a little bit” of concern that might not be possible. He said he doesn’t yet have the strength in his hand — specifically with his little and ring fingers — he requires for torque and power. After taking a few days off, Stanton said he’s ready to resume hitting off a tee.
▪ Bour was not surprised when Bartolo Colon threw him out at first on a nifty behind-the-back flip on Saturday.
“I’m not surprised by anything he does,” Bour said. “He’s probably one of my favorite players to watch.”
▪ Monday: Marlins LHP Justin Nicolino (3-2, 3.07 ERA) vs. Milwaukee Brewers RHP Zach Davies (0-0, 8.31), 1:10 p.m., Marlins Park.
▪ Tuesday: Marlins LHP Adam Conley (3-2, 5.02) vs. Brewers RHP Taylor Jungmann (9-5, 2.42), 7:10 p.m., Marlins Park.