Sometimes the shortest hit can turn the course of a game.
Jeff Mathis did that on Sunday.
The Marlins’ backup catcher surprised the Cardinals by laying down a bunt with two outs and a runner at third to break the team’s 12-inning scoring drought.
The play reignited a Marlins offense that went cold the previous night against Adam Wainwright and led to a 6-3 victory over the Cardinals at Busch Stadium.
“Any time you push a run across to tie the game, it’s big,” Mathis said. “Just happy I could get it back square.”
Giancarlo Stanton scored on the squeeze play in the fourth to tie the score at 1-1 two innings after Matt Holliday hit a solo homer off starter Adam Conley.
Marlins manager Don Mattingly said Mathis chose to try the bunt in that situation.
“He, obviously, was aware that [the defense] moved back,” Mattingly said. “Maybe that pitch opened it up for him, and he took advantage.”
The teams would go back and forth until Stanton’s double in the seventh scored Christian Yelich and gave the Marlins (49-42) a 4-3 edge to put them ahead for good.
The Marlins won their fifth game in their past six and earned just their second series win in St. Louis in the past seven years and only their third ever at Busch Stadium.
“It’s big, there’s no doubt,” Mathis said. “You worry about going into the [All-Star] break and what it does to the mojo of your team. It’s big to come into this place and win a series against these guys.”
Stanton doubled twice and scored twice, and Yelich drove in three runs, including a two-run single in the fifth that forced the Cardinals (47-44) to take starter Michael Wacha out of the game after 101 pitches.
Ichiro Suzuki made his 32nd start of the season, as the Marlins gave Marcell Ozuna the day off, and recorded three hits to pull within six of 3,000.
Ichiro reached base four times, drawing a walk in the fifth inning, and nearly had a hit in the third that would have given him four on the day. But a grounder to shortstop that was originally ruled an infield single was overturned after a replay review that showed Ichiro had not reached first ahead of Aledmys Diaz’s throw.
It was Ichiro’s fifth game this season with three or more hits.
“I don’t think we’ve had games like this where we’ve won this type of way earlier in the year,” Ichiro said. “I think this was a great experience for us, just the way we were able to win the game.”
In each game in the series, the Cardinals fans acknowledged Ichiro when he came up to bat, something that did not go unnoticed by the future Hall of Famer.
“It’s three games that I’ll probably never forget,” Ichiro said. “Obviously, the fans and what [Yadier] Molina did, and [Adam] Wainwright stepping off, I don’t think I could have experienced something like this unless it was here in St. Louis. It’s a special place and special fans and a special experience.”
Marlins pitchers combined to strike out 15 Cardinals — one short of a season high in a game.
Conley went 5 1/3 innings, walked three and matched a single-game, career-best with nine strikeouts. But he gave up three runs, the third of which was unearned and tied the game at 3 on a throwing error by Adeiny Hechavarria in the sixth.
Kyle Barraclough, who had not pitched since before the All-Star break, bailed the Marlins out of the jam by striking out Michael McKenry and Randal Grichuk.
With Barraclough rested, manager Don Mattingly kept him in for the seventh inning. He retired the Cardinals in order and picked up one more strikeout.
Barraclough’s 63 strikeouts leads all National League relievers and trails only Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller of the Yankees for the major-league lead.
Fernando Rodney pitched a scoreless eighth, and A.J. Ramos closed out his 29th save in 30 tries.
“Especially since Rodney got here everyone out of the bullpen has been throwing really well,” Barraclough said.
“Having him just gives [Mattingly] more options, knowing everyone down there is ready to go. The more options you have down there the more people you have confidence in. If someone needs a day then you know the next guy stepping up isn’t going to let the level of play drop off.”
▪ Yefri Perez made his major-league debut in the eighth inning as a pinch runner, and it was quite an adventure.
Perez stole a base after nearly being picked off between first and second. Perez then overran third base on Ichiro’s infield single and barely got back to the bag.
Two batters later, Perez scored his first career run on a sacrifice fly by Yelich.