With 'a lot of energy,' Marlins ride unlikely heroics to victory

Sánchez hits game-tying pinch-hit blast, then catcher Stallings rakes 2nd homer in a month

September 9th, 2023

PHILADELPHIA -- So much of this 2023 Marlins season seems improbable.

 lining the go-ahead homer in the seventh inning of Friday night’s 3-2 comeback victory over the Phillies in front of 40,190 fans at Citizens Bank Park became the latest plot twist in what the ballclub hopes is a story with postseason chapters yet to be told.

Within a 24-hour window, the Marlins saw their six-game win streak snapped in a lopsided 10-0 loss to the Dodgers and arrived in Philadelphia at 2:30 a.m. ET. It would have been easy to start the seven-game road trip on a flat note, but the Marlins (73-68) instead erased a two-run deficit to remain a half-game behind the D-backs (74-68) for the final National League Wild Card spot. The Phillies (77-63) continue to hold the top spot.

  • Games remaining: at PHI (2), at MIL (4), vs. ATL (3), vs. NYM (3), vs. MIL (3), at NYM (3), at PIT (3)
  • Standings update: The D-backs hold a half-game lead over the Marlins and a 1 1/2 game lead over the Reds (73-70). The Giants (70-70) are 2 1/2 games back. Miami would hold the first tiebreaker, based on head-to-head matchups, over Arizona (4-2). The Marlins (20-21) are in line to hold the second tiebreaker (intradivisional record) over the Reds (18-26) but not the Giants (19-14).

“These guys fight and they don't quit,” manager Skip Schumaker said. “They really believe that they can do it, and I'm just really proud of their effort every single game. 10-0, it's easy to just be happy with the two out of three against L.A. and come here and just see what happens. They came in today with a lot of energy. I don't know how, maybe a lot of espresso, because we did get in late after a night game and travel. But that happens, that's part of being a big leaguer, that you're going to have those nights. I think how they came in, the energy, but the belief, it just started earlier in the year when you started getting these walk-offs and they started believing that they're in the game no matter what.”

Trailing 2-0 in the sixth, Miami was happy to see a call to the bullpen after lefty Cristopher Sánchez held the lineup scoreless over five innings. With righty Seranthony Domínguez on the mound and a runner at second with two outs, Schumaker pinch-hit left-handed-hitting Jesús Sánchez for righty Garrett Hampson. The move paid off, as Sánchez blasted a game-tying two-run homer to right-center.

Sánchez is now 4-for-11 (.364) as a pinch-hitter this season. As a club, Miami’s .804 pinch-hit OPS is second in MLB.

“I wasn't waiting for that [role],” Sánchez said of pinch-hitting earlier in the season via interpreter Luis Dorante Jr. “But thank goodness I've got somebody here like [Yuli] Gurriel that has helped me a lot to make those adjustments, and then being able to go out there and do the good things I've done.”

Then came the unlikely power source.

Stallings lined the go-ahead shot over the left-center wall to lead off the seventh against southpaw Matt Strahm. Since Aug. 18, Stallings is slashing .265/.342/.559 with two of his three homers in 2023. Miami’s backstop duo of Stallings and Nick Fortes still ranks last in the Majors in OPS (.571).

One of the worst home run-hitting clubs entering September, the Marlins have knocked 17 long balls since Aug. 31 -- the most in franchise history during an eight-game span since August 2017. Entering the series opener, they ranked second in the NL in runs and homers in September.

“Everybody was pretty excited,” Stallings said. “Maybe everybody was just shocked that I hit a home run. I don't know. But it was great. That's why you play. You play for moments like that and to get to enjoy that with your teammates and that sort of stuff. Hitting the home run is cool, but what it meant for our team in this part of the season, just how excited everybody was, that's what's really cool. Probably the biggest home run of my career.”

After rookie Eury Pérez allowed two runs over five innings, former Phillie David Robertson tossed a scoreless sixth. Steven Okert recorded two outs but permitted two baserunners in the seventh, so Schumaker turned to escape artist Andrew Nardi, whose 11.1% inherited runners scored rate is tied with Guardians righty Nick Sandlin for the lowest in MLB among those with at least 30 IR.

Nardi walked Bryce Harper to load the bases, but induced an inning-ending forceout from Nick Castellanos. After Nardi tossed a perfect eighth, Tanner Scott retired the side in the ninth for his sixth save.

“Honestly, down in the bullpen, everybody's excited to go in,” Nardi said. “Everybody wants to pitch. Everybody knows what they can do and what their job is basically. So when it's their time to shine, they're going to do it.”