Despite bruised face and missing tooth, Marlins power through

July 14th, 2022

MIAMI -- Following the Marlins’ 3-2, 11-inning walk-off win over the Pirates on Thursday afternoon at loanDepot park, Billy Hamilton held court with reporters sporting a swollen and bruised left cheek, covered with just a smidge of leftover blood. Miguel Rojas had already departed the premises after losing part of a tooth.

And they say baseball is a non-contact sport?

Marlins left and right played through pain for the club’s second consecutive walk-off victory, which culminated with Brian Anderson’s two-run triple. Thanks to that team effort, Miami split the four-game series with Pittsburgh to keep pace in the National League Wild Card race. The Marlins now welcome the contending Phillies to cap a stretch of 17 straight games without an off-day to end the first half.

“Hanging in there, and that's what we talk about,” manager Don Mattingly said. “Just keep fighting up until the break.”

Miami began the series finale without All-Star Jazz Chisholm Jr. and outfielder Jorge Soler, both of whom are on the injured list. All-Star Garrett Cooper was out of the lineup for the second straight game with a contusion on the inside of his left knee, while Jesús Sánchez was scratched for a personal matter less than an hour before first pitch.

And that was just the start of it. Second baseman Jon Berti sustained a mild left groin strain on his first-inning stolen base, so Joey Wendle entered the game in his place to begin the second. It set off a domino effect that led to a precarious situation for Miami later in the ballgame. 

“We'll see tomorrow how it feels when I get up and kind of just go from there,” said Berti, who leads the Majors with 28 steals.

Locked in a scoreless pitchers’ duel between Braxton Garrett and former Marlin Zach Thompson, Wendle laced a two-out double to right field in the fifth. Hamilton raced around the bases from first -- reaching a maximum sprint speed of 28.9 ft/sec (27 is MLB average, 30 is elite). Kevin Newman’s relay throw to catcher Jason Delay arrived at the same time as Hamilton, who slid headfirst and swiped his oven-mitt-clad left hand toward the plate, where umpire Alex MacKay called him out on the collision.

During a replay review, Hamilton remained down for several minutes as Miami’s entire training staff checked on him. The call was overturned, giving the Marlins a 1-0 lead. Hamilton walked off under his own power and stayed in the game until Sánchez pinch-hit for him in the eighth.

“I wasn't thinking about the collision,” Hamilton said. “You never think about the collision when you're coming home. But like I said, when I was rounding third, I could see him right across the plate. It was either me going to be scared and try to go around it, or I'm going to stick my hand [in] and try to do what I can to get this run. And that's what I decided to do. I just tried to stick my hand in there even if I would have messed up my [left] shoulder even worse. 

“I would have went down trying to do whatever I can for this team. They make me want to do that just by them giving me the confidence to be me every single day, because it's tough for guys to play a role to where we're not playing every single day. But coming in, do your role. So they keep me balanced. They keep me excited about being a part of this every single day. I give credit to most of the guys on the team, for sure.”

The sacrifice didn’t end there. In the ninth inning of a 1-1 ballgame, Oneil Cruz’s helmet knocked Rojas in the face on a stolen-base attempt. Rojas got the out, but he immediately ran off the field following the tag, leaving half of his tooth behind on the infield dirt for a Marlins staffer to retrieve.

Cooper entered the game at first and Jesús Aguilar moved to third, while Anderson shifted to second and Wendle slid to short. Anderson had played second base just one inning during his MLB career, but Miami didn’t have another option with catcher Jacob Stallings as the only position player left on the bench.

“We got Agui playing third. He's making plays over there throwing to Coop, who's got a bum knee [when] he picks the ball,” said Anderson, who had a hit-by-pitch overturned by replay before his walk-off heroics. “I think it's just toughness all around from everybody. Billy, I don't know what we can say about him. He's an awesome guy, and he gave his body up for a run right there. That set the tone for us that we've got to play hard, and we're just going to keep going and going and keep fighting."