DENVER -- J.T. Realmuto hit a game-changing grand slam in the top of the seventh inning against the Rockies on Saturday at Coors Field, giving the Marlins a five-run lead en route to a 6-2 win to even the series.
The Marlins took a one-run lead earlier in the inning, and with the bases loaded, there was no one who could give manager Don Mattingly more confidence to come through in the clutch and give Miami an insurance run or two.
Grand slams mean 40% off pizza
"J.T.'s great -- you know he's not afraid, he's not bothered by anything out there," Mattingly said. "He's one of the guys that you like being up there. I remember telling him last year; at one point he was struggling and I just told him, 'There's no one I like up there better than you.'"
The first three batters of the inning reached against Rockies starter Tyler Anderson, with Yadiel Rivera, John Holaday and pinch-hitter Justin Bour singling to left, right and center, respectively, with Bour plating Rivera to take a 2-1 lead.
Starlin Castro greeted reliever Bryan Shaw by reaching safely on a slow roller to third. Nolan Arenado barehanded the ball and rifled it to first, apparently in time to catch Castro, but the replay official overturned the call after Mattingly challenged, leaving the bases loaded.
DJ LeMahieu threw out Holaday at the plate on Brian Anderson's roller to second, setting the stage for Realmuto. The Marlins' first baseman drove a 2-2 cutter from Shaw to the top of the out-of-town scoreboard in right field, clearing the bases and giving the Marlins a 6-1 lead.
"Early on, I felt like I was trying to do too much in that at-bat," Realmuto said. "I was a little late, so once I got to two strikes I was just trying to fight and put the ball in play. A guy on third and less than two outs, I was just trying my best to hit a fly ball, put the ball in play basically. Get a pitch up in the zone and put a good swing on it. All I was thinking was we need that insurance run."
It was Realmuto's second career slam. The first came on Aug. 12, 2015, at home against the Red Sox.
Realmuto's slam was the difference in the game, but it was starting pitcher Trevor Richards who put the Marlins in position to win with his six innings of one-run ball, striking out eight while allowing three hits and two walks, mastering the mile-high atmosphere in his Coors Field debut.
"Fastball command was there," Richards said, unfazed by a park that has haunted pitchers for decades. "Changeup was working pretty well. I left a couple up, [Trevor's Story fourth-inning] double down the line was not a very good pitch. The slider was there today, it was a lot better than it has been. It was a step forward today."
It was Richards' third quality start of the season, his second win and his first on the road. He clearly had the Rockies' sluggers frustrated at their futility with him on the hill.
"They get frustrated when they make outs period, but he's got that kind of changeup that you can know it's coming and be looking for it and you still don't hit it," Mattingly said. "It's a different pitch, and it makes you wait on that. You have to see the ball first, and it actually adds to the fastball from the standpoint of your mind's trying to work, 'I got to make sure it's not the change.' It just adds on to your other pitches."
To round out his day, Richards reached base for the first time in his career on a third-inning walk, then he drove his first big league hit to right for a fifth-inning single.
"We've been working on that for a while," Richards said. "Finally got the ball in play. Hit it where they ain't."
Kyle Barraclough closed the game with a perfect ninth inning, extending his career-long scoreless streak to 17 2/3 innings over his last 18 appearances. He hasn't allowed a hit in 10 2/3 innings over 11 appearances. It's the longest hitless streak in the Majors this season.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Moments after making a double switch that removed left fielder Derek Dietrich from the game and moved Cameron Maybin from right to left, Maybin made a diving grab of a Charlie Blackmon drive down the left-field line. Maybin caught the ball as he was fully laid out in a running dive to his right, coming up with the final out of the inning and robbing Blackmon of extra bases.
"You don't want to get anything started here," Mattingly said. "It's one of those places that you just don't want to let any kind of momentum go. I've seen it. It just gets rolling, ball starts dropping, and then, chaos. You don't want to let anybody on base. Obviously, Arenado's coming up right after Blackmon there, so it's one of those outs you'd like to have and have Nolan leading off.
Maybin traveled 54 feet in 3.6 seconds to make the catch, making a play with a 37-percent catch probability.
HE SAID IT
"Anytime you can make Arenado look like that a couple at-bats, you know you got your stuff going." -- Realmuto, on Richards' ability to frustrate hitters
Lefty Caleb Smith climbs the hill for the Marlins in the series finale in Colorado at 3:10 p.m. ET. He faced the Rockies in Miami in April, pitching seven innings of shutout ball while striking out nine and allowing two hits and a walk. Smith leads all Major League rookies with 87 strikeouts in 76 innings. Right-hander German Marquez will start for the Rockies.