MIAMI -- Not too long after providing the heroics in a thrilling 7-6 walk-off victory over the Giants in 10 innings on Saturday night at loanDepot park, Marlins catcher Jorge Alfaro turned philosophical.
"The road will display a lot of obstacles," Alfaro said via an interpreter. "You've got to go through those obstacles, and that's pretty much how I felt coming back again. You've got to start over. You're crawling, and then after that, you start walking and looking to just run."
Alfaro, whose 2020 included missing nearly a month with COVID-19 and sitting on the bench during the playoffs, spent his offseason training in South Florida rather than returning to Colombia with family. While this was going on, rumors swirled that the Marlins were inquiring about catchers like Willson Contreras.
And then the 27-year-old Alfaro started off slow this season. He missed four contests with left hamstring tightness, and upon his return to the lineup, he struck out three times in each of his first two games back. His slash line had dropped to .174/.208/.174, and his spot in the order had fallen to eighth.
On Saturday, Alfaro went 2-for-6 with three RBIs, including the game-winning two-out, two-run double in the 10th. He turned on a hanging slider from former teammate Jarlin García and sent it to left field with a game-high exit velocity of 110.8 mph. It was his second career walk-off hit, his first coming against his former team, the Phillies, on Sept. 10, 2020.
His RBI single during a game-tying two-run ninth left the bat at 107.5 mph. On Friday, his 115.7 mph groundout was the Majors' hardest-hit ball of the day.
"It feels good that I can give something back to them after they've been playing hard," Alfaro said. "I was having a little trouble hitting when I came back after that week. Just trying to give them something back, give something back to the team. Right now we have a mentality we are a family, and we're playing like a family. The mentality right now is no quitting. Quitting is not an option, it's not a choice. Just got to go out there, fight for every game, compete and just try to get the win."
Alfaro’s contributions didn't just come at the plate. In the top half of the 10th, San Francisco managed just one run thanks to a pair of standout plays by Miami’s infield. With runners at the corners and no outs, Friday night’s starting pitcher Anthony DeSclafani pinch-hit and bunted. Alfaro pounced on the ball to execute a 2-6 putout.
According to Statcast, Alfaro sent a 92.7 mph dart to second base with a 0.50-second exchange. From 2018-19, he led Major League catchers in pop time (1.92 seconds) to second base on stolen-base attempts.
"He's a guy that's tooled up and that's what you love, knowing that that's there and there is a huge upside," Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. "Just want to get to it and help him get to it. I think that's why the coaching staff, it's one of the things you fight for trying to help this guy get better in all areas of his game. So it's good to see him have that success. His confidence, for the team for the whole picture."
With the victory, the Marlins (7-7) returned to .500 for the first time since Opening Day. They have won six of seven since the walk-off loss on a hit-by-pitch in New York on April 8.
Starling Marte was the hero in Friday’s series opener, a 4-1 victory over San Francisco. Alfaro was the difference-maker on Saturday, when his teammates rushed to meet him near second base and celebrate. There’s a different player stepping up for Miami seemingly every night.
"Lesson learned is, we know we're a good team," said left fielder Corey Dickerson, who recorded his first four-hit game as a Marlin. "We took that from last year, but this year it's 162. It's pacing yourself and being there for your teammates, because it's a long year. Last year, you start to struggle, a lot of the guys straight panic. This year, you struggle, can't panic too early because it's a long year."
Added Mattingly: "That was big for Jorge. It's like anyone -- you're working and everybody knows you're working and guys trust you. But you want to come through. He does it twice tonight, not once but twice. In the ninth, and then there in [the 10th] inning. And made a nice play in the extra innings on the bunt, too. It's just nice. Jorgie's been working. Obviously been a little uneven because of the leg, but to see him get that hit there was such a good feeling for him and his teammates to feel like you're part of it and you're pulling your share of the weight."