A “next man up” mentality has been taken to an entirely different level for the Marlins.
What the club encountered on its 23-day road trip far exceeded anything the organization could have imagined. Yet, miraculously, not only did the Marlins have to overcome a coronavirus outbreak that sidelined the squad for eight days, but they also still managed to accomplish a fast start.
After seven Blue Jays homers helped erase Miami's early eight-run lead, the Marlins executed small ball with Magneuris Sierra's two-run single in the 10th inning, and they held on for a 14-11 victory on Wednesday to gain a two-game split at Sahlen Field in Buffalo, N.Y.
Miami added another run in the 10th on Jesús Aguilar's fourth RBI of the night in its second straight extra-innings affair to snap a three-game losing streak.
“This trip had a little bit of everything,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. “We hung in there. We played some pretty good ball. We had a disaster at the beginning of it in Philly. I don't know how to describe it. We had a fire alarm at the hotel last night, at midnight. It just goes on and on, and then this game.”
The Marlins became the fourth team in MLB history, and first in the National League, to win a game while allowing seven home runs, according to the club’s public relations department.
“It seems like the perfect game to end this trip with, a game that is out of the ordinary, every bit of it,” Mattingly said. “You never could get comfortable.”
The Marlins led 8-0 early against Nate Pearson, who allowed seven runs (four earned) in 2 1/3 innings, and 11-4 entering the bottom of the fifth. But Toronto belted seven homers off the bats of Teoscar Hernández , Rowdy Tellez, Danny Jansen, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette and Travis Shaw (two), who tied it at 11 in the eighth.
Yet it was the speedy Sierra, not a power threat, who chipped the decisive single in extra innings to put Miami in front to stay, helping send the club home on a high note.
“With all the inconvenience and everything that happened, I truly feel happy to be going back to Miami,” Sierra said through an interpreter. “I'm going to see my family and just be there with them. We're going to Miami, and we're going to play more baseball there.”
In a trip that had 18 players and two coaches test positive for COVID-19, the Marlins still managed to go 8-4, and they will open their first home series on Friday at Marlins Park, facing the Braves in a battle for first place in the NL East.
The traveling party returning to Miami in the early hours of Thursday morning will be dramatically different than the group that left on July 21. From the 30-man Opening Day roster, only 13 players remain, with 16 on the injured list and second baseman Isan Díaz electing not to play.
The rotation and bullpen were hit especially hard by the virus. With three starters on the injured list, Jordan Yamamoto was promoted from the alternate training site in Jupiter, Fla. Making his second start on Wednesday, the 24-year-old surrendered a pair of two-run homers while striking out five in 3 1/3 innings.
Miami’s depleted bullpen was dealt another blow on Wednesday, with Mike Morin sustaining a right elbow injury. He will undergo further evaluation when the team returns to South Florida.
Josh A. Smith, whose contract was selected on Aug. 4, closed out the 10th without allowing a run for his second career save.
“We're competitors,” Smith said. “It says a lot about this organization. It says a lot about the guys that we have down there. We come to work every day, blue collar. Whenever our name is called, we try to get it done. Whoever doesn't get it done, then the other guys just pick them up.”
The lineup has been without catcher Jorge Alfaro, outfielder Harold Ramirez and first baseman/designated hitter Garrett Cooper since the Phillies series. Two constants in their absence have been Brian Anderson and Aguilar. “Andy and Agui” are off to hot starts, combining for eight home runs and 25 RBIs.
Anderson went deep for the second straight night, with both being towering drives to left field. Entering Wednesday, Anderson’s average launch angle has been 15.5 degrees since Aug. 1, 2019. From Opening Day a year ago until July 31, it averaged 9.8 degrees. The difference is clearly reflected in his slugging percentage -- .616 since last Aug. 1, but just .439 before that in '19.
Now that the Marlins are returning home, Mattingly reminded the players that they must avoid letting their guard down when it comes to abiding by the health protocols.
“Hopefully our guys will be safe when we get back and take care of themselves,” Mattingly said. “I know that they are going to feel that freedom of wanting to get outside and out of the hotel. We've got to be safe [Thursday], and then get back down to business.”