Mathis' Sunday grand slam not his only game-changer
MIAMI -- Jeff Mathis's walk-off grand slam gave the Marlins a 6-2 victory Sunday, but the winning hit was just one of his big plays in the ninth inning.
Mathis' blast followed a huge play in the top of ninth. With the game tied at 2, the 30-year-old threw out Mark Kotsay trying to steal second on a failed hit-and-run. Marlins manager Mike Redmond felt the play made a significant difference for his club on Sunday.
"It's a tie game, and that's a big play," Redmond said. "If he hits a ground ball and it's first-and-third, that's a big play for them. He swung and missed, and we threw him out. That was really a transfer of momentum for us."
Kotsay was the 11th runner Mathis has thrown out this season in 16 opportunities. The veteran catcher believes his throwing improved significantly as a member of the Blue Jays a year ago and has continued to progress working with Redmond and Marlins bench coach Rob Leary.
"Last year, I started to kind of figure it out and feel better throwing the ball," Mathis said. "I was working with Don Wakamatsu, and we worked on some things. I was backing up last year, and I wasn't in there very much so we had time to work together. I just started feeling a lot more comfortable and everything started feeling more consistent. I've continued doing that stuff here with Leary and Red, and it's helped."
Mathis does not take all the credit for his success throwing out runners, acknowledging the importance of the pitching staff holding runners.
"I have to give credit to the pitching staff," Mathis said. "They've been holding guys on, holding the ball and picking over. That combination of things helps keep guys from getting big leads, and that gives us a chance."
While he has always been known as a defensive catcher, Mathis loves helping his team in other ways, too. After entering the ninth inning 1-for-15 with runners in scoring position, Mathis delivered the key hit to complete one of his best games as a Marlin.
"It feels good to produce," Mathis said. "My number one goal is defense and handling that pitching staff. Anything else is a plus. Throwing guys out, keeping guys off the bases and out of scoring position is big in any kind of game. Then last night to get a hit like that is huge."