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Walker’s pinch-hit HR kickstarts dormant offense

@JoeFrisaro
September 17, 2019

PHOENIX -- For 5 2/3 innings on Monday night, the Marlins didn’t have as much as a hit off D-backs left-hander Robbie Ray. Then, in the seventh inning, they received a big pinch-hit from Neil Walker -- a two-run homer that woke up an offense that had struggled in the

PHOENIX -- For 5 2/3 innings on Monday night, the Marlins didn’t have as much as a hit off D-backs left-hander Robbie Ray. Then, in the seventh inning, they received a big pinch-hit from Neil Walker -- a two-run homer that woke up an offense that had struggled in the first leg of the road trip.

Walker’s two-run homer off Yoan López was his second pinch-hit blast of the season, and the eighth total by the Marlins, matching a club record. But the bullpen surrendered a late-inning lead, as Jake Lamb’s three-run double in the bottom of the seventh rallied Arizona to a 7-5 win over Miami at Chase Field.

Box score

“Obviously, that [Walker home run] changed the game,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. “You're down three. It looks like we have no momentum in any way, shape or form. And we get two quick runs, and then we're in a ball game.”

The Marlins have now lost three of four on their road trip, and fell to 52-98 on the season. Until the late innings, they struggled for anything at the plate. Ray didn’t allow a hit until Starlin Castro’s two-out single in the sixth.

Arizona claimed a three-run lead off Pablo López, who hit three batters and yielded a run in the first inning. Ketel Marte had an RBI double in the third, and in the sixth inning, Eduardo Escobar belted a solo hot off Lopez.

“That's definitely not the way you want your first inning to go, especially against a lineup like the D-backs',” Lopez said. “Maybe I was a little too mechanical in the first inning, trying to be too fine. Trying to make the perfect pitch in the perfect situation. Then, I relaxed on the mound, and tried to have a good rhythm, good mechanics.”

After Ray exited in the seventh inning, Walker pinch-hit for Martin Prado, and connected off López, and the Marlins ultimately scored five times in the inning.

“One of the toughest things in all of baseball is pinch-hitting,” Walker said. “You're in that situation. You're just looking, in that situation, to get a pitch in the zone to do something with. Put a good swing on it.

“When you can see a couple of pitches. I got ahead 2-0 and fouled a pitch off. You at least have your timing. But you have to be prepared as soon as you step in the box. The first pitch you see may be your best pitch. That's kind of how it works coming off the bench. In September, when a lot of guys are coming off the bench, you just try to make sure you're prepared.”

In franchise history, the Marlins have reached eight pinch-hit home runs in a season three times. Those occasions have come every 10 years -- 1999, 2009 and 2019.

“Obviously, to get the starter out,” Walker said of getting into Arizona’s bullpen. “[Ray] obviously did a really good job keeping us off the bases, for the most part. We had some walks, but not many hits. Try to get him out of the game and get a reliever in there, and hope he's not sharp. That was the case in that seventh inning.”

In the eighth inning, trailing by two runs, the Marlins received another timely pinch-hit. But it didn’t leave the yard. Bryan Holaday delivered a two-out single to center, but Jarrod Dyson threw out Harold Ramirez trying to score from second at the plate.

On the play at the plate, Mattingly noted that Ramirez went wide of home plate and attempted to reach back partly because the bat was in the way.

“Looking back, I wish somebody would have grabbed that bat, and moved it away,” Mattingly said. “Maybe we're going to start sliding straight into home, instead of sliding by it and trying to grab the plate with your hand later. I've seen all year long, guys slide to the back of the plate, past it. And then reach back to grab it when you kind of almost beat the throw if you slide straight in. We're going to take a look at some of that.”

Joe Frisaro has covered the Marlins for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro and listen to his podcast.