It just seemed so fitting that the Miami Marlins’ road trip would end like this. A wild series finale. A test of resolve.
And, yes, extra innings to cap this already extended time away from home.
A home-run barrage nearly cost the Marlins the win. Small ball in extra innings salvaged the night.
And with that, on the 23rd day, the Marlins’ road trip to begin the 2020 season ended on a high note (and with Miami still leading the National League East).
They snapped a three-game losing streak with a 14-11, 10-inning win Wednesday over the Toronto Blue Jays at Buffalo’s Sahlen Field after four hours and 21 minutes of chaos.
Magneuris Sierra’s go-ahead two-run single and an RBI single from Jesus Aguilar in the extra frame gave Miami the lead for good. Josh A. Smith threw a scoreless 10th with a pair of strikeouts to close the game and earn the save.
The rally came after the Marlins watched leads of 8-0 and 11-4 disappear with the Blue Jays (6-9) swatting ball after ball past the outfield wall — seven total in a six-inning span. The Marlins become the fourth team in MLB history and first National League team to win a game while allowing seven home runs.
“That was a crazy game,” Marlins manager Don Matingly said. “... Seems like the perfect game to end this trip with.”
It allowed the Marlins to close their 12-game road stretch (which had a week of quarantining and postponed games mixed in) in a good spot as far as their record is concerned despite some self-inflicted setbacks.
At 8-4, one-fifth of the way through this 60-game season, Miami holds onto the top spot in the NL East as it prepares to host the Atlanta Braves starting Friday in its first series at Marlins Park this season. The Braves (11-9) are second in the division based on win percentage.
“I think guys are excited to get back home,” Mattingly said. “There hasn’t been any change in that. We’ve been on the road for 23 days. ... Guys are pretty good about compartmentalizing what we have to do.”
They’ve had a lot to compartmentalize.
They played 12 consecutive games away from home to begin the season, a byproduct of the team’s coronavirus outbreak that manifested following their season-opening road series against the Philadelphia Phillies in late July. It impacted 18 players and forced the Marlins to bring up a slew of prospects and pick up veterans off waivers, through trades and via free agency just to field a full roster.
Instead of returning home after that series as originally planned, the Marlins had seven games postponed while they quarantined in a Philadelphia hotel for a week and then played another nine games on the road when they were cleared to play. The Marlins were the designated home team in two of those games against the Baltimore Orioles at Camden Yards.
They have gone 6-3 since returning to the field.
“I hope we don’t have to learn too many more lessons on this trip. I’ve got enough lessons under my belt now,” Mattingly said. “We talked about this season in general that going into it, it was going to be different. The team that could get past all of that stuff would have a better chance of surviving it. Knowing you’re going to get tested and the protocols and all that stuff, we talked about that. I had no vision of this type of trip, but we did know we were going to have to deal with a lot of stuff mentally. We’ve been tested early. Hopefully, we can smooth it out, get some guys back and not have to go through this again.”
On Wednesday, they channeled their energy into a game that represented their final hurdle before heading home.
Brian Anderson opened action with a three-run home run in the first inning. The Marlins tacked on five more runs in a third inning that featured three singles, three walks, one run scoring on a fielding error and another when Blue Jays catcher Danny Jansen tried to pick off a Marlins runner at second with the bases loaded. Miami scored three more runs in the fifth. Every position player in the starting lineup had at least one hit, run or RBI on Wednesday.
They chased Blue Jays starting pitcher Nate Pearson, the No. 9 overall prospect in baseball according to MLBPipeline, after 2 1/3 innings to force the Blue Jays to go to their bullpen early.
But Toronto’s offense did more than enough to make up for that.
Teoscar Hernandez two-run home run in the third against Jordan Yamamoto.
Rowdy Tellez two-run home run in the fourth against Yamamoto.
Travis Shaw two-run home run in the fifth against Nick Vincent.
Jansen two-run home run in the sixth against Brian Moran.
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. solo home run in the seventh against James Hoyt.
Bo Bichette and Shaw back-to-back solo home runs in the eighth against Brad Boxberger.
Seven swings. Eleven runs. Tie game.
But the Marlins didn’t wither. Eddy Alvarez started on second in the 10th inning per the new extra-inning rules implemented for this season. Jon Berti moved him over with a bunt single and reached second on a wild pitch. Sierra then hit a single to right field to bring both home. Aguilar added an insurance run with an RBI single that plated Sierra, who reached second on a failed pickoff and third on a Jonathan Villar sacrifice bunt.
“They all count,” Mattingly said. “You feel like you have to have every one of them. We want to keep that day-in and day-out mindset. There’s no real big series because they’re all big series.”
The next big series, finally, will be at their home ballpark.
“I feel like it is just because you’re not in hotels and you know your surroundings,” Mattingly said. “You know how to get food. You’re just a lot more equipped to deal with what you need. When you’re in a hotel setting and you can’t go out of the hotel and anytime you leave your room you have to have a mask on, it’s just not a great setting, right? At home, at least you know you can step out on your porch and get fresh air. If you have a backyard, you can get out without a mask. ... I feel more comfortable there than I do on the road.”
▪ Relief pitcher Mike Morin suffered a right elbow injury after throwing two pitches in the sixth inning. The team announced he’ll undergo further evaluation when they return to Miami.