It was a matter of inches separating Logan Forsythe from being the latest unlikely hero for the Miami Marlins. A towering fly ball breezed past the foul pole in left field at Sahlen Field. The infielder celebrated. The Marlins jumped up and down in their dugout. For a moment in the 10th inning Tuesday, Miami thought another improbable comeback was complete after it had trailed by three runs with two outs in the top of the ninth.
Forsythe — and the umpires — thought he had hit the go-ahead two-run home run in the Marlins’ first extra-inning game of the season. The umpires, though, decided to review and it was apparent: Forsythe’s fly ball just missed grazing the foul pole. The celebration petered out. A few minutes later, the Toronto Blue Jays were rushing the field instead after a 5-4, walk-off win in extras.
“For a brief second there, it looked like Logan got a homer,” manager Don Mattingly said. “We just weren’t able to make a pitch there in that last inning.”
Instead of a seventh win in nine games, Miami (7-4) suffered a third straight loss in the first MLB game in Buffalo since 1915.
Even with the loss, the Marlins still sit atop the National League East, ahead of the Atlanta Braves by percentage points as Miami’s unprecedented road trip finally nears its end. On Wednesday, the Marlins will again face the Blue Jays (6-8) in Western New York — their new temporary home because of the COVID-19 pandemic — before they can finally return home to Miami to play their first game of the year at Marlins Park on Friday.
Miami’s improbably run started Tuesday in Baltimore, when the Marlins beat the Baltimore Orioles following an eight-day layoff and 18 players testing positive for the coronavirus. They won five games in four days before they finally lost to the New York Mets on Saturday, sending Miami, at least temporarily, crashing back down to earth with three straight losses.
On Tuesday, the Marlins nearly pulled off another unlikely victory in a season full of them. On its 22nd straight day on the road, Miami was down to its final out in the top of the ninth when Brian Anderson drew a two-out walk to bring the tying run to the plate. Francisco Cervelli, supposed to be nothing more than a backup catcher this season, stepped up with two runners and the Marlins trailing 4-1.
Cervelli, now the regular starter after catcher Jorge Alfaro tested positive for the virus last month, was patient. He took three straight pitches, all down and inside, before he finally saw something he liked. Toronto relief pitcher Anthony Bass hung a 3-0 sinker near the top of the zone and Cervelli jumped on his chance.
As soon as he followed through, the catcher dropped his bat to the ground and pumped both of his fists simultaneously. He turned to his right to face a celebrating dugout and then he rounded the bases. He knew right away his swing was sending the game-tying home run over the left-field fence.
“I saw the ball and I hit the ball,” Cervelli said. “I saw the situation, I looked who was behind me and I said, I’ve got to swing here, so that was my plan.”
This season, every inning extra inning begins with a runner on second base, so Forsythe led off the 10th with a runner already in scoring position. He nearly took relief pitcher A.J. Cole deep before the relief pitcher finally struck him out and danced through a clean frame. The Blue Jays regrouped in the 10th against relief pitcher Stephen Tarpley.
With a runner starting on second, Tarpley (2-1) walked two batters, bringing Travis Shaw to the plate with the bases loaded. The third baseman smacked a single to right to win the first MLB game in Buffalo in nearly 105 years after Cole (1-0) gave Toronto 1 1/3 scoreless innings in relief of Bass.
“I don’t like it,” Cervelli said of the new rule for extra innings. “Every year, there’s a new rule, new things. This is not softball, this is not the Olympic games. This is baseball, but it’s what it is. I have to adapt to this.”
The ninth-inning outburst was about all Marlins could manage Tuesday.
For the second straight game, they faced a pitcher who finished in the top two for voting for the 2019 NL Cy Young Award. On Sunday, Miami managed just two runs in five innings against Jacob deGrom before dropping their first series of the year to the Mets. On Tuesday, it managed even less against Ryu as the left-handed pitcher held the Marlins to just two hits and one run in six innings with seven strikeouts.
Still, Miami took a lead all the way into the sixth inning. Anderson crushed a solo homer off Ryu in the second and Elieser Hernandez cruised through the early innings. In his first start of the season Wednesday, Hernandez fired 4 1/3 scoreless innings and he continued his streak for five more innings Tuesday before Toronto finally cracked him. The pitcher gave up back-to-back doubles to start sixth, setting up shortstop Bo Bichette to hit a go-ahead three-run homer. Hernandez was done a few batters later after giving up three runs on four hits and a walk with five strikeouts in 5 1/3 innings.
“I just needed to attack,” Hernandez said through an interpreter. “That’s what I have to do, trust in my strength and just try to get the outs in that inning.”