The Miami Marlins found themselves in Cinco de Mayo down 3-0 after seven shutout innings against New York Mets starter Jonathan Niese, who hasn’t allowed more than three runs in ten consecutive starts dating back to September of last year. But the Fighting Fish once again found a way to win after an RBI double by Jarrod Saltalamacchia capped a three-run eighth inning and an RBI single off the pitcher by Casey McGehee in the ninth gave them their second walk-off win in as many days.
On Marlins manager Mike Redmond’s birthday to boot.
That followed up Sunday’s walk-off win over the Los Angeles Dodgers that came with a storybook ending. Where the little known scrappy underdog hits a towering shot all the way to the right field fence and the big star antagonist throws his body to wall to make a spectacular play, only to fall to the ground without the ball in his glove.
These last two walk-off victories serves as symbols of the optimism that surrounds this Miami Marlins team. A team that’s fused with fresh, young talent and scrappy, overachieving veterans.
The Marlins failed to bring in stars when Marlins Park opened up in 2012. What they’ve done instead since was create a superstar duo of their own.
In six March/April outings, Fernandez went 4-1 and led the Majors with 55 strikeouts. Three of the wins came at home and he only allowed one run in 27 2/3 innings.
"What could you really say about that month that he had?" Marlins manager Mike Redmond said. "That was really unbelievable. Everybody at the beginning of the year was wondering how this guy was going to do in his second season. He pretty much answered that."
Usually star rookies struggle in their sophomore season largely due to failing to make adjustments. The Marlins gave him a veteran catcher fresh off a World Series championship with the Boston Red Sox to work with and it certainly paid dividends.
“I told Salty this is his accomplishment,” Fernandez said.
Stanton led the Majors with 31 RBIs in April, but the award voters favored Colorado Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki’s league leading .477 on-base percentage and .727 slugging percentage.
"What else does he have to do? Maybe drive in a few more runs," Redmond said. "It was a pretty amazing month he had. I know as a player, you don't think about those things, the Player of the Month, or whatever.
"But as a manager, for us, he's such a big part of our team. He definitely deserved it. It's just fun to watch him. It's such an exciting at-bat, because you feel like he's going to do something big every time he steps into that box."
Stanton has long been the Marlins main power source, and his ability to use the entire field has improved. On Sunday, Stanton hit a home run towards both left and right field. Opponents have started implementing a shift by sliding the second baseman behind the bag.
With the help of his teammates such as leadoff man Christian Yelich, Stanton rarely comes to the plate alone. He is hitting.385 (15 for 39) with runners in scoring position.
"I do pull the ball a lot. It has worked for them as well,” Stanton said. “But when runners are in scoring position, it's going to be to my advantage."
"Talk about upside for a player," Redmond said. "This guy already is a force. But for me, he could be one of, if not the best, hitter in this game."
We’re in May now, but this could be the beginning of a magical season.
"Hopefully, there are going to be a lot more individual accomplishments, and a lot more team accomplishments," Fernandez said.