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Walk-off Wednesdays: Padres challenge Jeff Mathis and he makes them pay

In the midst of a non-competitive 2013 season, Mathis led the Marlins to a rare series win.

There’s no better way to end a baseball game than with a walk-off winner, and no better way to start your day than by reliving one of those moments. To entertain you throughout the inactive stretches of the Marlins’ offseason, we’ll be featuring the most thrilling finishes in franchise history, with new installments on Wednesdays.

The series begins with Jeff Mathis, whose 2017 Arizona Diamondbacks were just eliminated from the postseason on Monday.

Date: June 30, 2013

Jeff Mathis was new to the Miami Marlins in 2013, an acquisition from Toronto the previous offseason in that infamous salary dump/franchise reset.

But there was plenty of data on the 30-year-old catcher from his previous major league stops. All of it indicated that he was an easy out, arguably the easiest out in baseball. From Mathis’ rookie season (2005) through 2012, he slashed .198/.256/.314. Among 476 batters with at least 1,000 plate appearances during that stretch, his 50 wRC+ ranked dead last.

On this quiet Sunday afternoon, San Diego’s Tyson Ross would’ve preferred to face a Marlins pitcher with the game on the line, but Mathis was the next best thing. So with the score tied at two in the bottom of the ninth, one base open and only one out, the Padres intentionally walked pinch-hitter Greg Dobbs to load ‘em up.

Ross could see the light at the end of the jam. Mathis struggled to even make contact against same-handed pitching, and if he did, Ross had enough sink on his fastball to force a ground ball with inning-ending double-play potential.

After falling behind in the count 1-0, the righty went with his fastball. It ended the inning, alright...but also the game and the series.

Can’t hear the play-by-play call? Maybe you’re at work, or pretending to listen to your fiancé complain about the neighbors.

No worries. Here’s a transcription of Rich Waltz from FOX Sports Florida:

“The 1-0...To left and deep...This game is over!

“Ball game! Walk-off! Grand slam! JEFF MATHIS!

“And Miami wins it.”

Jeffrey Loria showed some audacity by appearing publicly for this contest. Nearly halfway through the season, the Fish owned the worst record in the majors, 18 games back of the Atlanta Braves for the NL East lead. But for one fleeting moment, none of that mattered.

Win Expectancy added on walk-off play: 17.0 percent

A 25-year-old Logan Morrison was on third base representing the winning run, so there were a variety of ways for Mathis to bring him home. The Padres had made a late-inning defensive upgrade by inserting Chris Denorfia in right field (13 outfield assists in 2013), but Mathis rarely used the opposite field, anyway.

If Ross retired him for the second out, the pitcher’s spot was due up next. Placido Polanco would’ve been the leading candidate to pinch-hit. However, just two years removed from an NL All-Star selection, Polanco had slumped his way out of an everyday job. Without Mathis’ heroics, the game was likely headed into extra innings.

Source: FanGraphs

This homer came during the most inspired stretch of baseball Mathis has ever played. Between June 26 and July 4, he slashed .368/.500/.789 with 13 runs batted in (six games). The Marlins went undefeated in those appearances.