Well everyone, it’s November 15th, and we’ve all made it to The Upside Down. It’s been 17 days since World Series Game 5, 43 days since Brian Dozier hit a home run in the first at-bat of the playoffs, and 45 days since the Marlins last took the field. As a direct effect of the season ending, it is significantly colder and it inexplicably gets darker an hour earlier than normal. The inescapable conclusion is that this world is just a little brighter with baseball in it.
If you’re like me, now that the season is over, you might have a void normally reserved for baseball, that currently sits empty. You need to fill that void. And if you’ve made it to this site, and you’re reading this article, you might not be able to fill your void with just any baseball — you might just need Marlins baseball. You purchased a subscription to watch the Dominican Winter League for $35. You read the prospect and hot stove reports every day. Heck, you even decided to sit down and watch The Sandlot or Bull Durham. In the end, it’s not enough. You hunger for the crack of a Giancarlo Stanton bat. You feen for a Marcell Ozuna throw-out at home. You yearn for the sound of Rich Waltz’ voice, raising in pitch as a Marlins hitter drives one “deep to left.”
If you fit any of the above descriptions, and you have an MLB.tv account, you may be in luck. The braintrust here at Fish Stripes has come together to compile a list of the ten best Marlins games from the 2017 season. Use them as you please. You can binge them all in one night, like a season of Stranger Things, or you can use them sparingly, just barely quenching your thirst for Marlins baseball, and spreading the games out until Opening Day of 2018. Until then, this may be all you have: choose wisely.
10. 5/23/17 MIA 11 @ OAK 9
With a record of 15-28 heading into the back end of May, Don Mattingly had to do something to wake up the bats. After moving Giancarlo Stanton up to second in the order, the Marlins offense came together for 11 runs, including seven in the first three innings, and two in the last to stifle the surging Athletics. Mattingly would keep Stanton in the two-hole for the rest of the year in a story that ended with 59 home runs.
9. 7/17/17 PHI 5 @ MIA 6
The stars for the Fish sparkled in an ol’ fashioned NL East showdown. While Stanton seized the NL homer lead with a two homer night, Bour won the night’s long-drive competition. It took 10 innings to finish this one — who saved the day for the Fightin’ Fish? You’ll have to find out yourself! No spoilers!
8. 4/16/17 NYM 2 @ MIA 4
The headline says it all. After a number of injuries limited the play of Marlins’ infielders, budding shortstop JT Riddle made his debut on April 11th. Five days later, the Marlins found themselves in a predicament against the Mets. After the bullpen blew the lead in the top of 9th, with the game squared at two, Marcell Ozuna led off the bottom of the 9th with a single. Miguel Rojas followed up with a double; Ozuna tried to score from home, but after Yoenis Cespedes corralled the carom with a bare hand and delivered a strong relay throw, Asdrubal Cabrera threw a strike to the catcher to nab Ozo at the plate. With Rojas on second and the game on the line, Riddle had his number called against a hard-throwing Addison Reed. The young infielder didn’t disappoint, hitting a walk-off home run to right-centerfield.
7. 4/22/17 MIA 6 @ SD 3
The epitome of grit: over seven innings of work, Straily worked around a two-run fourth inning, and struck out 14 San Diego Fathers in the process. In the meantime, Stanton twice indulged in his favorite San Diego pastime of “How Hard Can I Hit the Factory in Left Field With a Baseball.” This one required more than nine innings, but the Marlins would have the last laugh in the 11th, breaking the game open with four runs, and running away with the W.
6. 6/19/17 WAS 7 @ MIA 8
After taking two walk-off losses from the Braves at SunTrust Park, the Marlins decided it was time to dish out a little walk-off punishment of their own. This game will take you through the full range of emotions. You’ll cry when the Nats trounce Justin Nicolino for six runs in the first three innings, you’ll laugh when the Marlins respond with a Justin Bour grand slam and a six-run rally, and you may both laugh and cry when the Marlins achieve redemption in the bottom of the 9th. This game is just what you need to cure your offseason blues.
5. 6/21/17 WAS 1 @ MIA 2
While at most MLB parks, the mid-week 12:10 first pitch simply represents a “Get Away Day” for a team on the road, said circumstances take on a much more serious significance at Marlins Park: Camp Day. During the dog days of summer, hordes of sugared-up kids load themselves onto yellow busses before flooding the vast expanses of Marlins Park. If you’ve never experienced it yourself, let me just say: you’re going to want to hook up the surround sound for this one. The screams of thousands of kids on Camp Day make it hard for any team to escape Little Havana with a win. Max Scherzer figured this out the hard way. After throwing seven innings without yielding a hit, the screams of the adolescent Marlins fans finally rattled Scherzer and his Nationals. AJ Ellis started the parade of maladies in the 8th inning with a hit that deflected off of Scherzer. JT Realmuto and Dee Gordon would then reach base after an Adam Lind error and a hit-by-pitch. With the bases loaded and Giancarlo Stanton at the dish, Scherzer winged a fastball over Jose Lobaton, allowing Jose Ureña — pinch running for Ellis — to score the tying run. Stanton would follow up with a one-run single, enough for the bullpen to hold on in the 9th.
4. 7/26/17 MIA 22 @ TEX 10
This game actually had it all. The score should tell you that first. If I asked you to guess whether the Marlins won a game in which they allowed ten runs, you probably wouldn’t guess that they did, let alone double said score. The Marlins scored in more innings than they didn’t, including striking for nine runs in the fourth. Although we didn’t know it at the time, this would be Yu Darvish’ last start with the Texas Rangers. After Yu got pinned with ten earned runs, the Los Angeles Dodgers decided they liked what they saw, and traded Willie Calhoun and two other prospects for him in the waning minutes of the trade deadline. Ultimately, Darvish’ rough outing was attributed in rumors to the fact that he was tipping his pitches. If this isn’t enough for you, just wait until the eighth inning, when future Hall of Famer Adrian Beltre gets ejected. After being instructed by home plate umpire Pat Hoberg to get back in the on-deck circle, Beltre resorted to his famous antics and opted instead to move the entire on-deck circle over to where he was standing. Although the move was clearly done in jest, Hoberg was not having it — he promptly dispatched the flummoxed Beltre from the game. If this one doesn’t satisfy your hankering for baseball, I’m not sure if anything will.
3. 7/9/17 MIA 10 @ SF 8
Following a rough May and a rocky June, the Marlins started July off by winning five of their first eight games. In the last game before the All-Star break, they left it all out on the field in an 11-inning barnburner. The game picks up in the 7th, when the Marlins pieced together a four-run inning to take a three-run lead. One inning later, the Giants got to Kyle Barraclough to tie the game at seven. Trying to squeeze as much baseball as possible out of the first half, the Marlins and Giants held the score at seven until the 11th inning, when unlikely hero AJ Ellis followed up a rare throwing error by Brandon Crawford with a two-run home run. Stanton would put his stamp on the game later that inning, putting the game out of reach with his second home-run of the day.
2. 6/3/17 ARI 0 @ MIA 3
If you follow the link to MLB.com, among the line of league scores at the top of the page, you’ll find a red box embedded in the score of this game. It reads: no-hitter. Against the would-be NL Wild Card Champions, on June 3rd, Edinson Volquez quieted the bats and threw Major League Baseball’s 296th no-hitter, the only one of 2017. In his 13th big-league season, the 33 year-old struck out ten and walked only two.
I was #blessed enough to see this game in person. The game started out under a cloud of uncertainty; on the first play of the game, Justin Bour ranged to his left to field a hard hit ground ball down the line. Veering into foul territory, Bour tossed the ball off-balance back to Volquez, who snared the toss and touched the bag before crashing into baserunner Rey Fuentes. Volquez would go down in a heap, and trainers would come out to examine his ankle. Still, Volquez re-took the bump and finished the game without yielding a base-knock.
In the 4th, Volquez received a considerable amount of help from his defense. To lead off the inning, the again troublesome Fuentes hit a worm-burner in the hole between Dee Gordon and Justin Bour. On a full extension dive, Dee Gordon snared the grounder and recovered to throw Fuentes out at first on a bang-bang play. Later that inning, Paul Goldschmidt hammered a ball off the dirt for a high chopper on the infield. After corralling the high bounce, JT Riddle fired wide to first base. In an impressive bout of acrobatics, Justin Bour left the bag to catch the ball, and slapped the tag on Goldschmidt. Although Goldschmidt was initially called safe, the call was overturned on a Marlins challenge, keeping the no-no intact. It would be smooth sailing from there, as the Marlins offense pieced together three station-to-station runs, and Volquez took care of the rest of the D-Backs’ bats.
1. 8/25/17 MIA 8 @ SD 6
It took about five months, but in a sweep of the San Diego Padres at home, the Marlins had finally hit their stride. Whereas in July, baseball fans everywhere were, at most, hopeful that Giancarlo Stanton would crack 50 home runs, on August 25th, Stanton had his statement game, hitting home runs 48 and 49, and making a highlight reel catch. Despite the Stanton hilarity, the Padres held tough and came back in the 6th to take a 6-5 lead. Ultimately, The Big Bear Ozuna would save the day with a three-run jack, leading to the #FishWin.
Following the win, the Marlins would pull within 4.5 games of the Wild Card lead — the closest they would ever get to October. This was the last inkling of a special time for both the team and the fans. Whereas before this series, it seemed like the Marlins were just going through the motions, the boys looked like they were really having fun here. From a fan’s perspective, it finally felt like the Marlins were playing like there was something at stake. Whether it was watching Stanton in the home run race, or the looming possibility that the team could sneak into the playoffs, Marlins baseball during this time made for excellent baseball viewing.
After this game, the Marlins had a tire-fire of a September, quickly dashing any hopes of a playoff run. Now that the season is over and Derek Jeter has taken the helm, Giancarlo Stanton’s future in the 305 is uncertain, making this game even more significant. Stanton wasn’t done hitting home runs after this game; he would go on to hit ten more, falling just one shy of 60. Nevertheless, this may have been one of the last times that we see Giancarlo Stanton carry the Marlins to victory. Thus, although the game itself wasn’t the most exciting of the season, due to it’s timing in the year and the circumstances surrounding its events, it arguably carried more weight than any other game in 2017.
That’s the list! Although it may not have been the best Marlins season, it certainly had a number of very bright spots. Think I missed a game? Or think I messed up the order? Feel free to chime in in the comments section. Otherwise, best of luck this offseason — Winter is here, and the night is dark and full of terrors.