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Walk-off Wednesdays: Arrive early for the bobblehead giveaway, stay late for the ninth-inning heroics

Good day all around for Don Mattingly as a public figure and tactician.

Photo by Joe Skipper/Getty Images

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.

In the spirit of our ongoing Fish Stripes bobblehead giveaway, let’s revisit that time when the team sent fans home with a Don Mattingly collectible...and a victory.

Date: April 14, 2017

Dee Gordon was the right choice for a pitchman. No, that’s not an old-timey baseball term—the Miami Marlins were literally using him to sell the fans on a Don Mattingly bobblehead. First homestand of 2017 and they wanted an excited crowd for a Friday night rivalry matchup with the New York Mets.

Seems like Gordon’s recruiting had an impact. The attendance of 24,194 represented one of the largest home turnouts of the season.

Unfortunately, and I’m trying to be as polite as humanly possible...what the heck is this?

Photo by @JoeFrisaro/Twitter

That’s not what Mattingly looks like. We at Fish Stripes have a vast library of images at our disposal. They come from the most esteemed sports photographers in the world.

This is what Mattingly actually looks like:

ATLANTA, GA - SEPTEMBER 8: Manager Don Mattingly #8 of the Miami Marlins smiles after a score against the Atlanta Braves at SunTrust Park on September 8, 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images) Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

OK, so at least they got the nose right.

Meanwhile, the real Marlins manager had a big challenge ahead of him. The Mets starting pitcher for this game was Noah Syndergaard. At his best, the All-Star fireballer was about as unhittable as anyone. Syndergaard had never lost to Miami in four previous appearances, and he wouldn’t take the “L” here, either.

The Fish manufactured two runs with a series of well-placed singles and an Asdrubal Cabrera error. The Mets rallied for two of their own with walks—they drew seven overall—and a Lucas Duda solo home run. Syndergaard’s outing was done after six solid innings. It would remain tied 2-2 entering the bottom of the ninth.

Left-hander Josh Edgin came a strike away from forcing extras. He had J.T. Realmuto at 3-2 with two outs and Miguel Rojas on first base. And Realmuto is a guy you generally don’t mind facing at Marlins Park.

With Rojas running on the pay-off pitch, all the Marlins needed was a ball in the gap. Realmuto delivered.

Win Expectancy added on walk-off play: 43.7 percent

Nobody on either team wanted the game to continue any longer than it had to. The series began the previous evening with 16 grueling innings that decimated both rosters. That’s why a bit player like Edgin was on the mound in such a high-leverage situation.

If Realmuto doesn’t come through with the walk-off double, the Marlins’ odds of winning in the 10th inning and beyond would have basically been a coin flip.

Source: FanGraphs

The bullpen bailed out Edinson Volquez, who put on nine baserunners through 4 23 messy innings of work. Five relievers combined to hold the Mets scoreless for the remainder of the game and without any extra-base hits. It was the only game all year where Mattingly used that many total pitchers while limiting the opponent to two runs or fewer.

Overall, there were seven bobblehead giveaways at Marlins Park in 2017. The home team went 6-1! The lone loss came on Christian Yelich’s day, and there’s even an asterisk attached to that—the promotion had to be rescheduled from Sept. 17 to Oct. 1 due to Hurricane Irma.

The only unlucky bobblehead of the entire season.
Photo by @marlins/Twitter

Let’s hope the new Marlins administration notices the positive correlation and plans more for 2018. Of course, they’ll have to hold off on announcing them for a few months until the trade activity dies down to make sure their bobbleheads actually portray current players (#marlinsfanproblems).