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 continues with Giancarlo Stanton, who is celebrating his 28th birthday.
Date: July 6, 2011
The Philadelphia Phillies knew that they needed to take Mike Stanton seriously.
Sure, they were cruising toward a franchise-record 102 wins en route to a fifth consecutive NL East title. And yeah, Stanton was just 21 years old, batting sixth in the Marlins lineup on this quiet Wednesday night.
However, the Phillies were already well aware of the bulging muscles hidden beneath his baggy uniform. Stanton had put that strength on display the previous season as a rookie, homering four times against them in only 11 games (1.006 OPS).
Their 2011 rivalry had been a different story entirely. The Phillies were largely to blame for derailing Florida’s once-promising campaign. Manager Edwin Rodriguez resigned in mid-June, shortly after the club suffered a four-game sweep in Philadelphia. The Marlins’ bats—Stanton included—couldn’t do much of anything to their veteran pitchers, manufacturing barely two runs per game head to head.
With the help of some sloppy Phillies defense, the Fish surpassed that average fairly quickly. Facing a 4-0 deficit in the bottom of the third inning, they responded with three of their own, a couple unearned runs scoring thanks to Domonic Brown’s error in right field. John Mayberry and Michael Stutes would also commit errors later in this game.
The Marlins had baserunners galore. Even pitcher Anibal Sanchez singled! The only starting player left out of the party through nine innings? Stanton. He struck out twice, then squandered a golden opportunity in the seventh when he grounded into a double play with the bases loaded. They had established a new season high with six runs against the Phillies, but even that wasn’t enough to win in regulation.
Eventually, though, Stanton got a favorable matchup. Journeyman Danys Baez—hobbling through his second inning of relief—hung a breaking ball down the heart of the plate.
You can probably guess where this landed without seeing the rest, but here’s the full highlight anyway:
Win Expectancy added on walk-off play: 42.8 percent
Florida’s bullpen was the unsung hero of the comeback. Sanchez gave his teammates little margin for error after a mediocre outing (4.0 IP, 6 H, 5 ER, 3 BB, 1 HBP). After the Phillies surrendered that lead, they never really threatened to retake it. A quartet of relievers held them completely hitless from the seventh inning on.
It’s hard to overstate just how much Stanton was struggling entering this game. He had failed to homer in the previous 20 contests, striking out in 36.6 percent of his plate appearances (.589 OPS during that stretch).
The Phillies were still holding out hope that Baez was capable of a mop-up role, but Stanton’s walk-off would be one of the final straws. The Cuban right-hander pitched against the Mets later that month, then hung up his spikes after being released.