Bleier struck out the side for just the second time in his major league career, and it couldn’t have come in a more important situation.
The Marlins were staring down the barrel of losing their fourth game in a row. After Marlins relief pitcher Anthony Bass gave up the tying run and loaded the bases with no outs in the eighth inning, Richard Bleier was called upon to keep the game in check against the Arizona Diamondbacks. According to Baseball Savant, Miami’s win probability in that moment was just 21%.
Although not traditionally considered a “strikeout” pitcher, Bleier proceeded to punch out the next three batters to keep the score tied at three.
“One pitch at a time really is all you can do,” Bleier said. “Obviously it’s a tricky situation there. It’s not a high conversion rate to leave all three (runners) stranded. So you just take it one pitch at a time and execute. I’m thrilled I struck out the side, but really I’m just going for weak contact in the infield and try to make things happen there with action, like a double play. But the strikeouts, I’ll take them too.”
In the bottom half of the inning, Jesús Aguilar drove home Miguel Rojas to take the 4-3 lead. Aguilar would score from first on the next at-bat when the Diamondbacks committed two throwing errors on the same play. Corey Dickerson hit a ball off of first baseman Christian Walker, who then tried flipping the ball to pitcher Kevin Ginkel who was covering first, but the ball sailed over his head. With Aguilar running to third base, catcher Stephen Vogt recovered the ball and airmailed it over the third baseman’s head to allow Aguilar to score.
But the fireworks weren’t over yet. Lewis Brinson, who already had a double earlier in the game, hit a three-run home run to right-center field. Brinson is 6-for-18 over his last seven games.
“That first double into right-center, to me those were like the best swings I’ve seen him take,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. “And more of the direction where he’s shooting balls, where he’s covering that ball over the plate and able shoot it into that gap, that tells you that the swing is starting to get length through it. So he stays through the ball longer, and he’s gonna cover more plate.”
Miguel Rojas drove home a run to give Miami a 9-3 lead. The six runs scored in the eighth inning were the most that the Marlins had scored in a single inning all season.
Perhaps the only negative for the night was the fact that Marlins starting pitcher Sandy Alcantara was robbed of getting the win. Yet again, the Marlins’ ace delivered his fifth quality start in seven games. In six innings, he gave up one earned run and struck out six batters.
The Marlins will go for the series win on Wednesday at 6:40 p.m. Luke Weaver will start on the mound for Arizona, while Miami has yet to announce their starter (Mattingly has considered making it a bullpen game, which would give Pablo López an extra day of rest).
-Brian Anderson hit a three-run home run in his first at-bat since returning for the injured list with a left oblique strain.
-Isan Díaz committed two errors at second base.
-Prior to allowing the game-tying run in the eighth, Anthony Bass had gone eight straight appearances without allowing a run.