Yesterday night’s game was wild to say the least, and an improbable victory for the Marlins over the Colorado Rockies. The Marlins get the win against the usually dominant Ubaldo Jimenez, who did not look sharp in the outing, giving up four runs while striking out just five and walking three. Our starter, Anibal Sanchez, suffered a similar fate, allowing four runs (two earned) over six innings while striking out four and walking two.
Into the late game, there were three very clearly defining moments of the game, and they caused the tide to shift dramatically to either side. Let’s take a look at the game graphically, via FanGraphs’ WPA charts:
The Mike Stanton home run (0.350 WPA)
The Stanton blast was epic to watch, as are most of Stanton’s homers so far in his major league career. Check this badboy out. At the time, the Marlins had a 47.3% chance of winning, being down by one in the sixth inning of a game. Stanton quickly erased that with a lofty shot that was guaranteed gone right from the onset. At that point, the Marlins climbed past 80% chance of winning, but clearly that line did not necessarily stick.
The Jonathan Herrera home run (0.549 WPA)
Perhaps the most surprising thing about this home run was the culprit himself. It was Herrera’s first career big league home run, and that is not surprising. Herrera, who is replacing injured shortstop Troy Tulowitzki in the Rockies lineup, is a career .282/.347/.367 minor league hitter, with only 25 home runs to his name in 3078 plate appearances. In case you were wondering, that math comes out to 0.8% HR/PA in his minor league career. Herrera was a slap hitter in every sense of the word, but somehow he muscled up a Jhan Martinez pitch over the right field fence, probably the toughest non-Bermuda Triangle place to hit a home run in Sun Life Stadium.
Perhaps almost as interesting is how the situation set up in that inning. Clay Hensley, who had been good most of the season out of the pen, came out as usual (at least for his 2010 version), striking out Clint Barmes. But that followed quickly by an Ian Stewart home run that pulled the Rockies within two runs. Still, the Marlins had an 89% chance of winning that game, provided both teams were considered even talent-wise. Then the two walks, sandwiching a second out by Hensley, were followed by the porch shot by Herrera. At that point, the Fish dropped all the way down to a 31.3% chance of winning.
The Donnie Murphy home run (0.893 WPA)
Donnie Murphy was a career minor leaguer that we picked up in the offseason to potentially play a bench role. For one night, at least, he played a great role by smacking this opposite field shot just over the right field fence. Tommy Hutton and Rich Walz both called it an “unlikely source,” and with good reason as well. Murphy is a career .281/.346/.453 hitter in the minors, with 66 home runs in 2608 PA. It’s not as bad as Herrera, but he certainly is not someone you would consider a “slugger.” Still, he had hit 12 home runs and batted .277/.335/.519 in Triple-A New Orleans this season, so he’s not completely punchless either.
Even stranger is the timing of the event. The Marlins were previously down to their last legs, and once could say that Dan Uggla played a big role in holding off the loss. Uggla has been moved to cleanup ahead of Jorge Cantu, who has been in a massive slump as of late. After two outs by Gaby Sanchez and Hanley Ramirez in the ninth, the situation looked bleak; the Marlins had just a 5.3% chance of winning. Huston Street was out there, so the team was dealing with a pretty capable pitcher. Uggla was able to draw the walk by taking four pitches to the outer half of the plate, two of which could have been called for strikes. Two pitches later, Murphy sends both teams home with the improbable blast.