Tanner Scott’s mind went blank after he threw his final pitch. After Endy Rodriguez swung and missed for the final out of the Miami Marlins’ 7-3 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates, all Scott saw was catcher Jacob Stallings heading in his direction.
The celebration was about to begin.
The 2023 Miami Marlins were officially playoff bound.
“It’s surreal,” Scott said. “I saw Jacob coming at me and I’m like ‘Do I jump? Does he jump?’”
In the end, it was a dogpile in the middle of the infield at Pittsburgh’s PNC Park, a commemoration nearly a year in the making.
The Marlins, projected by most to finish fourth in their division and be a longshot for the postseason in Year 1 under manager Skip Schumaker, clinched a spot in the MLB playoffs for the fourth time in franchise history and the first time in a non-shortened season (excluding the 2020 season) since winning the World Series in 2003.
It’s the team’s first playoff berth under general manager Kim Ng, the first female general manager in MLB history, and the second under Bruce Sherman’s ownership, with the first coming in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, the year before Ng was hired.
As the Marlins finished their celebration on the field, which included hugs and t-shirts being passed out and a group photo before the real celebration began in the clubhouse, a group of Marlins fans stood behind the visitor’s dugout to cheer on the team.
“2020 was nice, but this is far superior to 2020,” Sherman, wearing goggles to cover his eyes as beer and champagne was doused over heads, said. “There were no fans. It was a 60-game season. This is 162 games here, and we’re not going away. ... Just fabulous.”
Added Schumaker: “When you feel champagne in your eyes, that means you won something. Not many professions get to do this. That’s why I didn’t want them to wear the goggles because I want them to remember what that burn feels like.”
And, how exactly did it feel?
“I’m on a cloud,” said first baseman Josh Bell, one of the Marlins’ trade deadline acquisitions who had three RBI in the win. “I couldn’t be more proud of the guys. Couldn’t be happier to have this opportunity.”
The Marlins (84-76) took the lead for good Saturday with a two-run sixth inning. Jon Berti led off with a walk, Garrett Hampson followed with a bunt single and Stallings moved them both over with a sacrifice bunt to put runners on second and third with one out.
Jorge Soler then scored Berti with a groundball to shortstop Liover Peguero, whose throw home was not in time. First baseman Bell then tacked on an insurance run with a sacrifice fly that scored Hampson. Bell drove in two more in the eighth inning with a two-out double and Bryan De La Cruz capped scoring for Miami with an RBI single that scored center fielder Jazz Chisholm Jr., who had three hits.
Chisholm drove in the Marlins’ first two runs with an RBI single in the first and a towering home run in the third.
On the mound, the Marlins used eight pitchers to cover nine innings. JT Chargois and Steven Okert combined for a scoreless first, George Soriano and A.J. Puk each pitched two innings and gave up a run, David Robertson pitched a scoreless sixth, Matt Moore the seventh, Andrew Nardi gave up a run while logging two outs in the eighth and Tanner Scott recorded the final four outs to secure the win, the playoff berth and his 12th save of the season.
Exactly who the Marlins will play in the best-of-3 wild card round is to be determined until seeding is finalized. If the Marlins get the second wild card spot, they would face the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. If they end in the third wild card spot, the Marlins would face the Milwaukee Brewers at American Family Field.
Miami went 7-6 against Philadelphia and 3-4 against Milwaukee this season.
“This is an amazing moment,” Ng said. “These guys deserve all the fun that they’re having right now, but there’s more work to do and I think they know that.”