Headlined by Ed Lucas, Marlins’ ‘Goon Squad’ comes up clutch in victory

MIAMI — Miami Marlins utility player Ed Lucas endearingly refers to the club’s bench as the Goon Squad.

Guys in their 30s are scattered among inexperienced 20-somethings, around to provide a lift in pinch-hit situations, defensive substitutions and clubhouse morale.

It came through in the clutch Tuesday night, as the Marlins snapped a four-game losing skid with a 5-4 walk-off victory in 11 innings over the Philadelphia Phillies.

Pinch-hitter Jeff Baker led off the frame with a single. Christian Yelich moved him into scoring position with a sacrifice bunt. Lucas, who went in at shortstop in the top of the eighth, watched two sliders from righty Justin De Fratus miss.

But Fratus evened the count on a pair of fastballs. Lucas blooped the next pitch — a 92 mph fastball — into shallow right over first baseman Ryan Howard’s head as Baker easily scored the winning run.

Walk-off win

Instead of possibly facing the next batter, National League RBI leader Giancarlo Stanton, De Fratus decided to challenge Lucas.

"That was something I thought about," Lucas said. "I faced De Fratus a couple times, and he has a good slider — and I knew that — but I also knew I had the big guy behind me and he probably didn’t want to walk me. He made a couple good pitches, but I was able to squirt one to right field. I figured I might get a fastball as opposed to him walking me, not wanting to face Giancarlo.

"Once I knew it was down and (Marlon) Byrd wasn’t going to get to it with a chance to throw him out, it was a big sense of relief. You try not to let that negativity creep into your head as a team after all this time. It’s nice to finally get a win. Honestly."

July offered a much-needed different result following a rough June.

By the end of the month, the Marlins had gone 1-5 in extra-inning games and winless in five that lasted 13 frames or more. Miami had dropped to four games below .500 and 5 1/2 back in the National League East by losing 15 of 22.

Marlins vs. Phillies

The same could be said for Lucas. After bumping his average to .333 on June 2 with a multi-hit game, Lucas struggled. Prior to his game-winning at-bat, he had been 12 for his last 69 with an RBI over 20 contests.

"They don’t get a lot of ABs, but they play a huge role," Redmond said of the Goon Squad. "You saw that tonight. I have a special place in my heart for those guys because that was my job …. But at the same time, too, everybody expects you to go out there and get the big hit and make the big play. I was happy for Eddie. I know he’s been grinding a little bit, but I feel so comfortable with him out there on defense and as a bat. And you saw that tonight."

Lucas, who spent a decade in the minors before making his major-league debut last season, recorded a walk-off fielder’s choice July 13, 2013, against right-hander Craig Stammen and the Washington Nationals.

Tuesday marked his first walk-off hit and the team’s seventh walk-off victory. He entered the game batting .107 (3 for 28) with just three RBI with runners in scoring position.

"This one was a little better," Lucas said, laughing. "I feel like the walk-off fielder’s choice kind of suits me better, my role on the team better. Kind of ho-hum let’s go home. It was nice to get a hit."

You can follow Christina De Nicola on Twitter @CDeNicola13 or email her at cdenicola13@gmail.com.