MIAMI -- A potential late collapse turned into a night of celebration for the Marlins. Ronny Paulino delivered a two-run pinch-hit double, and Jorge Cantu lifted a sacrifice fly, completing the ninth-inning rally that sent the Marlins on their way to a 7-6 win over the Dodgers in front of 25,308 at Sun Life Stadium on Saturday. Florida's first comeback win of the season came the hard way -- scoring three times in their final at-bat. The elation couldn't be contained, as players piled on each other in the aftermath.
In the commotion, Chris Coghlan, who scored the winning run, had to withstand a beating from his teammates before reaching Cantu, who was being mobbed near first base. "Everybody is grabbing each other," Coghlan said. "It's mayhem. It's a lot of fun when you win in a walk-off. I ran right for Jorge. I just know I got a lot of punches on the head." After falling, 7-3, on Friday night, the Marlins were on the verge of dropping two straight to the Dodgers. The probability of success was diminished in the top of the ninth, when Matt Kemp's home run off Jose Veras made it 6-4. "Good resilience by our club," manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "That's what we've been known for the last four years. It was a good thing to see. "Now, we've got to get the bullpen squared away. I think we will. It's good to see." The walk-off win overshadowed another night the bullpen had its struggles. Andre Ethier's two-run pinch-hit single off Dan Meyer in the eighth inning lifted the Dodgers to a 5-4 lead. Kemp provided more insurance in the ninth. But Gaby Sanchez started the ninth with a single off Ramon Troncoso, who worked a perfect eighth inning. George Sherrill entered, and on a 2-2 pitch, hit pinch-hitter Wes Helms. The speedy Emilio Bonifacio entered as a pinch-runner. Coghlan was squaring to bunt, but instead he drew a full-count walk, loading the bases. Paulino pinch-hit for Cameron Maybin and crushed a two-run double off the center-field wall. Off the bat, he thought he had a grand slam. Instead, in the spacious Sun Life Stadium, the 400-foot shot didn't clear the wall. It was Paulino's second big pinch-hit of the week. In the 10th inning against the Mets on Wednesday, he had the game-winning hit. "Since Spring Training, Fredi told everybody to be ready, to be prepared," Paulino said. "That's what we've been doing. We know if we're not playing, we can get into a game at any time. That's what happened." With first base open after the double, Hanley Ramirez was intentionally walked, setting up Cantu's heroics. With the infield and outfield drawn in, Cantu's fly ball was just deep enough to center. "As soon as I saw Kemp going back, I knew we had a shot," Cantu said. "We had a speedster on third, in Cogz, and he made it happen." With the crowd noise in the park, Coghlan didn't hear third-base coach Joe Espada tell him to stay. What swayed Coghlan to go was the fact Kemp take a step back before making the catch. Letting his baseball instincts take over, Coghlan dashed for home. "I just made the decision for myself because I didn't hear him," Coghlan said. With the game on the line, Coghlan was charging head-first, in case he had to barrel over catcher Russell Martin. That wasn't necessary, so he flew across the plate, setting off the celebration. "This is a big comeback. It shows our resilience," Coghlan said. "This is our team. We never give up." Both starters were unable to work deep into the game. Josh Johnson's pitch count was at 58 through three innings, and the Marlins ace exited after five innings and 93 pitches. Vicente Padilla was lifted after 4 1/3 innings and 96 pitches. Neither factored into the decision. An unusual delay in the fourth inning ended up working to the Marlins' advantage. Trailing, 3-1, play was halted for eight minutes because a piece of padding covering the right-field foul pole became dislodged. Workers eventually taped it back, behind the field of play. To stay loose during the stoppage, Padilla threw a few warmup pitches, but when play resumed with John Baker on first, Cody Ross singled. Sanchez worked a full count before connecting on a three-run homer that put the Marlins ahead, 4-3. "It was crazy. I didn't know what was going on, and then I see the foul line on the ground," Sanchez said. "It took a while. Everybody was asking, 'What's going on?' It took a while. "It actually got us going that inning. We were able to get three runs." For the second straight start, Johnson was unable to establish that pinpoint command that made him an All-Star in 2009. The right-hander's fastball was up in the early innings, and his slider wasn't crisp. The Dodgers had runners in scoring position in each of the first three innings. "You take a win any time this team can get a win," Johnson said. "But it's tough when you put that pressure on your bullpen."
Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.