Don Mattingly was nearly taken aback midway through his postgame press conference on Saturday.
“What was that word you used?” the Miami Marlins manager quipped after his team’s 5-1 win over the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park.
The word, in relation to Willians Astudillo: Athletic.
There was good reasoning that phrase was used. The 5-9, 225-pound utility player who has the nickname “La Tortuga” (Spanish for “The Turtle”) made a pair of standout defensive plays at second base to help the Marlins win their fifth consecutive game and seventh in their last nine games overall.
The big one came in the third.
Astros catcher Martin Maldonado scorched a Braxton Garrett sinker to the elevated wall in left-center field. Maldonado rounded for second as Luke Williams played the ball off the wall. Williams sent a near-perfect throw to Astudillo, who quickly turned around and dove to tag Maldonado out at second base. Second base umpire Stu Scheurwater initially ruled Maldonado safe, but the play was overturned after replay review.
“It was nice,” Mattingly said. “Asti’s always fun because you’re going to get all of his effort. That’s the thing. You know what he does. He plays all over. You’re gonna get max effort. He’s fun to watch.”
Astudillo’s perspective of the play?
“It’s just something about being present,” he said. “It’s part of the game. You try to make the extra effort always to make the out and get those runners.”
Did he have any time to think as the play was evolving?
“It’s just reaction,” Astudillo said. “You have to anticipate.”
But that’s just one example of what he has provided the Marlins since they selected his contract on May 25.
Also on Saturday, Astudillo made a bare-handed throw on a deflected Michael Brantley ground ball to end the fifth.
On Wednesday, he recorded a pinch-hit single in the 10th inning against the Washington Nationals and hustled to second base when the Nationals tried to make a play at the plate. Astudillo proceeded to score one at-bat later on a Jesus Aguilar ground ball up the middle that deflected off the second-base bag.
And, for good measure, he has a scoreless relief appearance as a pitcher this season as well.
On the season, Astudillo has a .318 batting average (7 for 22) with a home run, four RBI and four runs scored in 11 games.
“It’s something I learned at a young age,” Astudillo said. “You’ve got to always go out there with your best effort.”
Anthony Bass escapes a jam
The situation wasn’t ideal.
Anthony Bass had the bases loaded and no outs in the seventh inning on Saturday after Mauricio Dubon doubled, Maldonado reached on a four-pitch walk and Jose Altuve reached on a fielder’s choice. All of a sudden, the go-ahead run now was at the plate.
“Put myself in a tough spot there,” Bass said.
He got himself out of it, too.
Bass quickly got Michael Brantley to a 1-2 count and got the hitter to whiff on a slider outside of the strike zone. One out.
Two pitches later, he got Alex Bregman to hit a slider for a low line drive back to the pitcher’s mound. Bass caught it and threw to first base to double up Altuve and end the inning.
There was some momentary confusion, though, with the umpires initially saying Bass didn’t cleanly catch the ball in the air. Dubon, ran home from third at that point, seemingly cutting Miami’s lead to 4-2.
But the umpires congregated and ruled Bass caught the liner. Double play confirmed. Inning over. Jam escaped.
“I knew I caught the ball,” Bass said, “and I told the umpire ‘Look, if I didn’t catch the ball, I wouldn’t have thrown to first base. I would have thrown home.”
This and that
▪ The Marlins have held the Astros to 4 for 25 hitting with runners in scoring position so far this series.
▪ Williams and Jesus Aguilar both had multiple hits on Saturday, while Berti recorded his fourth multi-RBI game of the season.
This story was originally published June 11, 2022 8:43 PM.