MIAMI -- A couple of feet separated a potential walk-off win and a heartbreaking defeat for the Marlins on Sunday afternoon.
John Buck launched a blast that sailed roughly 416 feet to center field at spacious Marlins Park. But the drive with two outs in the 11th inning was snared at the wall by Drew Stubbs, preserving the Reds' 5-4 victory before a crowd of 24,983.
Marlins Park is one of the toughest buildings in the big leagues to hit a home run, and Buck's shot fell agonizingly short.
"The ball that Buck hit, that's a home run in any ballpark," said Miami's Jose Reyes, who in the eighth inning was a foot or so shy of hitting a home run to right field. "I mean, what can we do?"
The Marlins threatened off Jonathan Broxton in the 11th. With two outs, Donovan Solano walked. Buck capped a nine-pitch at-bat with a thunderous shot to the deepest part of the building. The center-field wall reading is 418 feet, and the area is tricky for an outfielder because the wall curves around the 73-foot Home Run sculpture.
Stubbs went back, and was in the rounded corner when he hauled in the final out. A few feet further, Buck would have celebrated a two-run, walk-off homer -- or if Stubbs couldn't flag it down, it would have been a game-tying, extra-base hit.
"I knew in this ballpark never to give up on it, because it's so deep out there," Stubbs said. "We were playing deep to start so the runner couldn't go from first on a base hit. I was able to get back there in plenty of time. My only concern I had, was that it was going to hit the side of the wall that juts in. But, fortunately, I was able to come up with that."
Summing up the frustration of the day was the fact that Buck, one of the most stand-up players on the team, was gone by the time the media arrived to conduct their postgame interviews.
The Marlins rank 26th out of 30 teams in home runs in their home park. It's acknowledged the building plays very big. But manager Ozzie Guillen wasn't using it as an excuse.
In fact, the manager noted that throughout the series, the Reds clubbed many drives that likely would have been homers in Cincinnati.
"A lot of people want to talk about if those two balls [Buck and Reyes] are gone, we win the game," Guillen said. "But if this ballpark was a little smaller, we'd be down like, 10-0, because they hit some balls, if at their ballpark, we don't win this series. If we were playing in Cincinnati, we don't win any games in this series.
"Look at the balls they hit this weekend. We would have been swept, outscored by 30 runs. Because they hit some balls in their ballpark, we'd be down ..., 7-0, in the first couple of innings. That's the way the ballpark plays. Two teams play out there. Nothing we can do about it."
According to STATS LLC, the Marlins set a franchise record by using nine pitchers, topping the eight that had been used numerous times, with the last being on July 3 in 10 innings at Milwaukee.
The Marlins battled back twice on Sunday and forced extra innings. But Ryan Ludwick's RBI single in the 11th inning ultimately enabled the Reds to salvage the series finale.
The Marlins did take two of three, but they were unable to win three in a row for the first time since July 4-6. Miami hasn't completed a three-game sweep since beating the Phillies from June 29-July 1.
Now 65-82, the Marlins are guaranteed their third straight losing season -- and in extra innings, they're now 10-5.
Carlos Zambrano, Miami's eighth reliever used on the afternoon, made his first appearance since Sept. 7 at Washington. The rust showed, as he fell behind in the count and issued a leadoff single to Chris Heisey on a 3-1 pitch. Joey Votto ran the count full, before walking, and on a 2-1 pitch, Ludwick singled to left.
Zambrano said the layoff affected his command, but noted he needed to be better.
"It's not the same coming out of the bullpen, especially, when you don't pitch for a while," said Zambrano, who was moved from the rotation to the 'pen in the second half. "But it's not an excuse. I'm a veteran guy, and I should throw more strikes in that situation."
Twice the Marlins were able to battle back from being two runs down. In the eighth inning, they pulled even at 4 on Reyes' RBI double. The drive off Mat Latos struck high off the wall in right field, narrowly missing being a home run.
"The wall is high, and the ballpark is big," said Reyes, who initially raised his hand, thinking the ball was out.
Latos exited after 7 2/3 innings, allowing four runs. Sam LeCure relieved Latos with runners on first and second, but the threat ended when Carlos Lee lined out to center.
Ricky Nolasco came into the game riding a three-game winning streak, which included two shutouts. The right-hander wasn't hit hard, but the Reds pecked away, scratching out 10 singles and three runs off him in five innings.
"Obviously, not my best day," Nolasco said. "I'm not going to walk anybody. I got singled to death, a lot of ground balls that just found the holes. That's part of the game."