Castaldo and Marra Stun Cardinals in Thrilling Walk-Off Win
TORONTO -- The two best hitters in the league.
The Toronto Maple Leafs walked-off the Hamilton Cardinals 8-7 in thrilling fashion on Sunday afternoon to improve to 9-6 on the season.
With the loss, the Cardinals fall to 4-8.
Toronto starter Dylan Jacober took a no-decision in his first start of the season, allowing four earned runs on five hits and two walks in five innings of work.
The former Ottawa Titan struck out five.
Maple Leafs reliever Chris Nagorski picked up the win, tossing one inning, allowing one earned run on two hits and a walk.
Catcher Justin Marra and third basemen Jordan Castaldo led the way at the plate with their back-to-back home runs in the bottom of the ninth inning.
With two outs and no one out, Marra crushed a no-doubt home run to right field to tie the game at seven before Castaldo, on the very next pitch, scraped a ball past the left-field fence to complete the shocking comeback.
Hamilton starter Sam Turcotte took a no-decision in his Christie Pits debut, tossing five innings while allowing only one earned run despite allowing five hits and four walks.
Cardinals closer Daury Torrez took the loss and blown save, allowing three earned runs on four hits in one inning of work.
HAMILTON - 7-9-1
TORONTO - 8-14-1
BIGGEST PLAY OF THE GAME: A toss-up between Marra's home run and Castaldo's one pitch later.
DID YOU SEE THAT? In the bottom of the eighth inning, it looked as though the Cardinals were going to get out of the inning without allowing a run, only for Maple Leafs second basemen Johnathan Solazzo to scorch a ball to centre field.
The ball, which should have been caught by Cardinals centre fielder Justin Gideon, ended up going over his head as he attempted to make the catch look more impressive than it was going to be, allowing Marra to score all the way from first to cut the lead to two.
The Leafs then scored two more runs in the same inning to tie the game at six.
BY THE NUMBERS...
2. For the Leafs, it is their second walk-off of the season after walking off the Guelph Royals earlier in the month.
5. Marra now has five home runs on the season after hitting home runs in now four straight games.
7. A seven-pitch at-bat for Marra in the ninth inning, in what can only be described as the best at-bat of the season. The former Chicago Cubs farmhand was down 0-2 in the count before fouling off three pitches. From there, he took two balls and then hit his longest home run of the season to tie the game.
57. After scoring eight runs on Sunday, the Leafs have now scored 57 runs in their last five games, despite dealing with injuries.
INSIDE THE LOCKER ROOM...
Marra on his home run: "For me, every time I'm up there, I'm trying to hit the ball hard, whether it goes over the fence or not. This one just happened to go over the fence."
Castaldo on Marra's home run streak: "He's had a hell of a week. He got off to a slow start but he's a great hitter, so I wasn't really concerned. It was just a matter of him getting his timing going. He had the best at-bat we have seen all year and gave me the chance to look at their arm, so that is all you can ask for."
Marra on his hot streak: "It took me a while to get into it but I'm seeing the ball a lot better. I knew it was there -- I just had to trust myself. I have started seeing the ball a lot better and when that happens, good things happen."
Castaldo on his home run an at-bat later: "I was just trying to get a pitch to hit, to be honest with you. I hadn't seen their pitcher before as he is obviously new to the league. I was just trying to get a read off of him while I was on deck and thankfully Justin had the best at-bat that anyone has had all season, so I was able to get in there to see the spin on the ball the best I could."
Castaldo on the feeling of hitting the walk-off home run -- his first walk-off since his first stint with the Maple Leafs, which, funny enough, happened against the Hamilton Thunderbirds: "I knew it had a chance off the bat and once the ball got to the outfield and I saw their left fielder kept moving back, I thought to myself 'maybe it goes.' I heard someone from the dugout yell 'maybe, maybe' so I started getting running just in case. I'll take it though. It was a tough day at the dish for me as I was fighting it and I'm not sure why but I'll take it."
Castaldo on the pitching staff, who kept the Leafs in yet another game, despite some unluckiness throughout: "In the last couple of weeks I have been saying to Tops [Leafs manager Damon Topolie] that I really like the way this is shaping up. I think our lineup matches up well against any team in the league and with a couple of import arms coming to go along with Jacober and [newcomer Kyle] Smyth, it's pretty formidable. Don't forget about Adam Marra, who has been throwing the hell out of it this season too. Our team has never been known for pitching, so it's exciting to think about what we might be able to do if we can get some pitching and it's shaping up that we will, so I'm excited about that"
Marra on the staff: "Honestly, the pitching has been incredible. Some of the guys we picked up have all come in and done their job. They keep us in ball games when we are down and when we are up, they close things down, so it's awesome to have because it is a little bit different for us. We haven't always had the best pitching staff but it's been fun this year."
The Leafs face the very same Cardinals on Friday in Hamilton before returning home on Sunday to host the Welland Jackfish.
Photo: Craig Aikin