MIAMI -- At last, the Marlins brought their colorful home run sculpture to life. They did it twice on Sunday, creating a big splash at Marlins Park.
But the decisive moment of an 11-inning marathon was decided the old fashion way, by manufacturing the winning run.
Hanley Ramirez, who blasted a two-run homer to tie it in the eighth, delivered a walk-off single in the 11th inning to vault the Marlins to a 5-4 win over the Astros, sending the 34,232 home in a frenzy.
Ramirez enjoyed a four-hit game and provided the Marlins with their second walk-off victory in the series. According to Elias, the Marlins are the first team since the 1995 Rockies to post its first two wins at its new ballpark in walk-off fashion.
For Ramirez, it was his second career walk-off hit, and it completed a seven-hit weekend.
"He did a little change in his stance the last two nights, and it worked," said bench coach Joey Cora, filling in for manager Ozzie Guillen, whose five-game suspension is now over. "Plus, he got the black hair back. It's working."
From an appearance standpoint, Ramirez colored his hair black after he turned it red-orange at the start of the season. At the plate, he also worked on a tip offered by hitting coach Eduardo Perez.
"I've got to give credit to Perez, Eddie," said Ramirez, who raised his batting average from .206 to .282 with his big afternoon. "He was watching videos from 2010, 2009. Right before the game yesterday, about 45 minutes before the game, I had a chance to go to the cage."
The adjustment was Ramirez lowered his hands a bit and moved them closer to his body.
"They were too high," he said.
In the 11th inning, John Buck opened with a single to right-center off David Carpenter. Brett Hayes ran for Buck, and he moved to second on Chris Coghlan's sacrifice bunt. Jose Reyes was intentionally walked. Both runners advanced into scoring position on Carpenter's wild pitch with Emilio Bonifacio at the plate.
Playing the odds, Bonifacio was intentionally walked to load the bases for Ramirez. On a 1-2 pitch, Ramirez lifted the ball to deep right field, scoring Hayes and ending the four-hour, seven-minute struggle.
"It's not the easiest thing in the world, but it's something I should be able to do," Carpenter said. "The guys battled and hung in there and tried to give them opportunities and I let us down today. It was definitely disappointing to come out there and do that. I was really upset about the Ramirez situation, where I get him 1-2 and had him set up for a pitch and I went with the wrong pitch. He did his job. He hit it."
With the roof closed, Omar Infante delivered Miami's first home run at home. The more significant blast came in more dramatic fashion in the eighth inning. Trailing 4-2, Bonifacio walked and Ramirez crushed a drive off Wilton Lopez that sailed over the 418-foot marker in center.
"People are saying the ball doesn't fly here," Cora said. "It still plays big, no doubt about it. But it's not like there is never going to be a home run here. It can be had if you square the ball."
Another large crowd was on hand to see the first home run by a Marlin in Miami's new retractable-roof ballpark. It took 31 innings at home for a Miami player to connect. Infante now gains that distinction, as he was the first Marlin to set the 73-foot home run sculpture into motion.
"Infante, he's been hot," Ramirez said. "That's what we need, when everybody is contributing. It takes 25 guys. [The home run sculpture] is good for the fans. I'm happy they got a chance to see that."
The long drive to left off J.A. Happ landed in the Clevelander pool area. As the display caused the mechanical marlins to spin, flamingos to flap and water to spray, the rarely emotional Infante simply blew a bubble as he rounded third on his fourth shot of the season.
The game had a little bit of everything, including a dead bird in right-center field in the eighth inning.
"It scared me because if a pitch was going," Bonifacio said. "I was getting ready and it was like 'boom.'"
Bonifacio told right fielder Giancarlo Stanton to inform the grounds crew. During a pitching change, they removed the bird.
While Ramirez was the offensive hero, the unsung hero of the day for Miami was reliever Chad Gaudin, who tossed three scoreless innings and picked up an exhausted bullpen.
A momentum-swinging moment came in the 10th, when Jose Altuve lined out softly into an inning-ending double play. Altuve, who delivered an RBI double in the eighth, appeared to have lifted a single to short right field. Chris Johnson, on second base, thought the ball would drop and he dashed toward home. But Infante drifted back into short right field, made the catch and casually tossed to Reyes at second base to complete the double play.
The Marlins had a chance in the 10th inning, putting runners on first and third on singles by Ramirez and Logan Morrison. But with two outs, and the team short on available pitchers, Gaudin batted for himself. The right-hander, now 1-for-34 lifetime, grounded out to second, although three position players were available to pinch-hit.
"It was gut-wrenching, but we had no choice," Cora said of letting a reliever hit with the potential winning run at third. "He was the last man standing. It was what it was. We didn't have a choice. If we were losing, we'd take a chance or whatever.
"We just didn't have anybody available to pitch. It worked out."
Literally, the rest of the bullpen was tapped out, so Gaudin was primed to go as long as necessary.
The right-hander threw 49 pitches.
"I knew I was going to hit," Gaudin said. "I was one of the last guys down there. I had to either hit or come out."
How many more innings could he have gone?
"As long as I could have gone, I don't know," the right-hander said. "There is no certain number of pitches I think I could have gone. I don't really know. Hopefully I didn't have to go much longer, and I didn't. I was hoping I'd get a hit, but that didn't happen."