Rojas’ walk-off sac fly lifts Marlins over Padres
MIAMI — Shortstop Miguel Rojas of the Miami Marlins hit .338 in the first half of this season but has slumped to .239 since.
He’s not a power hitter — no homers this season and three in his four-year major league career.
So when the San Diego Padres went with a five-infielder, two-outfielder alignment in the bottom of the 11th inning, the heat was on Rojas.
Fortunately for Miami, Rojas hit a walk-off sacrifice fly to lead surging Miami to a 2-1 victory over San Diego on Saturday night at Marlins Park.
“I said, ‘I’m not going to hit a ground ball right here,’ “ Rojas declared. “I was trying to elevate something.”
Lefty-swinging Derek Dietrich, who was facing lefty reliever Jose Torres (7-4), started the winning rally with a leadoff double that hit the wall in right-center on a short hop. He advanced to third on a Mike Aviles bunt.
Rojas then got the elevation he needed as Dietrich scored easily.
The late-game heroics overshadowed Miami’s power hitters who have been the talk of the town, Giancarlo Stanton and Marcell Ozuna. Stanton, who leads the majors with 49 homers, went 2-for-4 with two singles and an intentional walk. Ozuna hit his 31st homer of the season, a 453-foot shot.
Stanton (105 RBIs) and Ozuna (102 RBIs) are the second Marlins duo to have more than 30 homers and 100 RBIs in the same season. Carlos Delgado and Miguel Cabrera accomplished the feat in 2005.
“Actually, it feels like it’s always (Stanton) or Ozuna,” Rojas said when asked about different heroes coming through for Miami. “But it’s not just offensively. It’s what we are doing defensively, pitching, running the bases.”
By defeating the Padres (57-72), the Marlins (65-63) won their third straight game and remained 4 1/2 games behind Colorado for the second wild card spot. Since May 28, the Marlins have one of the top four records in the majors at 48-33.
San Diego was led by Cory Spangenberg and rookie pitcher Dinelson Lamet. Spangenberg swiped home as part of a double steal. Lamet left with a no-decision but allowed only one run in six innings.
Lamet said he had focused on Stanton over the past few days as he prepared for his start.
“I spent a lot of time with the pitching coach, understanding where to attack Stanton,” Lamet said, “fastball in and fastball down and away.”
Miami’s Odrisamer Despaigne made his second start of the season and also allowed one run in six innings.
San Diego got to Despaigne in the second inning. With two outs, the Padres had Spangenberg at third, Jabari Blash at first and Lamet at the plate. Blash took off for second, and Spangenberg scored easily when catcher J.T. Realmuto’s throw to second sailed into center field for the double steal.
“Just don’t throw — they had the pitcher up,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said when asked what Realmuto should’ve done.
Ozuna tied the score in the fourth with his home run on a 0-2 pitch. Ozuna fouled off three straight pitches before connecting to left-center.
Lamet’s last batter of the game was a battle. With runners on the corners and two outs, Tomas Tellis fouled off five consecutive pitches before popping out.
Miami wasted an even better opportunity in the seventh, putting runners on the corners with no outs. San Diego brought in All-Star closer Brad Hand, who got Dee Gordon on a force, intentionally walked Stanton, struck out Christian Yelich and retired Ozuna on a fly ball.
“There are probably only two or three pitchers who can get out of that situation,” Padres manager Andy Green said of Hand, a former Marlins reliever. “You could tell he was juiced up (to face Miami).”
But after the Marlins finally came through in the 11th — taking the lead for the first time on the final play of the game — they kept the pressure on the wild-card leaders with Arizona 1 1/2 games ahead of Colorado.
“They are going to start thinking about us,” Rojas said. “We’re coming for them. We’re coming for Arizona and Colorado.”
NOTES: Ichiro Suzuki broke Miami’s single-season pinch-hit record in the seventh inning. It was Suzuki’s 22nd pinch hit of the season, which leads the majors and is one more than Ross Gload had for the Marlins in 2009. ... The 49 homers by Marlins RF Giancarlo Stanton are the most by an NL hitter since Prince Fielder hit 50 for the Milwaukee Brewers in 2007. ... Marlins 1B Justin Bour (oblique) fielded grounders and hit off a tee. He hopes to return in a couple of weeks. ... The Padres claimed RHP Tim Melville on waivers from the Minnesota Twins and sent him to Triple-A El Paso. ... Padres INF Yangervis Solarte started at SS. In his previous four starts, he was used at 2B, SS, 3B and 1B. Since 2016, only two other major-leaguers — Javier Baez and Jurickson Profar — started at all four infield positions in a span of four games.