On the same day Giancarlo Stanton went into hibernation with a hand injury, Christian Yelich woke up from his season-long slumber at the plate.
Yelich was hitting .227 on June 26, Stanton’s last day in the lineup before landing on the disabled list. The following day, Yelich went 4 for 4 against Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers, and he hasn’t slowed down since.
Beginning with his breakout game against the Dodgers, the 23-year-old outfielder had hit .382 entering Saturday night with a .484 on-base percentage that led the majors. Yelich had reached base in 23 games in a row.
“It’s not like [Stanton] got hurt and I tried to play better,” Yelich said. “It wasn’t like I was sitting there all season thinking I don’t have to play good because we’ve got Stanton. It’s just one of those coincidences.”
But what a welcome coincidence it has been for Yelich and the Marlins. Yelich, who signed a seven-year, $49 million deal with the Marlins before spring training, spent the first 21/2 months either slumping at the plate or on the disabled list with a back injury.
“We were struggling as a team earlier in the season, and when you’re struggling individually but you’re winning, it’s so much easier,” he said. “When you struggle as a team and you struggle individually, it’s tough.”
Yelich didn’t get over the Mendoza Line with an average higher than .200 until May 26. But the Marlins’ belief in Yelich never wavered.
“This guy’s a special hitter, there’s no doubt about that,” Marlins manager Dan Jennings said. “The organization felt that way. That’s why we extended the contract to him when we did. We thought the day we drafted him that one day he had a chance to win a batting title. We still feel that way.”
Those first 21/2 months, though, felt like an eternity to Yelich, who had never experienced a slump of such duration at any time in his baseball development.
“At times, it really does feel like it’s never going to end,” he said.
Yelich said he was never able to pinpoint the problem.
“I knew it wasn’t anything that the league was doing that was different,” Yelich said. “I was getting pitched the same way. I just wasn’t hitting pitches you are supposed to hit.”
Nothing was falling for him.
But when he faced Kershaw, it all began to click.
“That kind of started it off,” he said.
Yelich reached on an infield hit. He banged out another hit on a ball that Kershaw deflected.
“When you’re going bad, that’s the stuff that doesn’t happen,” Yelich said. “[The ball] hits a guy and rolls to the first baseman, and you’re out. A guy makes a diving play, and you’re out again. It’s how it was going.”
Now Yelich has found his groove again.
this and that
▪ Henderson Alvarez is scheduled to see Dr. James Andrews early this week for his ailing right shoulder.
“He’s going to see Dr. Andrews and determine what’s going to be in his best interest, whether it’s a surgical or nonsurgical procedure,” Jennings said.
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Alvarez has missed most of the season with right shoulder inflammation. After making two minor-league rehab starts earlier this month with Single A Jupiter, Alvarez continued to experience shoulder discomfort and was shut down from throwing again.
▪ Out of nowhere, Stanton showed up on Saturday in San Diego. But Jennings said the slugger merely arrived to see family and friends, then fly back to South Florida with the team on Sunday. Stanton has been out for four weeks with a broken hamate bone in his left hand, and there’s no timetable for his return. He has been limited to dry swings with a bat.
▪ Second baseman Dee Gordon, on the disabled list with a dislocated thumb, is expected to play in a rehab game on Sunday for Single A Jupiter. It’s possible Gordon could be activated from the DL on Tuesday when the Marlins open a homestand against Washington.
▪ Sunday: Marlins RHP Mat Latos (4-6, 4.48 ERA) at San Diego Padres RHP Odrisamer Despaigne (3-7, 4.98), 4:10 p.m., Petco Park.
▪ Monday: Off day.