Miami Marlins

Marcell Ozuna on pace to break Marlins’ RBI single-season mark

Miami Marlins' left fielder Marcell Ozuna hits a single in the first inning of the Miami Marlins vs Los Angeles Dodgers game at Marlins Park in Little Havana in Miami on Fri., July 14, 2017.
Miami Marlins' left fielder Marcell Ozuna hits a single in the first inning of the Miami Marlins vs Los Angeles Dodgers game at Marlins Park in Little Havana in Miami on Fri., July 14, 2017. pportal@miamiherald.com

Marcell Ozuna had some infield dirt tossed in his face Sunday.

He took it in stride.

Ozuna was rounding third base seconds after crushing a three-run home run into the stands at SunTrust Park when Braves third baseman Brandon Phillips playfully tossed the dirt as he passed.

Ozuna never broke his trot to the plate and busted out laughing as he rounded third.

“He was playing a joke,” Ozuna said.

Ozuna has had plenty to smile about as he’s carried over his first-half success in his second All-Star season.

That home run in the first inning of Sunday’s win over Atlanta gave Ozuna a career-best 87 RBI for the season, which led the club entering Monday’s game. Ozuna’s prior high was 85 RBI in 2014.

Ozuna is on pace to record 128 and break the franchise record 121 RBI set in 2000 by Preston Wilson.

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Ozuna’s numbers sharply declined following the All-Star break last season, hitting .209 with six homers and 29 RBI after hitting .307 with 17 homers and 47 RBI in the first half.

Ozuna entered Monday’s game, hitting .306 with 26 homers, and is hitting .360 with eight homers and 63 RBI in 132 plate appearances with runners in scoring position.

Ozuna’s WAR (wins above replacement) is 4.3, which ranks second among National League outfielders behind Bryce Harper.

“[Ozuna] had what, 70 at the break?” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. “We look at it as, why not drive in 140 [runs]? Don’t look back, keep looking forward. The thing we’ve tried to stress with him is to keep going and don’t get caught up in anything else.”

THE REMATCH

Vance Worley enjoyed his best start in over two years against the team that cut him in Spring Training this past March.

So is Worley stoked to face the Nationals in his next start Tuesday?

“Every game is fun,” Worley said. “It’s a really good lineup over there and I just have to pick up where I left off and command all my pitches.”

Worley gave up only two hits in seven shutout innings last Wednesday against the Nationals. It was the first time he didn’t allow an earned run in a start since April 22, 2015 and his longest scoreless outing since Sept. 21, 2014.

It’s been two years since Worley was a regular part of a starting rotation.

Vance Worley talks about his start Friday in a 7-4 win over the Reds.

Worley’s start Tuesday would mark the first time he’s made three consecutive starts in the majors for the first time since he started seven games for the Pirates to open the 2015 season.

Worley made 73 starts over his first five seasons in the majors before being moved to the bullpen in 2015. Worley has since made spot starts for the Orioles last year and now the Marlins this year.

“It’s a lot easier to have a routine,” Worley said. “You show up to the park and know exactly what you need to do.”

INJURY UPDATES

Reliever Kyle Barraclough (right shoulder) threw a 35-pitch bullpen and is scheduled to throw against live hitting on Thursday. Barraclough has not pitched since July 24.

Wei-Yin Chen (left elbow) is scheduled to do the same on Wednesday.

COMING UP

Tuesday: Marlins RHP Vance Worley (1-2, 5.31 ERA) vs. Washington Nationals RHP A.J. Cole (1-1, 4.91), 7:05 p.m., Nationals Park.

Wednesday: Marlins LHP Adam Conley (4-4, 5.10) vs. Nationals LHP Gio Gonzalez (9-5, 2.66), 7:05 p.m., Nationals Park.

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