Miguel Rojas talked all spring about how he spent the winter offseason in Venezuela trying to give the ball more lift with his swing. The light-hitting utility infielder isn’t known for his pop.
On a late summer day in Miami, the practice paid off.
Rojas’ sacrifice fly in the 11th inning on Saturday was deep enough to score the winning run from third and give the Marlins a 2-1 victory over the Padres.
“A big win for us,” Rojas said.
It was another in a long string of them. The Marlins have now won 12 of their past 15 games while improving to 65-63. But they remained 4 1/2 games back in the Wild Card playoff chase as the frontrunners also won Saturday.
“This was a club put together to do this, to (get into) the race for the playoffs, and we’re doing it now after a terrible month of May,” Rojas said.
It was a lethargic night offensively for both clubs. The Marlins went 1 for 9 with runners in scoring position while the Padres were 0 for 9 in those situations.
The Padres scored their only run in the second inning on a strategic blunder by the Marlins when San Diego pulled off a double steal with the pitcher at the plate while a Marcell Ozuna solo homer in the fourth accounted for Miami’s only scoring.
But the Marlins won it in the 11th when Derek Dietrich started the inning with a double off Jose Torres. After Mike Aviles advanced Dietrich to third with a sacrifice bunt, the Padres employed a fifth infielder and went after Rojas.
Rojas said he knew the Padres wouldn’t walk him in order to set up a potential double play.
“I knew (they wouldn’t), with the way I’ve been swinging the bat with runners in scoring position,” Rojas said. “I haven’t been very good.”
To say the least.
Rojas had gone just 1 for 19 with runners in scoring position and less than two outs this season. But he didn’t need a hit to get the job done Saturday, just a fly ball deep enough to score Dietrich from third.
“With five men in the infield, I’m not going to hit a ground ball right there,” he said.
And he didn’t.
-- Ichiro Suzuki broke the Marlins’ single-season mark for pinch-hits with his 22nd when he singled in the seventh. Ross Gload had held the mark with 21 pinch-hits, set in 2009. Suzuki leads the majors in pinch-hits this season.
-- Odrisamer Despaigne, thrust into starting duty out of scheduling necessity, delivered six good innings in which he held his original team to a run on three hits.
-- It was a mostly quiet night for Giancarlo Stanton, who remained at 49 home runs and struck out twice in four at bats. Stanton produced the Marlins’ first hit, though, a third-inning single off Padres starter Dinelson Lamet.
-- Former Marlin-turned-Padres All Star reliever Brad Hand snuffed out a big scoring threat in the seventh. Hand entered with two aboard and no outs but worked out of it, striking out Christian Yelich and getting Ozuna on a fly ball with the bases loaded.