All eyes -- 25,547 sets of them -- were on Giancarlo Stanton on Wednesday to see whether the Marlins’ former slugger would hit his milestone 300th home run in his old stomping ground, perhaps even a tape-measure blast into the Budweiser bar for old time’s sake.
Stanton didn’t come through, but one of his unsuspecting former teammates did.
Miguel Rojas -- never known for his muscle before his sudden power upsurge this season -- connected on a three-run shot off Lance Lynn in the sixth to help lift the Marlins to a 9-3 victory over the New York Yankees and a split of their two-game series.
Rojas had hit exactly one home run in each of his four previous major league seasons before this one. But, with a handful of relatives from Venezuela on hand to watch, Wednesday’s shot into the Marlins’ bullpen gave him 10, which doesn’t exactly put him in Stanton’s league but is a notable achievement, nonetheless.
“It felt pretty special, not just for me, but for the whole club,” said Rojas, adding that he had never hit as many as 10 home runs at any time in his life, not even Little League.
Rojas said Wednesday’s win helped to make up for Tuesday’s 12-inning 2-1 loss in which the Marlins squandered two bases-loaded scoring chances late that could have won the game.
“After that loss last night, it left us with a mark because we couldn’t get the big hit to win the game,” Rojas said. “I’m pretty happy to get 10 home runs for the first time in my life. But it doesn’t mean anything if we don’t win the game.”
The Marlins were trailing 2-1 when Rojas put the Marlins on top for good.
While Rojas delivered the big hit, the rest of the Marlins’ lineup wasn’t watching idly. The Marlins totaled 14 hits, including a JT Riddle two-run homer in the eighth that provided some breathing room for reliever Javy Guerra, who closed out the win in the ninth.
“Obviously the (Rojas) home run turned the game back in our favor,” manager Don Mattingly said of Rojas, who was back in the lineup for the first time in a week due to an ankle injury. “He’s probably at that point in his career where he’s gotten more comfortable with his swing.”
The Marlins received another strong outing by Trevor Richards, who found himself facing an injury-depleted yet still formidable Yankees lineup barely more than two years after taking on Independent League hitters in the Frontier League. One can only imagine how helpless those hitters must have felt given how poorly the Yankees fared against Richards, who held them to two runs on three hits over 5 1/3 innings.
Richards struck out nine Yankees in that short span and made Stanton look bad, striking him out twice with his change up.
“It’s always fun to throw against the Yankees and in front of a crowd,” Richards said.
It was the third time this season that Richards struck out as many as nine, no small feat given the fact he doesn’t possess an overpowering fastball and works batters by relying on his off-speed arsenal.
“We threw a little more sliders tonight than we have in the past,” Richards said. “It made the change-up a little bit better, just putting in their heads that they knew there was something else I could throw up there.”
But Richards left trailing 2-0 because Marlins hitters were having their own issues with Lynn, who held them in check for five scoreless innings. That all changed in the sixth through when the Marlins finally broke through by scoring five runs, with Rojas delivering the big blow. ’ three-run homer off Lynn proving to be the big big blow.
The Marlins didn’t stop there.
After the Yankees pulled to within 5-3 on Stanton’s infield single, the Marlins added a run in the seventh and three more in the eighth to put it away.
Counting World Series games, the Marlins and Yankees are now tied 17-17 in regular and post-season meetings. The two teams split this season’s interleague series, 2-2, and the Marlins outscored the Yankees in the four games, 20-19.
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