For a moment in the second inning Monday night, Jorge Alfaro gave the Miami Marlins a blip of life against the Chicago White Sox.
Alfaro took a 2-1 fastball from starter Ivan Nova and crushed it 403 feet into the right-field seats at Guaranteed Rate Field for his 11th home run of the year.
While the euphoria was short lived — the Marlins lost the series-opener 9-1 and only had three more hits the rest of the night — it was the latest showing of Alfaro’s impact when he gets into a groove.
The 26-year-old catcher, obtained from the Philadelphia Phillies in February as part of the J.T. Realmuto trade, is hitting .353 in July (18 for 51) heading into Tuesday’s game with the White Sox. Alfaro has four doubles, a triple and Monday’s home run in that span to go along with five RBI and four runs scored. The recent run has improved his season batting average to .278, the highest it has been since May 4.
To put Alfaro’s production into perspective, he is one of five catchers this season with at least 250 at-bats this year to have double-digit home runs, a batting average above .275 and 30 RBI. The others: The White Sox’s James McCann, the Seattle Mariners’ Omar Navarez, the Boston Red Sox’s Christian Vasquez and the Chicago Cubs’ Willson Contreras. McCann and Contreras were named All-Stars this season.
“Jorge looks good,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said recently. “He’s slowly getting a little more length to his stride, trying to get some direction and change that up. Jorge looks better. He’s a real physical kid with room to grow, and we’ve got some time with him.”
Alfaro’s power-hitting success doesn’t come as a surprise. He has 49.1 percent hard-hit rate, defined by Statcast as the percentage of balls hit into play with an exit velocity of at least 95 mph. That mark ranks 15th in Major League Baseball among hitters who have put the ball in play at least 150 times this season.
Alfaro’s main problem is getting the ball in play and limiting strikeouts. The slugging catcher has whiffed on 39.6 percent of his swings this season and has struck out 93 times in 280 plate appearances while drawing just nine walks.
“As long as he continues to get better,” Mattingly said, “he has a chance to be a really, really good player in this league.”
Shortstop Miguel Rojas was out of the starting lineup for a third consecutive day on Tuesday as he nurses a right shoulder strain. Rojas, who is hitting .283 with a career-high 21 doubles and had started 80 consecutive games before the injury, fielded ground balls and tested his throwing shoulder on the field at Guaranteed Rate Park pregame.
Rojas said he has no problems hitting, which was evident on Sunday against the Los Angeles Dodgers when he hit a pinch-hit single in his first day out of the lineup.
But with only one more game in the series against the White Sox and then an off day before starting a seven-game homestand, the Marlins are going to be cautious with Rojas.
“We’re going to make sure we use these days in the right way so we don’t push him,” Mattingly said. “... We’re just going to make sure that once he gets back that he can play every day like he has been.”
This and that
▪ Harold Ramirez hit leadoff for the first time this season on Tuesday. He is the eighth Marlins player to hit in the leadoff spot through the first 99 games. The others: Curtis Granderson (44), Rojas (35), Austin Dean (11), Jon Berti (4), Rosell Herrera (2), Lewis Brinson (1) and Isaac Galloway (1).