Curtis Granderson was pleased to hear he has three of the Marlins’ eight pinch-hit home runs this season. Especially given how unpredictable it is to know when a player is going to come off the bench to hit in a game, even if he analyzes the best situations in which he thinks he will be called upon.
“Until you go through it and realize that you just can’t practice for it,” Granderson said. “You just have to wait.”
Like Granderson, Neil Walker waited his turn Monday night, and when it came with a man on and nobody out in the top of the seventh inning, he made the most of it.
Walker’s second pinch-hit homer of the season and third of his career tied a Marlins record for most pinch-hit home runs in a season. The Marlins hit eight in 1999, 2009 and this season, and as of Tuesday’s game have 12 left to try to set a new record.
“It’s probably more along the lines of luck, but preparation, too,” Walker said. “As a pinch-hitter, one of the last things on your mind is stepping into the box against most likely a reliever and trying to hit a homer.
“But that can also be a byproduct of your preparation,” Walker added. “Understanding who’s out there on the mound and what he likes to do early in the count, late in the count, what’s his best pitch, does he miss up, does he miss down.”
Walker said he learned how to approach pinch hitting by watching and listening to how veterans did it when he was a young player.
“The hardest thing in sports is to hit, and the hardest thing in sports in baseball is to pinch-hit. So you have to try to simplify it as much as possible,” Walker said.
As soon as Walker is aware he could come up in a situation later in the game, he’s on an iPad looking at video of the pitcher’s last few outings. Then it’s a quick analysis of the data provided to see how the pitcher attacks left-handers and right-handers.
Walker had never faced the Diamondbacks’ Yoan Lopez before, but he went up to the plate with a good idea on what he’d see. He got a high fastball on the outer half of the plate and took it the other way for an opposite-field home run into the left-field seats.
With the Marlins looking at what younger players can do, it’s not a big shock that Granderson and Walker lead the way in pinch-hit home runs.
“Now I just have to do what I would normally do. See the ball, hit the ball. Simplify it.” Granderson said of his thought process after knowing when he’s going to bat.
THIS AND THAT
▪ Manager Don Mattingly before Tuesday’s game didn’t have an update on first baseman-outfielder Garrett Cooper’s MRI of his left knee. Cooper is back in Miami for evaluation.
▪ Pablo Lopez, the Marlins’ starting pitcher in Monday night’s 7-5 loss to Arizona, became the third Marlin to hit three batters in an inning, joining Jose Ureña on March 29, 2018 against the Cubs and Sergio Mitre on Aug. 31, 2007 against the Phillies.
▪ Outfielder Lewis Brinson said he’s a fan of playing in Chase Field, mainly because he likes the way the park plays and looks, and not because he made his major-league debut at the stadium while with the Milwaukee Brewers in June of 2017.
▪ Seven of the Marlins’ top minor-league prospects are set to begin playing for the Salt River Rafters in the Arizona Fall League that starts Wednesday at spring training sites across the Phoenix metropolitan area. Those prospect include 19-year-old shortstop Jose Devers, the No. 10 ranked prospect in the Marlins’ organization, according to MLB Pipeline. Devers is the highest-ranked Marlins prospect on the Rafters’ roster.