Miguel Rojas knows what it’s like to be called upon at a moment’s notice to deliver.
He did it as a rookie in 2014 on a division-winning Dodgers squad.
Rojas’ single in the top of ninth inning on Friday night at Busch Stadium propelled the Marlins to a 7-6 comeback victory over the Cardinals and was the kind of clutch hit they will likely need often to become a playoff team themselves.
“It’s not going to take just 25 guys on the roster,” Rojas said. “Every guy we have even called up from the minors … I’ve been that guy, and I know how important it is to be ready from the bench this time of year when everything really starts to count.”
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The hit scored Marcell Ozuna and put the Marlins ahead for good after going back and forth in a game that had five lead changes. Ozuna hit a double with one out in the ninth when Cardinals center fielder Randal Grichuk misjudged a fly ball and let it get past him.
The Marlins (48-41) won their fourth in a row and prevailed for only the second time when trailing after seven innings to move to seven games over .500 for the first time since June 5, 2012.
“That was huge for us because everybody did great tonight and tried to fight back,” Rojas said. “We tried to maintain the lead, but if we can’t, we just have to battle back, and that’s what we’ve done all season. It’s huge to start the second half like this.”
Rojas entered the game as a pinch-hitter in the seventh inning with a chance to add to the lead just after the Marlins had rallied to take a 5-4 advantage. But he flew out with the bases loaded.
Although he couldn’t come through at that point, Rojas said the at-bat helped him approach his ninth-inning opportunity better.
“Those situations get you ready for the next one,” Rojas said. “It’s been a while since I’ve been in a situation like that — bases loaded with two outs. The next time I came up I was more calm. I just tried to put a good swing on the ball.”
One of the team’s second-half goals is to get more run production from its prolific lineup.
Although they didn’t start well in that department, the Marlins’ clutch hitting over the final four innings helped them rally twice to beat a Cardinals squad that’s chasing them in the National League wild-card race.
“I’m happy [with] our club the way we kept going and kept fighting,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. “This is as much of a team win as we’ve had with guys got on base and got big hits.”
A.J. Ramos staved off one final rally attempt by the Cardinals (46-43) in the ninth to pick up his 28th save of the season.
Four days after watching Giancarlo Stanton put on a show at the Home Run Derby, the Marlins watched the Cardinals hit four homers combined off starter Wei-Yin Chen and reliever David Phelps.
But Martin Prado, who grounded into a double play and struck out with runners on base earlier in the game, delivered a game-tying single that scored Ichiro Suzuki in the top of the eighth.
Ichiro singled with one out in the inning for his 2,991st career hit. He then moved into scoring position on an errant throw to first by reliever Kevin Siegrist.
The Marlins also benefitted from sloppy defense by the Cardinals to take their first lead in the fourth inning. Ozuna hit into what should have been a double play, but Aledmys Diaz’s throw to Matt Holliday at first was low and was bobbled.
Chris Johnson doubled to drive in the Marlins’ first run in the next at-bat, and he drove in a second run in the sixth on a groundout.
The Cardinals grabbed a 6-5 lead in the seventh inning off Phelps on solo home runs by Grichuk and Tommy Pham, who also gave St. Louis a 4-1 lead in the fourth with a three-run homer off Chen.
Chen went six innings — throwing 97 pitches — and gave up four runs on six hits, struck out five and walked one. Things unraveled for him in the bottom of the fourth, when he gave up four runs, including home runs to Stephen Piscotty and Pham.
“I made two mistakes with a fastball down the middle and a slider, which wasn’t a bad pitch, but that’s not the hitter you want to throw that to,” Chen said.
Phelps had only surrendered two home runs all season prior to Friday’s game.
“Both home runs were fastballs down the middle,” Phelps said. “I was trying to go away, and I just left them over the middle. The most frustrating thing was that we had just fought back to take the lead.”
Ozuna’s two-run single in the seventh capped the Marlins’ comeback from their earlier deficit and scored J.T. Realmuto and Christian Yelich. Realmuto had singled and Yelich walked.
Stanton, who reached base four times in the game and extended his hitting streak to eight, was hit by a pitch from Trevor Rosenthal with the bases loaded earlier in the inning.
“I feel like we’re getting into that groove where we are separating ourselves from being a team that can play .500 [baseball] and a team that can make the playoffs,” Rojas said. “If we want to be in the playoffs, we have to win games like this.”