ST. LOUIS -- Marcell Ozuna says he plays "very, very differently" when his wife and three children are in the stands. Perhaps he should get them season tickets.A day after hitting his first home run at Busch Stadium as a member of the Cardinals while his family watched, Ozuna slugged
ST. LOUIS -- Marcell Ozuna says he plays "very, very differently" when his wife and three children are in the stands. Perhaps he should get them season tickets.
A day after hitting his first home run at Busch Stadium as a member of the Cardinals while his family watched, Ozuna slugged a first-inning grand slam to back Michael Wacha's near no-hitter in Sunday's 5-0 win against the Pirates.
• Grand slams mean 40% off pizza
Ozuna earned his first Busch Stadium curtain ball by whacking a hanging, first-pitch slider from Nick Kingham into the left-field seats, his second homer in two games after hitting just three over the season's first two months.
"They're going to come in bunches," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "He has that kind of power. You guys probably have the launch angle data on those. Those balls were not hit very high. Smashed."
Ozuna hit both homers with a 20-degree launch angle, near the bottom edge of what Statcast™ considers the optimal range for hitting home runs. But both were ripped. The solo shot Ozuna hit Saturday left the bat at 109.8 mph. He struck Sunday's with a 111.3-mph exit velocity, and it landed 425 feet away for his fourth career grand slam.
That continued a streak of five consecutive balls put in play in excess of 100 mph for Ozuna, as clear sign of progress for a hitter who spent much of the season's first two months mired in a serious slump. After hitting 37 home runs for the Marlins a year ago, Ozuna's groundball rate spiked over his first 50-plus games in St. Louis.
But he had no trouble elevating this weekend against the Pirates. When he did, the sellout crowd of 44,432 at Busch Stadium rose with him. Ozuna's grand slam -- the first by a Cardinals player this season -- earned him his first curtain call, and provided all the offense required on a day Wacha threw eight shutout innings.
"To get that response from the crowd is nice for a guy who wants so badly to get them on their feet," Matheny said. "It was also important to give Michael room to breathe, so he didn't feel like he needed to be perfect the whole time."
Joe Trezza is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @joetrezz.