De La Cruz stays mashing, but Marlins drop series

April 17th, 2024

MIAMI -- The Marlins’ doesn’t want to reveal his secrets.

Following another multihit performance in the 3-1 loss to the Giants on Wednesday afternoon at loanDepot park, De La Cruz kept his pregame routine -- which has helped him become one of the club’s most consistent bats -- close to the vest.

De La Cruz might not divulge the keys to his success, but manager Skip Schumaker and hitting coach John Mabry saw him flip the switch last season. The hitting group’s emphasis on game planning has gotten through to De La Cruz, who has come to learn that planning is a separator at the big league level; it is tough to out-talent others at this level.

“De La's carried the work that he did last year into this year,” Mabry said on the Bally Sports Florida broadcast. “He’s making better pitch selections throughout the game, using his lower half a little bit more efficiently, which gets him more power. So he’s been doing a real nice job of that. What a joy to be around. He’s such a nice kid. He’s very jovial. He’s in the clubhouse and everybody loves being around him. He’s just a great guy to be around.

“He’s really growing into what this league's all about -- how pitchers attack him, what he needs to do on a daily basis as far as his work goes -- and he really has taken flight in that area, so it’s kind of translating out here on the field, which is really a good thing.”

Both during Spring Training and again on Wednesday, Schumaker spoke highly of De La Cruz’s ability to remember at-bats from the previous year, a capability that helps him continue to blossom as a hitter. When De La Cruz arrived at big league camp in February, his manager saw a player, fresh off his first full MLB season, who was aspiring to become great.

“You don't get to forget good moments, so you have to take advantage of that and build from that and have that consistency,” De La Cruz said via interpreter Luis Dorante Jr.

But what about the bad moments? De La Cruz laughed before answering in English.

“No, I don't want to remember that,” De La Cruz replied.

They were many good moments in the series finale for De La Cruz, who was responsible for Miami’s lone run on a then-game-tying homer to right field in the sixth. He lined righty Keaton Winn’s sinker at the bottom of the zone over the right-field wall, preventing left-hander Trevor Rogers (5 2/3 IP, ER) from being the tough-luck loser.

Entering Wednesday, De La Cruz had a .357 average and a .643 slugging percentage against sinkers, compared to four-seamers (.167 BA, .222 SLG), sliders (.091 BA, .091 SLG), cutters (.500 BA, .750 SLG) and changeups (.286 BA, .429 SLG).

“When he's using the whole field, he's a really good and dangerous hitter,” Schumaker said. “You see what he can do against righties and lefties. I'm having a tough time not putting him at the top of the order so he gets that extra at-bat. He's done an excellent job so far this season.”

Even though the 27-year-old De La Cruz has bounced back and forth from left field and designated hitter this season, he swears by the same routine to maintain consistency. His splits support the approach, as they are nearly identical as a position player (.293 BA) vs. as a DH (.282).

With Jake Burger on the injured list and Jorge Soler on the Giants, the Marlins need De La Cruz -- their RBI leader in 2023 -- to reach another level of production. Through the Marlins’ first 14 games, De La Cruz had driven in just one run. Schumaker insisted the results would come because underlying metrics like exit velocity showed the quality of contact was there.

Entering Wednesday, Miami had averaged 4.3 runs per game in the nine games since collecting its first victory. The lineup averaged 3.3 runs per game during the season-opening nine-game skid.

During his current six-game hitting streak, De La Cruz is 9-for-25 (.360) with five extra-base hits -- including two homers -- and nine RBIs. He has matched a career high with a five-game RBI streak.

“I'm feeling good right now, feeling great,” De La Cruz said. “I see the ball as big as a melon, like they say in the Dominican Republic. So I’ve got to continue working hard and take advantage of the moment.”