Cooper grand slam in 9th saves Marlins' streak

Dramatic win is Miami's sixth in a row, and their second straight sweep

May 23rd, 2019

DETROIT -- What was shaping up as potentially a final plate appearance in Detroit for ended up being another breakthrough moment for .

Cooper connected on a two-out grand slam in the ninth inning off Shane Greene that propelled the Marlins to an improbable 5-2 comeback victory on Thursday afternoon and a three-game sweep of the Tigers at Comerica Park.

“Probably one of the better feelings,” Cooper said of his slam to left. “I probably pimped it a bit, but as soon as I got it off the bat, I knew I got it pretty good. After the home run yesterday, I just needed one to get that monkey off my back.”

For the first time in three seasons, the Marlins have won six in a row. It's their longest stretch of victories since taking seven straight from April 24-30, 2016.

“I kind of mentioned it earlier this year, how there is no quit in this team,” Granderson said. “You saw it today, you saw it yesterday, and the first day. It's been that way the whole season. At the same time, I want people to understand, not quitting doesn't mean you're going to win all the time. It is one thing to lay down and die. That, you don't want to do.”

At 16-31 overall, the Marlins have a long way to go to be the type of organization they hope to be. But in the building process, you’re looking for growth. The staple in the win streak has been the starting pitching, which has a collective ERA during the streak of 1.85 after gave up one run in 5 2/3 innings on Thursday.

“It's a club that is gaining a little bit of confidence,” manager Don Mattingly said. “But again, it's going back to our starting pitching, giving us a chance. Now, we've been able to come up with some big hits.”

A day after hitting his first big league home run, Cooper again found himself in the spotlight. But it took an unusual series of events for him to come up with two outs and the bases full in the ninth.

Neil Walker put Miami on the board with an RBI single off Greene, who has 15 saves. The game nearly ended on ’ grounder to second with one out. But Ronny Rodriguez bobbled the ball, and while Detroit managed to get the force out at second, Rojas avoided the double play.

The Tigers reviewed whether Rojas was safe or not, but the call stood.

As the umpires huddled, Rojas wasn’t sure the call would go his way.

“I wasn't confident at all,” he said. “It was one of those plays where you couldn't feel the [ball hitting the] glove. My foot was at the bag at the same time. I'm glad that he called me safe, so they couldn't overturn it. It was huge. I hit that ball hard.”

Rojas, the Marlins shortstop, knew he hit the ball hard -- 100.4 mph. He also was aware the infield was dry because it was sunny, causing the ground to be hard. It played a factor as Rodriguez couldn’t field the ball cleanly.

“The ground is really hard at this time, with the sun and all that,” Rojas said. “It's pretty hard. I hit it and it got to him really quick.”

Granderson pinch-hit for Austin Dean with runners on the corners, but after Rojas stole second, Granderson, who broke in with the Tigers, was intentionally walked.

“With Greeney out there, and you've got two balls and no strikes on a left-handed hitter, yeah, you put him on to load the bases,” Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire said. “The guy's [hitting] whatever, I don't know, but we feel Greeney can get righties out, get lefties out, but we're trying to get a forceout at every base, which it looked like we needed today. He hangs one. They hit a grand slam.”

Cooper, who hit his first MLB home run on Wednesday in a 6-3 win, blistered the first grand slam of his career. Statcast projected the drive at 417 feet, with an exit speed of 103.1 mph.

“As soon as [Rojas] stole second, I had the feeling they were going to walk the lefty [Granderson],” Cooper said. “It's a better matchup, righty on righty. As soon as he took second, I knew [Greene] was going to walk him. I took the first pitch, saw the slider, and had a pretty good feeling he was going to throw it again.”

Greene’s first slider to Cooper was 79.5 mph for a called strike. The second one was 79.9 mph, and Cooper didn’t miss it, and managed to keep the ball fair.

“I got a good pitch,” he said.