MIAMI -- Jorge Soler spent all offseason rehabbing from back trouble in the hopes of putting together a season like the one he is having in 2023.
Soler became the first Marlin in six years to reach the 30-homer plateau with a two-run shot in a 6-5 loss to the Astros on Tuesday night at loanDepot park. The last Miami players to achieve the feat were Giancarlo Stanton (who finished with 59) and Marcell Ozuna (who hit 37) in 2017. Soler is the 13th Marlin to do so.
“Mostly staying healthy was the main goal,” Soler said via interpreter Luis Dorante Jr. “I think in an interview earlier this season, I told you guys there were going to be a lot of home runs. I'm very, very happy for that, and trying to stay healthy was one of the best things.”
Soler's third-inning tater gave Miami (63-58) an early three-run lead it couldn’t hold, as its modest three-game win streak was snapped. Starter Johnny Cueto gave up five runs (four earned), including two home runs, in 5 1/3 innings before lefty A.J. Puk surrendered the go-ahead homer to Kyle Tucker in the seventh. The Marlins remain a game ahead of the Cubs (61-58) and Reds (62-59) for the final National League Wild Card spot.
The 31-year-old Soler sent Astros righty Cristian Javier’s 2-2 fastball on the outside corner deep to right-center, matching Philadelphia’s Kyle Schwarber for the fourth-most homers in the NL. He notched his 30th homer in his 114th game -- reaching the mark at the fifth-fastest pace in franchise history. It is just the second time in Soler's career that he has reached that mark; he led the American League with 48 while with the Royals in 2019.
Soler has history with Javier, having blasted the decisive solo homer in the seventh inning of Game 4 of the 2021 World Series while with the Braves. Soler would go on to win MVP of that Fall Classic after going deep three times in six games.
“It was something I knew when I was going to face Javier, I was thinking going to the plate that he's a guy that has a good fastball,” Soler said. “Sometimes, [he] leaves the slider hanging, and he gave me that fastball outside, and I was able to connect.”
Miami couldn’t be happier to see a bounceback from Soler, who was limited to 13 homers in 72 games in 2022 during the first year of his free-agent contract.
In the first half, Soler tallied 23 homers and garnered his first All-Star selection. He then went deep in the first game following the Midsummer Classic, but he hit .146 during a 12-game homerless drought that ended on July 31.
Soler has rediscovered his stroke by homering five times and batting .255 in August. In Monday’s 5-1 victory, he, Luis Arraez and Josh Bell hit three consecutive home runs, marking just the second time in club history -- and first time since 1998 -- the Marlins went back-to-back-to-back.
“It's sick,” said Jazz Chisholm Jr., who rehabbed his back and knee over the winter. “I was with him all offseason, working with him every single day of the offseason. I'm super happy for him, and it's been a long time coming for him. He's been working really hard over the last offseasons, and he's just like an uncle to me. I'm really happy to see him thriving right now.”
Though Miami still has the third-fewest homers in the Majors, the lineup is starting to see more pop of late. It would be more than welcome. Since 2017, Stanton (who has been with the Yankees for six seasons now) has the most homers by a Marlin (59) during that span. Chisholm is fifth with 45, while Soler is seventh with 43.
“I don't think it's his last one, that's for sure,” manager Skip Schumaker said. “I feel like he just missed a couple more tonight, too. The first at-bat, he missed a slider. I just feel like he's in a really good spot. He maybe hit a two-week period where he didn't hit for a little bit, but otherwise, he's been one of our best -- if not the best hitter besides Arraez -- at the top. Super consistent.
“I think he's becoming a better hitter, too. It's not just a home run that we're looking for. I know 30 is an incredible number and a milestone for him. This year, definitely not his last one, but I think he's becoming a complete hitter the way he's hitting to [the] opposite field, he's hitting pull, dead center. So I think he's more of a complete hitter than just a power hitter, and it's been great to watch.”