'Confidence growing,' Díaz homers twice

September 15th, 2021

WASHINGTON -- For the first month and a half of the 2021 season, and did damage in the middle of the order for Triple-A Jacksonville. As the year winds down, that pair is trying to do the same at the Major League level.

After Sánchez went deep in three straight games over the weekend, Díaz recorded his first career multihomer contest in Tuesday night's 8-2 loss to the Nats at Nationals Park.

When Miami held onto veteran Jesús Aguilar at the Trade Deadline, it prevented the club from giving Díaz an extended look in the big leagues. But with Aguilar sidelined with left knee inflammation, Díaz is starting on a regular basis. The Marlins would like to see what they have in Díaz, who was ranked as MLB Pipeline's No. 3 first-base prospect before recently graduating from prospect status.

“My confidence is growing,” Díaz said in Spanish. “I feel super good and comfortable. I’m playing more games, feeling more relaxed -- so playing on a daily basis is definitely helping me.”

Díaz sent Erick Fedde's top-of-the-zone 94.8 mph four-seamer over the right-center-field wall to lead off the fifth. He added another solo shot to right-center in the seventh on Andres Machado's 93.5 mph four-seamer.

The 24-year-old Díaz now has three taters on fastballs and two on breaking pitches this season. Five of his 11 hits have gone for homers, with these two his first since being recalled on Sept. 8. In Miami’s series-opening win on Monday, Díaz showed his ability to hit to all fields by doubling to both left and right. He has multihit games in three of his last four starts, and is 7-for-25 (.280) with two home runs (five extra-base hits) since being recalled on Sept. 8.

“A lot of times for a left-handed hitter, that lefty kind of keeps you on the ball, changes what you're trying to do,” manager Don Mattingly said. “I thought yesterday he made a nice adjustment, actually. Today just kind of followed through with it. His swings were good today. All day, really, even the last at-bat he just shoots that ball foul. He hit a line drive that way as a left-handed hitter, [which] tells you you're letting the ball get there. A lot of good things are going to happen when you're in that position.”

Though this marks Díaz’s fifth stint with the Marlins in 2021, two of the previous stretches lasted just a day. He started two of his first 11 games of the season with Aguilar on the active roster, striking out six times in 17 plate appearances.

There has been noticeable improvement on that front, with six K’s in 25 plate appearances during this stretch. Díaz’s strikeout swinging on Wander Suero’s elevated cutter in the ninth was his only whiff on 11 swings.

Mattingly said the key with a hitter, especially a young one, is whether he is having quality at-bats. Some of the questions that need to be answered include: Is he setting himself up with good pitches to hit? Is he chasing?

“It's very important to have that in my plan, lowering the strikeouts, got to put the ball in play all the time,” Díaz said. “Looking for better at-bats, swinging at better pitches, something that at the end will improve my quality at-bats when that happens.”

Díaz made his Major League debut on Aug. 15, 2020, but he saw limited action then as well. He received 11 starts last season, slashing .154/.195/.205 across 41 plate appearances. So Díaz began ‘21 at Triple-A, where he knocked 20 homers and posted an .845 OPS in 74 games.

“Anytime you see a game like this, it shows you what he can be,” Mattingly said. “But if you're really talking about winning, then you have to be able to do that consistently. That's really all our guys. This shows Lewin's potential, and now he can show us that he is ready to be consistent. That's what this has kind of been about.

"We knew we were going to get extended at-bats for Lewin, a chance for him to show that he can get consistent good at-bats. Decisions will be made in the winter of which way you want to go, but if you're going to win, you can't just show flashes -- and that's for any of our guys who show flashes. Maybe you're not consistent. It's hard to say that this guy's ready to help us win a championship.”