De La Cruz became the first Marlin to have three hits, all of which were doubles, in one game since Christian Yelich did so on May 26, 2017. De La Cruz is also the fourth player to have three hits in a game that were all doubles this year, joining the Braves’ Matt Olson, the Phillies’ J.T. Realmuto, the Royals’ Bobby Witt Jr., and the Dodgers’ Freddie Freeman (who has had two such games this season).
Two of the Marlins outfielder’s doubles helped Miami pull ahead early vs. right-hander Chris Bassitt, who recorded just three strikeouts over his 6 1/3 innings. After Jesús Aguilar and Jesús Sánchez reached base on singles in the second inning, De La Cruz smoked a double over the head of left-fielder Mark Canha, to drive home Aguilar.
A mere three innings later, De La Cruz was at it again, leading off the fifth with a double that put him in position to later score on a sacrifice fly by Joey Wendle. With that, Miami had a 2-1 lead.
De La Cruz’s bat has been consistent of late. He has hit safely in 10 of his past 14 starts and is hitting .350 during the month of July after having hit .189 over 24 games in June.
“We’ve seen power from De La Cruz in the right-center gap. He has been hitting some home runs in the last few games. He has been heating up,” manager Don Mattingly said. “In Houston, he started getting hits. He had a great game against [Justin] Verlander. From there, he has kind of rolled on.”
De La Cruz is working to stay focused on the positive aspects of the game. He spent the offseason trying to improve his power, seemingly successfully, given that he has six homers this year (he hit just five last year). De La Cruz also wants to raise his batting average; after Friday’s game, it’s up to .231 from .216.
“The bat is coming around,” De La Cruz said. “I’ve been working really hard the last few days. Really quickly, I can see the results.”
De La Cruz wasn’t the only Marlin who did damage at the plate against the Mets. Garrett Cooper provided Miami with a pair of insurance runs in the eighth inning off of reliever Drew Smith, hitting his second homer in his past four games.
“I was looking for an offspeed pitch,” Cooper said. “I faced him last year. I did well against him during my career. He likes the slider. He left one middle away, [and] I put a good swing on it.”
Mattingly is starting to feel that the Marlins(40-42) are coming together as a team. It helps that they have won seven out of their last nine games and are now just four games behind the Phillies (45-39) in the NL Wild Card race.
“I think putting ourselves in this Wild Card race and creeping back in it, we can see that every game is important,” Mattingly said. “Every game is going to push us closer to that pennant race baseball that we want to be playing. We’ve put ourselves in a good position now. I think our guys know we are there, but we have to sustain.
“In order to sustain, we had to bounce back tonight. We got beat up last night. The guys showed up and we played. We’ll be ready to go tomorrow and try to get another [victory].”
Cooper believes staying healthy will be key to the Marlins’ prolonged success. They will be a better team once outfielder Jorge Soler and second baseman Jazz Chisholm Jr. -- voted to start at second base in the All-Star Game as revealed on Friday -- are off the IL.
“I don’t think we have had a full team roster since the beginning of the year,” Cooper said. “[I] believe that we are as good as anybody out there. We’ve had some ups and downs already this year. I think we are in a good spot right now.”