Since Isan Díaz stepped in to fill the shoes of an injured Jazz Chisholm Jr. on April 28, he’s been off to a slow start offensively. In Friday’s 6-1 win in the series opener against the Brewers at loanDepot park, Díaz’s power was on full display, as the Marlins increased their winning streak to four games.
Milwaukee was forced to rely on its bullpen early due to starting pitcher Brent Suter exiting after 2 1/3 innings with right calf cramps, with the Marlins leading 1-0. Righty reliever Patrick Weigel loaded the bases before Díaz stepped into the box.
In six Major League games this season prior to Friday, the second baseman had walked five times but hadn’t been able to make hard contact. Manager Don Mattingly is encouraged by the walk rate, knowing that it means Díaz is learning to read the ball well.
“It's one of the reasons that I've been talking about this guy for a few years now,” said Mattingly. “He really gets himself a good pitch to hit, for the most part, and he’s now being more consistent with the swing and knowing what he wants to do up there.”
Díaz is aggressive at the plate, swinging at the first pitch in 10 of his 25 plate appearances, coming into Friday.
That approach paid off as Díaz smacked a four-seam fastball 104.7 mph off the bat for his first career grand slam. He is the first Marlin to hit a grand slam since Jorge Alfaro on Sept. 23, 2019, and the first since Brian Anderson on July 31 of that season to hit one at loanDepot park.
If there ever was an opportunity to hit a grand slam, it would be against this Brewers team, which in a six-game losing streak has surrendered four.
Díaz and the Brewers have a history; he spent two years in their Minor League system from 2016-18 before being dealt to Miami -- along with Lewis Brinson, Monte Harrison and Jordan Yamamoto -- in exchange for Christian Yelich in January 2018.
“Yes and no,” said Díaz when asked if facing his former organization crosses his mind. “Obviously, it's good to always see the guys that you once played with. But, you always want to go out there and compete, and the most important thing is to win ballgames.”
That winning mentality has impressed both Díaz’s manager and teammates, along with his ability to look so comfortable at the big league level after not making the 26-man roster out of Spring Training.
“You always are proud and happy for guys like him coming back and ensuring that whatever happens in Spring Training is not going to define himself,” said Miguel Rojas. “I'm just happy that he is enjoying the game. He’s having fun. He's smiling. He’s having a really good attitude, even when he doesn’t get a hit that at-bat.
“He's always talking to me in a positive mindset. That's what you want. You want guys like him to actually learn from their past struggle. I always believe in him and I know this organization believes in him.”
Starting pitcher Trevor Rogers appreciated the run support from Díaz in his fourth win of the season, but was extra enthused that the big moment happened to someone so deserving.
“It was awesome,” said Rogers of the 401-foot grand slam. “Isan has put in a lot of work in the cage, so I was super happy for him to see all that work paid off. Just your confidence as a pitcher goes through the roof when you see your guys one through nine with that type of product and that type of confidence.”