Needing a clutch hit, Marlins turn to ... a .500 hitter

Arraez, still nursing finger injury, delivers go-ahead pinch-hit single for streaking Miami

April 16th, 2023

MIAMI -- Make no mistake: Marlins manager Skip Schumaker certainly would rather have in the starting lineup. That said, having a batting champion come off the bench also can be a luxury.

The opportunity arose in the seventh inning on Saturday for Schumaker to pinch-hit the Major League’s batting leader in a tie game. And as he has done so often, Arraez came through.

Arraez’s pinch-hit RBI single in a two-run seventh inning rallied the Marlins to a 3-2 victory over the D-backs at loanDepot park.

Winners of four straight, the Marlins find themselves over .500 (8-7) for the first time since they were 12-11 last May 3.

Arraez cut and jammed his finger on Wednesday in Philadelphia, and he didn’t start in each of the first two games against Arizona. However, Schumaker said he was available off the bench.

“I’m happy because I feel better,” said Arraez, who’s batting .511 (24-for-47). “Then in the bottom of the sixth inning, they tell me, ‘Hey, you may be going to pinch-hit.’ I went up there and did my thing.”

Schumaker said he planned on using Arraez only with runners in scoring position.

“Early this morning, we were considering whether to put him in the lineup or not,” the manager said. “Just figured, one more day probably would have done the finger best for him and best for us. Moving on in the season, [15] games into the season, he took batting practice around 2 o’clock or so. After all the treatment in the training room, he said, ‘Hey, I feel pretty good. If you need me, I’m available.’ I said, ‘All right, perfect.’“

During the Marlins’ hot streak, they are getting contributions up and down the roster.

The starting pitching has stepped up. On Saturday, lefty  allowed one run in 5 2/3 innings, and the bullpen came through yet again.

At the plate,  -- Arraez’s replacement the past few games -- tied the game at 1 in the sixth inning with a home run.

Then in the seventh inning, after Miami fell behind, 2-1, doubled to lead off the inning against Scott McGough. With one out,  slapped an RBI single, and Nick Fortes’ single put runners on the corners.

Arizona went with lefty Andrew Chafin after Arraez was announced as the pinch-hitter for Hampson.

“I just wanted to put the ball in play,” Arraez said. “I hit the ball through the middle.”

Arraez and Chafin have some history, as both were in the American League Central a year ago. Arraez was with the Twins and Chafin the Tigers.

“I was able to execute the pitch I wanted to execute,” Chafin said. “He just beat me on it.”

It’s no secret the left-handed-hitting second baseman has tremendous bat-to-ball skills. A year ago, he was the AL batting champion with a .316 average. But to be batting north of .500 is something you normally see on Little League stat sheets, not 15 games into a big league season.

Asked if he has ever been on a streak like this, Arraez quipped: “When I was a kid. When I was a 7-year-old, I hit .600. Something like that.”

Not only was Arraez physically ready to pinch-hit, he was mentally ready for his lone at-bat.

“Right now, I’m excited and happy,” Arraez said. “I’m hitting .500, but especially, I’m helping my team win.”

Arraez’s heroics came after the D-backs reclaimed a 2-1 lead in the seventh on Gabriel Moreno’s RBI single through a drawn-in infield off Matt Barnes. Corbin Carroll doubled to lead off the inning and advanced to third on a balk with one out.

The Marlins averted more damage when lefty Andrew Nardi, who faced the bases loaded with two outs, struck out Lourdes Gurriel Jr.

As much as Arraez has been willing to root for his teammates in the dugout, the 26-year-old admittedly has been antsy to get back on the field.

“I hate it,” Arraez said about being out a few days. “I support my teammates. But I don’t want to stay there anymore. I just want to play every single day and do my job and try to help my team win.”