'Big Bear' out of hibernation with HUGE night

October 16th, 2020

What better time for the slugger nicknamed “The Big Bear” to emerge from hibernation than mid-October, just in time for clutch postseason baseball.

After going 2-for-13 in the first three games of the National League Championship Series, designated hitter smacked two home runs, had four RBIs and tallied a Braves-postseason-record 11 total bases in a 10-2 win over the Dodgers in Game 4 on Thursday at Globe Life Field in Arlington.

Atlanta leads the series, 3-1, and is one win away from advancing to the World Series.

“I was a little struggling and jumping forward and swinging crazy,” Ozuna said, noting he took a break from batting practice and instead hit inside in the cage after his slow start to this series. “I stayed a little bit more like the way that I was before the season ended, and had success.”

Ozuna got the Braves going when he sent an 85.7 mph slider from Dodgers starter Clayton Kershaw a Statcast-estimated 422 feet to left-center field at 108.6 mph in the fourth inning. That tied the game at 1.

It was the first home run and just the second extra-base hit Kershaw had allowed in 25 postseason innings against the Braves.

Ozuna faced the lefty again during the Braves' six-run sixth inning, and he doubled on a line drive to center, driving in Freddie Freeman and knocking Kershaw out of the game.

“He’s just a good hitter,” Kershaw said. “He had a great year this year. I made a few mistakes to him. I think maybe some other guys did, too. But he didn’t miss. That’s what good hitters do.”

Ozuna led off the seventh with a 434-foot, 105.6 mph shot to center field off Dylan Floro's 95.3 mph sinker. He added an RBI single to center off Jake McGee for good measure in the eighth, Ozuna’s fifth at-bat of the game.

By the end of the night, Ozuna had become the only player in Braves postseason history with at least four hits, two home runs and four RBIs in a game, and he is the first player in baseball to do it since the Astros’ Carlos Correa in the 2015 American League Division Series. Will Clark of the Giants had the last NLCS performance with that stat line in 1989.

“It’s a time that you’re not going to have every year,” Ozuna said. “God gave me the opportunity to play [in the postseason] two years in a row, so I have to take care of it and do my best.”

Adding to Ozuna’s historical milestones, he became the fourth player to smack at least four balls with an exit velocity of 104 mph or faster in a playoff game since 2015. He joins a list that includes Joc Pederson (2020 NLCS, Game 3), Manny Machado (‘18 NLDS Game 4 vs. the Braves) and Edwin Encarnación (‘15 ALDS, Game 4).

His four hits also tied Marquis Grissom (1995 NLDS Game 4) for the second-most in a Braves postseason game.

“The energy Marcell brings to the team is unbelievable,” said Braves starter Bryse Wilson. “Regardless of whether he has an 0-for-4 night or he has a night like tonight, the energy is always there. It’s translated throughout the whole team. This team is so much fun to be around. He’s a big part of it for sure.”

Ozuna has played in 934 games in the outfield, but he is thriving this postseason in the DH role. He is only the third NL player in history to hit multiple playoff homers as the designated hitter, along with former Brave Ryan Klesko (1995) and Kurt Bevacqua ('84). He also joins Klesko and Lonnie Smith as the only Atlanta DHs to homer in the postseason.

“I admired him from across the diamond for years,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “He's just been huge. What he did in the middle of our lineup, I don't think you could go out and find anybody that did more for our club this year than Marcell.”