Stunner! Down to last strike, Ozuna delivers win with go-ahead homer

April 14th, 2024

MIAMI -- grounded into a double play in the top of the ninth against the Marlins' Tanner Scott on Saturday, so he was itching to make up for that on Sunday afternoon.

He most certainly did.

Ozuna got another chance at Scott in the ninth inning on Sunday with the Braves down to their final strike, but this time, Ozuna got the best of Scott, slugging a three-run home run and leading Atlanta to a 9-7 win over the Marlins at loanDepot park.

“I broke my bat [Saturday] and grounded into the double play. So, today, I said, ‘OK, I’m going to pay it back.’ … Those clutch moments, they’re do-or-die. If you get the result, you get the result. If you fail, you fail. I just wanted to make good contact.’’

Ozuna smashed an 0-2 slider from Scott and deposited it over the wall in center, a Statcast-projected distance of 409 feet.

Atlanta’s rally earned it a series win against Miami after winning the opener on Friday night.

Ozuna, who came to the plate with Ronald Acuña Jr. on second and Matt Olson on first, said Scott offered the same sequence of pitches on Sunday as he did on Saturday: slider, corner away; slider, inside; slider, down-and-in.

“I just wanted good contact to tie the game because the runner was running on contact,” Ozuna said after going 3-for-5 with a double, a home run and four RBIs.

Ozuna, understandably, loves playing in Miami.

He came up with the Marlins after signing as an international free agent in 2008 and spent five seasons with the team before being traded to the Cardinals before the start of the 2018 season.

Ozuna, originally from Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, continues to make the Miami area his home.

Aside from the double-play ball on Saturday, he had a big weekend here, going 7-for-13 with eight RBIs and a pair of ninth-inning home runs.

“This is a place that I grew up, this is the team that gave me the opportunity as a professional baseball player and I feel comfortable here,” said Ozuna, who kicked his season into gear here last season.

In Atlanta’s three-game sweep last May, he went 6-for-13 with six RBIs and three home runs. Before that series, Ozuna was hitting .085/.194/.203. Beginning with that series, Ozuna slashed .297/.366/.603 the rest of the way.

“My family lives here, so this is basically my hometown,” Ozuna said. “When I come here, I feel good. I can go home, play with my kids and see my friends.’’

Said manager Brian Snitker: “He likes hitting here, I’ll tell you that. … He has been swinging good, and been hitting everywhere, really. But there is something about this place. He is such a good hitter, when those guys get going, that thing is awful slow for him. He was looking to get a good pitch, hit it hard and that thing will go where it wants.”

Early on Sunday, it appeared Atlanta would cruise to the series win.

The Braves scored five runs off starter Jesús Luzardo in the first four innings and were up 5-1 before the Marlins rallied for six unanswered runs and took the lead in the sixth.

Adam Duvall drove in two of those first five runs, one being a sacrifice fly to the fence in the second inning to drive in Olson, and the second being a home run to center field to lead off the fourth. Despite the sizable lead, the Marlins would come all the way back and then some, taking a two-run lead on Nick Gordon's two-run home run in the sixth inning.

In the ninth, Acuña led off with a single, but Scott got the next two outs. Scott then walked Olson, who reached base four times on Sunday, on four straight pitches, leading to Ozuna’s chance to do the damage.

Olson and Ozuna chatted during a mound meeting before the walk. Ozuna recalled Olson telling him, “We're going to pay it back."

Ozuna also figured Olson would not swing on a close 3-0 pitch to give him the opportunity for another shot at Scott.

“He can hit with the best of them so hat’s off to him. Onto tomorrow,” Scott said. “The four-pitch walk to Olson, that should have been my guy. But I walked him, got two strikes on Ozuna, and didn’t execute my pitch.”