Ozuna 1st NL player to hit 3 HRs at Fenway
Braves manager Brian Snitker was entertained by the impressive power Marcell Ozuna displayed as he produced his first career three-homer game in a 10-3 win over the Red Sox on Tuesday night at Fenway Park.
“The second one was hit harder than the first and the third was like, ‘My God,’” Snitker said.
Ozuna became the first National League player to have a three-homer game at Fenway Park when his eighth-inning, three-run homer sailed over the batter’s eye and hit the elevated camera well below the center field video board.
Per Statcast, the monstrous shot traveled a projected 437 feet and came off the bat with a 110.6-mph exit velocity. But it’s more impressive to point out that multiple players and media members who have witnessed more than a few games in Boston said they had not remembered a ball being hit to that spot.
“Everyone was talking about it,” Braves top pitching prospect Ian Anderson said. “Some of the guys who have played here plenty of times said, ‘That’s the farthest ball I’ve ever seen hit here.’ Just the sound of it, you knew that thing was going a long way.”
As the Braves secured their first series win against Boston since 2004, it appeared the story of the night would be Anderson, who allowed two runs over six innings while making just his second career start.
Less than a week into his career, the 22-year-old stands with Max Fried as the only Braves starters to complete at least six innings twice this year. Any encouraging news about Atlanta's rotation has often been the most noteworthy development on most days this year.
But there haven’t been many days like the one enjoyed by Ozuna, who became the first Braves player to hit three homers in a game since Matt Kemp on April 29, 2017, in Milwaukee. He became the fourth Major Leaguer to produce a three-homer performance this year, joining Mookie Betts, José Abreu and Trent Grisham. Later on Tuesday night, the Giants' Alex Dickerson also hit three homers at Coors Field.
And to think Ozuna actually showed up at Fenway Park aiming just to get the two hits he needed to reach 1,000 for his career. He told the team’s assistant athletic trainer Mike Frostad he would reach the milestone on this night.
Maybe it should have been known Ozuna would do so in this manner. He has hit eight homers within his past 17 games and has totaled a team-high 11 homers through his first 35 games. His adjustment to being primarily used as a designated hitter has been successful thus far.
“You love to see a guy like that get it going, because they literally can carry you,” Snitker said.
This is the power the Braves were seeking when they signed Ozuna to a one-year, $18 million deal after passing on re-signing Josh Donaldson, whose latest calf injury has limited him to seven games since he signed a four-year, $92 million deal with the Twins.
“As good as Josh was, you look at what Ozuna has done here in the same period of time, it’s like, 'My God,' he has been unbelievable,” Snitker said. “That has the makings to be a monster 162-game season.”
It’s a very small sample size. But since Snitker brought it up, Ozuna would be on pace to hit 50 homers over a 162-game season.
Ozuna began his memorable night by hitting a two-run dinger in the first against former Brave Ryan Weber. The Braves designated hitter and outfielder cleared the Green Monster again in the seventh inning with a solo homer that traveled a projected 441 feet with a 108.3-mph exit velocity.
Red Sox left-handed reliever Kyle Hart surrendered the solo homer in the seventh and the big blast Ozuna hit in the eighth.
“This road trip, he has hit some balls extremely hard,” Snitker said. “I haven’t seen any exit velocities or anything. But that ball comes off his bat unbelievable.”
Looking back at this year’s Spring Training, Ozuna admits he arrived slightly overweight after celebrating a little too much during the offseason. But he spent much of the shutdown working out and arrived at Summer Camp ready to prove himself.
Ozuna entered Tuesday with career-best marks in average exit velocity (92.5 mph) and hard-hit rate (50 percent). He looks as fearsome as he did when he hit 37 homers in 2017 and stronger than he did last year, when he was recovering from offseason right shoulder surgery.
“I’m in good shape right now,” Ozuna said. “I’m just getting ready and coming with the mindset you’re going to play every day and give it your best.”