Ozuna hits 20th, #ASGWorthy on tough night

Slugger makes a little Marlins history, accounts for lone run vs. Arrieta, Cubs

June 23rd, 2017

MIAMI -- At the rate he's going, is likely to eclipse his season high for home runs before the All-Star break.

Ozuna struck yet again on Thursday night, crushing a fastball over the wall in left field for his 20th homer of the season. It was an impressive drive, but not nearly enough to energize a rally, as the Marlins lost, 11-1, to the Cubs at Marlins Park.

Cast your Esurance All-Star ballot for Ozuna and other #ASGWorthy players

Leading off the second, Ozuna responded after Chicago scored twice off Jeff Locke in the top of the inning.

"Ozuna's homer gets us at 2-1, right back. You feel like, 'OK, we've got a game here,'" Marlins manager Don Mattingly said.

Reaching 20 homers before the All-Star break is rare in Marlins history. It's happened just 11 times, and the club high is 28 by Mike Lowell in 2003.

The most homers Ozuna has hit in a season is 23 -- both in 2014 and last year.

The no-doubt home run came on a 3-0 fastball, with Ozuna having the green light.

"It was pretty much a BP fastball, and he's a really good hitter," Arrieta said. "He was able to find the barrel and keep his hands inside and get the barrel of the bat through the zone."

Ozuna is making an All-Star case, and he is likely to represent the Marlins at the Midsummer Classic for a second straight year.

But for the second straight game, the Marlins managed little offensively after Ozuna's homer. Arrieta worked seven innings, scattering six hits with three strikeouts and no walks.

For much of June, the Marlins have been scoring plenty of runs. But in their last two games, they've managed a total of three, with one earned. They did win on Wednesday in improbable fashion against Max Scherzer, who held them hitless for 7 1/3 innings. Miami rallied with two unearned runs in the eighth inning and edged the Nationals, 2-1.

Scherzer and Arrieta each have won Cy Young Awards, and they present plenty of challenges for hitters.

On Wednesday, Scherzer struck out 11 and he had 27 swinging strikes, which matches of the Mets for the most by any pitcher this season. Arrieta was more methodical on Thursday, getting just six swinging, but he did effectively keep the ball down and work both sides of the plate.

"He brings a lot of challenges," Mattingly said. "For me, facing a guy like him, it's, 'Where do I got to start him? What do I want to hit? What side of the plate do I want to pick? Where am I going to start him to get a strike?'"

Locke, who gave up five runs in four innings and took the loss, noted after Ozuna's home run that he needed to do a better job keeping the game close.

"When we get a big home run, 3-0 [count], from Ozo, you've got to try to keep the game where it is," Locke said.