In one swing, Marcell Ozuna stuns Marlins and creates perhaps the moment of the season for Braves

MIAMI – As Marcell Ozuna’s ball sailed over the wall in left-center field, it washed away the potential disappointment of the disaster that had unfolded in the previous hour. The Braves were on the brink here, but Ozuna – who is scorching hot and loves hitting in Miami – saved them in dramatic fashion.

With Atlanta down to its final strike, Ozuna launched a three-run home run to give the Braves a 9-7 victory over the Marlins on Sunday at loanDepot Park. Atlanta is 9-5.

Had Ozuna failed to come through, the Braves would have lost a series to the Marlins, who entered the weekend with two wins. And not only that, but in the finale, Atlanta led by four runs before falling behind by two. It is only April, but this loss would have been frustrating.

Instead, Ozuna’s heroics changed the narrative. In one pitch, he turned the weekend from sour to good.

Five observations:

1. As the Marlins gathered on the mound with closer Tanner Scott, Ozuna stood in the batter’s box awaiting his at-bat. With the tying run at second base, he knew he only needed to make contact. Despite his power, he understood even a bloop would score Ronald Acuña Jr.

And in that moment, Ozuna also thought about something else: On Saturday, Scott had gotten him to ground into a double play in the ninth inning of a loss.

“Today, I said, ‘Okay, I’m gonna get payback,’” Ozuna said.

He told this to Matt Olson, who walked to give Ozuna a chance. And Ozuna also remembered the sequence Scott threw him on Saturday: Slider in the middle, slider inside and slider down.

On Sunday, Scott started Ozuna with a slider away – not far from Saturday’s first pitch. He followed with a slider down and inside. Then he hurled a slider down.

It was below the zone, but it didn’t matter.

Ozuna punished it for a 409-foot homer that became the difference in the game.

“Confidence,” Ozuna said of how he hit a pitch that low that far. “When you got your confidence, you’re going to see everything well and then you can hit better. If you don’t have any confidence, you’re going to be struggling. Like the first month of the year last year, I had (things) in my head. But right now, my mind is clear and I can do whatever God gives me to do.”

And Scott, who thought he should’ve thrown the slider more inside, said this: “He was taking big swings on every pitch. You try to get it to where he’s not going to hit it and I threw it to his honey hole, and he got it.”

And right now, that dude is sizzling. Ozuna leads MLB with 21 RBIs, and his seven homers are tied for first. He’s batting .373 with a 1.193 OPS.

And Sunday was another example of a commonly known fact: When Ozuna gets going, he’s unstoppable. He hits anything – even a pitch below the zone.

“Yeah, he can get anything, really,” Olson said. “Especially the stuff down there. He’s a good low-ball hitter, too.”

“He’s such a good hitter,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “When he gets going, when those guys get hot, that thing is awful slow for him.”

2. In the innings before Ozuna’s homer, the Braves saw a four-run lead turn into a two-run deficit. They faced the possibility of losing a series to the team with baseball’s second-worst record.

The Braves seemed frustrated after Saturday’s loss. Another defeat – and in the way it shaped up to be – would’ve been brutal.

In an instant, Ozuna rescued the Braves from that reality.

“He hit that ball out, and the guys that were in here, that were up here (in the clubhouse), were just screaming,” Charlie Morton said. “Just very, very excited. The dugout was really excited. …When you have those moments and the guys are cheering and pulling for each other, it’s a big moment. The Marlins played a good series and to walk away with a win today, that was tough (for them).”

The homer completely shifted the weekend’s mood and outlook.

“It’s big because our objective is to win series,” Snitker said. “This was a tough-fought game, so it’s big. Because we’re going to (face) a team that looks like they’re starting to get hot, too, in the Astros. This will be an interesting next three days, also.”

3. Ozuna relishes the biggest moments in a game. He possesses something that makes him special in these spots.

“I definitely think there’s something about him that gives him some freedom at the plate,” Charlie Morton said.

A year ago, though, he was struggling. He was 5-for-59 when the Braves arrived in Miami – the officially turning point of Ozuna’s season.

From May 2 of last season (when that series began) through play on Sunday, Ozuna has 39 homers – third in baseball over that span. He’s hit .300 over that stretch.

“He’s definitely had to overcome a lot,” Morton said. “I remember at the beginning of last year, he’s grinding and grinding, and he’s coming to the field every day and just staying focused and just staying with the process and moving forward. Since I’ve been here, he’s been a good teammate, he’s been a pro, he’s been someone that cares about his guys. But he keeps moving.

“Seeing him have success, especially the way he turned it on last year – he just completely turned it around – and I think I knew and everybody knew that was going to happen at some point, and it was just a matter of when. Watching him, especially the challenges that he had at the beginning of the year – he was going through some struggles, fans were getting on him, but you knew that he was gonna keep (moving) forward. He’s been doing it a long time, he’s had a really, really good career. So, it’s nice to see him have these moments.”

4. Morton surrendered six runs over 5 2/3 innings. Pitching with a four-run lead, he allowed two runs in the bottom of the fourth and one in the bottom of the fifth.

Then Miami scored three in the sixth. Two were charged to Morton, but the third went to Dylan Lee, who served up a two-run homer that put Atlanta in a two-run hole.

But baseball’s best offense wasn’t done yet.

5. The Braves on Monday will start Darius Vines, whom they recalled on Friday. Vines hasn’t pitched since April 4.

The open spot in the rotation was scheduled to come around Tuesday, but the Braves moved Reynaldo López – who had been lined up to start Monday’s opener in Houston – to Tuesday. Max Fried will pitch on Wednesday.

The Braves just didn’t want Vines going too long without pitching. López last started on April 9, so he’s had less time between outings.

But first, a happy flight for the Braves, who’ll enjoy this victory.

Stat to know

.295, .842 - Entering Sunday, Ozuna had a .295 batting average and an .842 OPS in 348 career games at this ballpark. Among places in which he’s played in at least 25 games, Ozuna’s batting average is highest here and his OPS here is his fourth-best mark of any ballpark.


“Everyone’s a threat. As a guy who gets to watch that every day, it’s pretty awesome, pretty special. Special group.”-Morton on the Braves

Up next

The Braves will face Astros right-hander Spencer Arrighetti on Monday at 8:10 p.m. He’ll be making his second career appearance in the majors. In his first, he allowed seven runs over three innings.