Ozuna shows off his arm twice to end Mets chances in Marlins' win

Nearly everyone thought it was deep enough, the potential sacrifice fly hit by Chris Young in the top of the ninth inning Friday night. And perhaps it was, but Marcell Ozuna -- playing his fifth MLB game in left -- tracked it, got behind it and uncorked an outstanding thrown to cap off a rollercoaster of a win for the Miami Marlins.

Nearly everyone thought it was deep enough, the potential sacrifice fly hit by Chris Young in the top of the ninth inning Friday night. And perhaps it was, but Marcell Ozuna -- playing his fifth MLB game in left -- tracked it, got behind it and uncorked an outstanding thrown to cap off a rollercoaster of a win for the Miami Marlins.

MIAMI — "Deep enough ... you would think."

So said FOX Sports Florida play-by-play announcer Rich Waltz.

Miami Marlins outfielder Marcell Ozuna didn't think he had a chance. Neither did closer Steve Cishek. Manager Mike Redmond wouldn't reveal what was going through his mind.

With the tying run at third with one out in the ninth, Chris Young sent a 3-2 pitch from Cishek to left field of spacious Marlins Park. Kirk Nieuwenhuis tagged and raced home only to get tagged out by catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia on a rocket from Ozuna to end the game.

The first one racing out of the dugout was starter Henderson Alvarez, whose victory was preserved in a 3-2 thriller over the New York Mets on Friday night.

"I wanted to get as much thrust as I could to make the throw to the plate," Ozuna said. "At first I didn't think I had a chance. I said, 'Well, I'll throw it anyway, you never know what can happen. He might fall.' I was just trying to do what the coaches always tell me and keep it low, and thankfully it went right where it needed to."

Cishek, who would've blown his second save of the season had it not been for Ozuna's heroics, said it felt like a walk-off win.

Although the club celebrated and shook hands afterwards, they couldn't head into the clubhouse until an instant replay review confirmed the call.

"Off the bat and I saw where Ozuna was going, I got pretty frustrated because I thought I made a decent pitch and I thought I blew it," Cishek said. "I don't know what he was doing. He went back, blew some kisses in the Clevelander (the bar just beyond the outfield wall), sprinted back in and hosed him at the plate. It was incredible. It was mixed emotions being at an all-time low to an all-time high. It was an awesome experience."

Even more remarkable?

Ozuna prevented the tying run from scoring in the eighth. With two runners in scoring position and one out, pinch-hitter Eric Campbell singled to left off left-hander Mike Dunn. Eric Young Jr. scored, but Ozuna's laser beat David Wright home.

In both instances, Saltalamacchia had to make sure he allowed a lane for the runner, and replay reviews confirmed he did so. New rules implemented this season hope to get rid of dangerous home-plate collisions.

"He gave me two good throws where I didn't have to do anything," Saltalamacchia said. "I let the ball travel. As a catcher, that's probably one the best feelings, knowing that you're not going to have to move left or right. He threw it right on the money for me."

Interesting enough, the only reason Ozuna has been playing left field this week is because Christian Yelich landed on the disabled list with a lower back strain.

Ozuna won the starting center-field job over Jake Marisnick this spring and has played there 64 times this season. Marisnick was recalled from Triple-A New Orleans for Yelich and took over in center.

 

 

The 23-year-old Ozuna earned his big-league call-up last season when Giancarlo Stanton landed on the DL. He started 36 games in right before moving to center for 33. An injury and demotion prematurely ended his year.

Friday was just his fifth career major-league game in left, and Ozuna doubled his assist total to four on the season. That put him in the top 10 for National League outfielders. He now has 12 assists in 136 career starts.

Hitless in three at-bats with a couple of strikeouts, Ozuna made an impact with his cannon.

"That just shows you you don't have to hit to win games," Redmond said. "You can do it with your glove. All those kids watching at home, you have to play defense, too."

Added Ozuna: "I wasn't responding with the offense, but at the least I stayed positive and said 'I'll respond with the defense.' "

Ozuna also became the first Marlins outfielder to record two assists at home in one game since Joe Orsulak on Sept. 7, 1996 against the Montreal Expos. It marked the first time the Marlins won a regular-season game with an outfield assist at home plate.

It brought flashbacks of Jeff Conine's throw from left to Pudge Rodriguez, who held off J.T. Snow's collision to clinch the 2003 NL Division Series.

Though there was no collision and no postseason implications, there was still plenty of drama.

It was a much-needed victory for the Marlins, who avoided falling below .500 for the first time since April 30, when they held a 13-14 record.

"It was nice to win that one," Redmond said. "We needed to win that one. Hopefully that's going to be the spark that we need to get going."

You can follow Christina De Nicola on Twitter @CDeNicola13 or email her at cdenicola13@gmail.com.