MIAMI — An animated fish once offered the famous advice "just keep swimming."
Mired in a monthlong slump, Miami Marlins center fielder Marcell Ozuna knew he needed to do just that in order to break out of his rough stretch.
Ozuna drove in a career-high five runs to help Miami rout the Philadelphia Phillies 14-5 Wednesday night at Marlins Park.
The 23-year-old went 2 for 4, adding two runs and a walk as the offense produced a season high in runs. Entering the game, Ozuna was 3 for his past 24 (.125) with 12 strikeouts.
"I keep playing and swinging and the team helped me a lot telling me to keep going, keep going," Ozuna said. "I found my early swing. (Hitting coach Frank Menechino) tells me, ‘Your swing is OK, just a little late. A little lock in it and sometimes you open. Keep going, keep going. See the ball, hit the ball. That’s it.’ "
His big swing came with two strikes and two outs in the sixth inning of a 6-3 game when he sent a ball to left for his first career grand slam. Ozuna entered with a .200 average with two strikes, but five of his seven homers in 2014 have come in those counts.
Two pitches earlier, righty Jeff Manship had fooled him with an 83 mph changeup. Ozuna didn’t miss when thrown the same pitch. After returning to the dugout, fans asked him for a curtain call that he happily obliged them with.
"I just see the ball, hit the ball," Ozuna said. "I saw when I hit the ball it was a changeup. Earlier I didn’t find the ball or the rotation."
In the fourth, Ozuna gave the Marlins a 4-3 lead on his RBI single up the middle to drive in Garrett Jones. He also made a sliding catch in the third on Ryan Howard’s liner, preventing the runner on third from scoring.
Over his previous 14 games with at least one plate appearance, Ozuna had recorded just four RBI. Wednesday marked his first multi-hit game since May 3.
Since the beginning of May, Ozuna had seen his average dip from .298 to .248. He did not walk in his first 14 games this month, but has been issued a free pass once in three of the past four.
"He needed that," manager Mike Redmond said. "He needed to lock it in, have a couple good at-bats. He’s definitely had some struggles this month, but as I said before the game it’s a game of adjustments, and we’ve seen O struggle a little bit at times but then have a couple good at-bats and have it carry on. Hopefully this is a spark for him and for us. I was glad to see him get a big hit in a big situation."