Garrett Jones snaps homerless slump at prime time for Marlins
MIAMI — Miami Marlins first baseman Garrett Jones was 99 percent certain the Chicago Cubs would go with lefty reliever Wesley Wright for a pivotal seventh-inning at-bat Tuesday night.
With runners at first and second with one out, the Cubs kept righty Brian Schlitter on the mound to face Jones in a tie ballgame.
It was a move that backfired, as Jones blasted a 91 mph fastball that bounced off the top of the right-field wall and into the stands for a two-run home run in a 6-5 victory at Marlins Park.
"I know (Jeff) Baker was ready to go (for a) possible pinch-hit," said Jones, who is hitting just .188 against southpaws this season. "I was ready to hit as well. All of those things were going through my head, but Schlitter’s got a good sinker ball, and (they) left him in thinking get a groundball here. I got a pitch up and didn’t miss it."
Jones’ ninth home run of the season couldn’t have come at a better time. It was his first since May 23. He hadn’t driven in a run in five contests and was 14 for 57 (.246) with runners in scoring position this season.
Entering the sequence, he had just two hits through 17 at-bats this homestand. He was hitting the ball hard but right at people.
In the first inning, he sent a liner into shallow right that the second baseman was able to gather with a shift. In the third with a runner at second with two outs, his flyout to right went to the warning track.
"Everybody struggles at different times," manager Mike Redmond said. "He’s gone a few games without a home run, but he’s had some tough luck too. They’ve been playing the ultimate shift on him and there are times where he’s hit the some balls really hard right at guys. He’s had at bats off lefties where, with anybody else, they’re hits but there’s a guy playing right up the middle, so there’s some bad luck involved there too.
"But his approach has been solid. I know he’s worked a lot with (hitting coach) Frankie (Menechino). We all know it’s confidence. It’s just confidence and every once in a while you gotta just go up there and get a big hit and get that confidence back."
Short-term memory is crucial in baseball, particularly from at-bat to at-bat. In order to stay mentally strong, Jones credits his work in the cages. He has tried to stay loose and keep his swing short.
During the seventh of a 5-4 13-inning loss Monday night, Jones grounded into a fielder’s choice with the bases loaded and the go-ahead run 90 feet from home. Three frames later, he turned on a pitch from righty Hector Rondon. The long flyball landed in foul territory. He struck out on the next pitch — also a 96 mph fastball.
"I feel good knowing that I feel good physically and it’s all mental," Jones said. "It’s just relaxing, staying confident, trusting your swing. They’re obviously taking away some hits. Don’t get frustrated. That’s half the battle.
"Just really have to zone in and be a good patient hitter with what I want and not what they want me to hit."