Christian Yelich said the Jacksonville Suns stole an unlikely win on Wednesday. But the man who completed the theft, Marcell Ozuna, was just looking to end a long game.
"A couple guys were thinking we'd lose," Ozuna said. "And we came back."
Ozuna hit a pair of homers, including a walk-off three-run blast, and Yelich drove in four runs as the Double-A Suns stunned the Chattanooga Lookouts, 12-9, at Bragan Field.
"I thought I'd hit a fly ball -- one out, men on second and third, I wanted to hit the gap to win the game," said Ozuna, the Marlins' No. 6 prospect. "I hit it hard and made good contact. It was a long game."
Ozuna, who went 3-for-5 with four RBIs, ripped the first pitch he saw from reliever Greg Infante over the left-center field wall to cap Jacksonville's improbable comeback -- the Suns scored nine runs in the final two innings for their 11th win, overcoming Chattanooga's four-run ninth.
"I thought we stole that one," said Yelich, the Marlins' top offensive prospect. "Trailing twice, in the ninth we were down four runs, and we put up seven. You don't really expect something like that. For us to put some hits together and Ozuna hitting that walk-off, that was a big win. We haven't been playing all that great lately, we had chances in a lot of games and didn't make it happen, but to steal that win, it was great for our team."
Ozuna, who bats second in the lineup behind Yelich, led the Florida State League in homers, RBIs, runs scored and total bases (233) last year. He began this season back with Class A Advanced Jupiter, rehabbing a small fracture of the hamate bone in his hand. Both Ozuna and Yelich opened the year on the disabled list along with fellow outfield prospect Jake Marisnick, who broke his hand in Spring Training and will join the Suns when healthy.
"I like to hit behind Yelich, he gets on base a lot, and today he had some pretty good ABs and swung the bat well," said Ozuna, adding he often encourages the 2010 first-round pick on the field. "When the pitcher makes mistakes, you need to be ready. When I see Yelly out there, I tell him, 'Hey, you're the best. Take it easy, don't hold up, get ready, have fun, don't think too much, just swing the bat and get ready.'"
Yelich, playing in just his fifth game with Jacksonville, saw plenty of Ozuna last year in Jupiter and knew what to expect.
"I had a feeling he'd give us a chance to win," Yelich said. "Sac fly, base hit or homer, and it ended up being a homer. He's always been a good RBI guy, he knows how to hit with runners in scoring position, so I had all the confidence in the world that he'd come through."
Ozuna's first homer of the year, a solo shot off Onelki Garcia, came in the third after Yelich scored on a balk in the first.
Chattanooga, the Dodgers' Double-A affiliate, took the lead with a pair of runs in the seventh before tacking on one in the eighth and four more in the ninth. Yelich's two-run double in the eighth briefly tied the game, 5-5, but the Lookouts got homers in the ninth from Miguel Rojas and Blake Smith to go up 9-5.
Jacksonville answered with its seven-run rally. J.T. Realmuto singled and scored on Audy Ciriaco's base hit as the Suns went on to load the bases and chase reliever Ryan Acosta. Infante came on with one out and walked Aaron Dudley, forcing home Jake Smolinski, before surrendering a two-run double to Yelich. Ozuna followed with his second homer of the day to tag Infante with his second blown save.
Yelich had a pair of hits after going 3-for-17 in his first four Southern League games, while Ozuna had been 4-for-15. The early injuries have been hurdles for both.
"You never want to start the year on the DL, it's kind of unfortunate that it took a little longer than I expected or anyone expected," Yelich said. "But it's good to know it's 100 percent healthy. I'm just trying to get back in the swing of things after coming off the DL. I haven't been able to find it at the plate, so to be able to help with two doubles feels good, it's a step in the right direction."
Yelich hit .330 with a dozen homers and 48 RBIs last season with Jupiter before developing a foot ailment this spring -- some reported the injury to be a be a "stone bruise" on his left heel, while Yelich said he was told it could be plantar fasciitis. Either way, it's history.
"It took a while to go away, so I'm glad it finally did," he said. "We had a chance to be good here right away, and Marisnick should be back in the not-too-distant future. He'll help our team win when we're at full strength. With guys going down, it's been unfortunate for everybody, but I'm happy to finally be healthy and be able to play."
Yelich said the toughest part of preparing for the Southern League was the lack of time the injury provided.
"It's tough to see live pitching. You see a little bit, but those aren't Double-A arms, so it takes awhile, it takes time," he said. "You gotta be patient with it and I think if you do that, you'll be fine. You can't panic, it takes time."
For Ozuna, the promotion to Double-A hasn't affected his game much -- just his surroundings.
"The difference, I've never been able to hit here [in Jacksonville]," he said. "In Jupiter, we played there all season and in Spring Training and in the [Gulf Coast League], but over here, we don't know the park, how the ball carries. That's the difference, nothing much."