PITTSBURGH — A stretch of 34 innings without a run is hard on any team, but the Marlins decided to put it in perspective ahead of Friday’s series opener vs. the Pirates.
As Miguel Rojas spoke with the media after an 8-1 win at PNC Park, rising through the air came the melody of “My Heart Will Go On” by Celine Dion, the hit song from the blockbuster movie, “Titanic.” Rojas said the team played the emotional tune before its game as an important reminder.
“Scoring a run is not as hard as what the people on the Titanic went through,” he said.
When put that way, there’s no denying him correct. Still, the Marlins pushed their scoreless streak on offense to 37 innings, tying a franchise record for the longest such period without a run, and things were beginning to feel desperate.
But like Jack saving Rose in “Titanic,” Rojas provided life to the Marlins’ scuffling offense.
To begin the fourth, Brian Anderson reached base on a grounder off the hand of Pirates second baseman Diego Castillo, then Avisaíl García blooped a single — both on the first pitch.
Rojas didn’t waste any more time getting on the board. He drove a high first-pitch curveball off former teammate Zach Thompson and began his celebration, while he claims he was still remembering how fortunate he was to be in that situation.
“I think if I’m fighting for my life in that boat in the ‘Titanic’ song, I feel like it could have been worse than not scoring for 37 innings,” Rojas said. “So that was my mentality in that at-bat.”
When the ball hit the left-field grass, Rojas went wild as if he’d reached a milestone or helped clinch a playoff berth. But after the scoring drought the team has been on in the past week-plus, anyone would be celebrating like he did.
“We score the run, and I’m pitching,” said Braxton Garrett, who tossed six innings and allowed one run, “and I don’t want to get too excited and get out of it, but I couldn’t help it.” but get [excited].”
Just as important, the Marlins didn’t crash and burn after the first run. García scored on a wild pitch, Jorge Soler knocked in Rojas on a groundout and Jesus Sánchez scored after walking on Joey Wendle’s two-strike, two-out hit.
The last time the Marlins scored four or more runs in an inning was exactly a month ago, in the third frame of their 7-4 win over the Rockies on June 22.
“It was nice to see a kind of relief out of everybody,” Rojas said, “because we know we’ve been underperforming, especially going into the All-Star break. We didn’t want to finish the first half like that. We’re accountable for the way that we’ve been swinging.”
García snapped another toilsome record by the Marlins’ offense. Miami hadn’t hit a home run in its previous nine games entering Friday, tying the franchise record set twice, most recently on April 6-15, 2019.
In the seventh inning, García laid off two curveballs in the dirt to get into a hitter’s count and set up a four-seam fastball in the zone that he squared up and deposited in the right-field stands.
“It’s good to get that homer out of the way, too, because that’s another thing that gets written about,” manager Don Mattingly said. “I think all of that just comes together when you finally break that little slump or streak you’re in. It just feels lighter all of a sudden, and guys just relax a little bit.”
With on-base and base-stealing threats like Jazz Chisholm Jr. and Jon Berti on the IL — and it will be a long one for Chisholm, who was diagnosed with a stress fracture in his back on Friday — Miami’s lineup is in need of a jolt. But near, far, wherever they are in the standings, Rojas said the Marlins are confident they have the ingredients necessary to make a Wild Card push.
The offense hopes it has only reached the tip of the iceberg of its potential to get back on track, and as Dion’s vocals traveled through the clubhouse after the victory, Rojas could feel it centering the group for the work ahead.
“It’s motivating us for tomorrow already,” Rojas said. “Thinking about the movie and thinking about being in that situation, it could have been worse.”