The name Marcell Ozuna may not strike fear into the hearts of opposing baserunners quite the same way Yasiel Puig and Yoenis Cespedes does, but the Miami Marlins left fielder is no slouch. His throwing arm is well above average, and it is to be taken seriously when considering whether or not the next 90 feet on the bases are worth the risk
The New York Mets learned that the hard way on Friday. Ozuna stepped up and threw out the tying run at home plate not once, but twice during Miami's 3-2 victory, and that included the dramatic final out of the game.
After New York's Kirk Nieuwenhuis doubled off closer Steve Cishek to begin the ninth inning. Ruben Tejada moved him over to third base with a sacrifice bunt. That set up Chris Young to tie the game with a hit or a sacrifice fly, and it appeared the latter was going to be in order. Young hit a fly ball that in most instances would be deep enough to score the run. However, Ozuna played it well and got his momentum behind him, allowing him to unleash a frozen rope to catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia,
The result was a bang-bang play that required every bit of the strength and accuracy Ozuna put on it. In fact, the play went under review for several moments before a ruling was made. It was ultimately determined that Saltalamacchia legally applied the tag on Nieuwenhuis just in time to secure a big home win for the contending Marlins.
A breath-taking ending to an exciting game, but even Ozuna was surprised his throw had enough on it.
"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."
A good lesson for the kids out there. Never mail in a play or assume the result. Always make the effort, because anything can happen.
Speaking of effort, Ozuna impressed with a similar throw just one inning earlier to again prevent the tying run from scoring. 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 easily from third, but Ozuna nailed the trail runner David Wright with another laser that again allowed Saltalamacchia to make a legal tag.
Of course, with the new collision rules in place, Saltalamacchia had to make sure he allowed a lane for the runner. Many times a catcher's position can be altered by the throw, but in both cases Ozuna put it in the perfect spot.
"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."
Ozuna's first throw made a little history for Miami. It marked the first time they've won a regular-season game with an outfield assist at home plate. Of course, they also famously won a postseason game the exact same way. In Game 4 of the 2003 NLDS, Jeff Conine threw out J.T. Snow at home to clinch the game and the series as catcher Ivan Rodriguez absorbed a big collision and held on to the ball.
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.
Not bad at all for a 23-year-old who's still finding his way in the big leagues.
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