August 15, 2022

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Rojas finds exit to 'maze-like' batting slump

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MIAMI — Baseball fans and writers alike aren’t the only ones enthralled by Reds first baseman Joey Votto’s social media posts. Marlins shortstop Miguel Rojas referenced Votto’s description of a slump following Friday night’s 8-6 victory over the Mariners at loanDepot park. Miami has won six in a row for the first time since July 26-Aug. 7, 2020.

Like Votto, Rojas’ season hasn’t gone as planned. Not only has he gotten off to a slow start at the plate, but he also missed three consecutive games this past week with flu-like symptoms. In Thursday’s finale in Washington, Rojas got hit by a pitch on the C-flap of his helmet. He stayed in the game to run the bases but later exited, luckily sustaining just a jaw contusion.

“Starting my day with a base hit with a breaking ball to the opposite field was huge,” Rojas said. “Gave me the confidence to wait on the ball, and I think my hands are in a way better position. And like Joey Votto said in a tweet a couple days ago, being in a slump is being in kind of a maze. When you find the exit, you feel so good about it, because it was as simple as that.

“When you’re in the grind of the season, it’s really hard because you don’t get breaks. You’ve got another game, you have to go to the ballpark. Sometimes the confidence is not up there every single day. But with the help of your teammates, coaches and the confidence of the organization, I think you can actually overcome anything.”

During a four-run second inning that allowed Miami to recapture the lead for good, Rojas singled to right to load the bases with no outs.

In the third, he jumped on Matthew Festa’s first-pitch fastball for a two-run shot.

Rojas just missed his second homer in the fifth, when his flyout traveled 402 feet; according to Statcast, it would’ve been gone in eight ballparks.

Entering the series opener, Rojas’s advanced offensive metrics were low:

First percentile in barrel percentage (0%)
Fifth percentile in hard-hit percentage (20.9%)
Ninth percentile in expected slugging percentage (.283)
13th percentile in average exit velocity (85.6 mph)

While the Marlins have enjoyed early-season success, Rojas hasn’t been a main contributor at the plate, entering the series opener with a .163/.212/.224 slash line in 14 games. But after beginning the season 2-for-19, he has a hit in six of his past nine games. Friday marked his second multihit game of 2022.

“Obviously, you want to see him have success,” manager Don Mattingly said. “That first at-bat, he hits a bullet, then the homer I thought was big from the standpoint of just kind of kicking it further. He actually swung the bat pretty good yesterday. The ball hit to center field yesterday he crushed, another one today.

“Miggy’s not a guy that you really worry about. You always feel like he’s going to keep working. It’s just a matter of time before he gets it going a little bit. He’s not sitting in the middle of our order or anything like that. But he’s going to be himself, and he’s not going to sit around and not keep working and not find it. So, you know Miggy’s going to find it.”

Another player off to a slow start, newcomer Jorge Soler, is gradually heating up. He knocked the third-longest homer of any Major Leaguer (468 feet) this season on his two-run blast against Matt Brash in the first. At 117.6 mph off the bat, it was Soler’s second-hardest-hit ball of his career.

One of Miami’s top free-agent signings, Soler entered the series with a .171/.275/.271 slash line in 18 games. Over his past eight contests, however, he has reached base 12 times. During this stretch, he had a modest five-game hitting streak. And for what it’s worth, it took 17 games into the 2021 season for Soler to go deep twice; he finished with 27 between the Royals and Braves.

“We can see the results,” Soler said via an interpreter. “You know, we’re playing fun baseball, happy baseball, and we try to do our best over there every time we go on the field, and inside the clubhouse, you can see there’s great chemistry.”

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