Justin Ruggiano #20 of the Miami Marlins hits a game-winning home run in the ninth inning against the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park on Friday in Cincinnati. The Marlins won 2-1.
Justin Ruggiano wasn't thinking of anything dramatic. All he wanted to do was avoid looking bad against one of baseball's hardest throwers.
Ruggiano waited for a high fastball from Aroldis Chapman and got it, connecting for a solo homer in the ninth inning that sent the Miami Marlins to a 2-1 victory on Friday night and snapped the Cincinnati Reds' winning streak at four games.
Stunning all around for the Marlins, who have the worst record in the majors at 4-13 and had managed a total of only four homers combined — also worst in the majors — when Ruggiano came to the plate in the ninth.
"The one thing I didn't want to do is get beat on a high fastball," Ruggiano said.
Cincinnati's spotless closer threw one 94 mph and Ruggiano was right on it, driving a 3-1 pitch to center field for his third homer of the season. No other Marlin has more than one.
He may have gotten a little help from the setting — Great American Ball Park is one of the most homer-friendly in the majors.
"Hitting it here, I knew it had a chance," said Ruggiano, who homered for the second straight game at Great American. "If it's a different ballpark — in our ballpark — I don't think I'd be taking a right-hand turn (after crossing home)."
Chapman (2-1) hadn't allowed a run in his eight previous appearances, giving up only three hits while fanning 13. It was only the seventh homer Chapman has allowed during his four seasons in the majors.
Ruggiano joined Albert Pujols, Luke Scott, Matt Dominguez, Jose Lopez, Asdrubal Cabrera and Josh Willingham with homers off Chapman. Five of the seven off the left-hander have come at Great American.
"You get so used to him being perfect, but that happens a couple of times a year," manager Dusty Baker said. "It doesn't happen very often. That guy took a good pitch to get it to 3-1. He hit a high fastball, trying to catch up to it."
Left-hander Mike Dunn (1-0) retired the last two batters in the eighth. Steve Cishek gave up a hit in the ninth while earning the Marlins' first save of the season.
"It all came together perfect tonight," manager Mike Redmond said.
Nick Green had three singles and scored the Marlins' first run on a raw, wet night. It was 46 degrees at the first pitch, and showers moved through during the game. Marlins right fielder Giancarlo Stanton wore a ski mask under his cap.
Reds starter Mat Latos remained winless in four starts this season, which include two blown saves behind him. He allowed one run on six hits and struck out 10, fanning pinch-hitter Greg Dobbs with runners on second and third to end the Marlins' seventh inning and keep it tied.
Marlins starter Kevin Slowey remained winless in the majors since 2010, a streak that includes 10 losses, several injuries and very little help from his offense. The Marlins were shut out in his first two starts this season, and managed only one run in his third — after he'd left the game.
This time, the major leagues' least-productive offense got two runners thrown out at the plate and managed one run while Slowey was in the game. He left after six innings, having allowed four hits.
"This is certainly one of the best stretches I've had, feeling-wise," Slowey said. "Nothing is bothering me."
Slowey held down an offense that had scored 11 runs in each of its last two games. Shin-Soo Choo opened the Reds' first with a triple and scored on Joey Votto's sacrifice fly. That was it for Cincinnati.
By contrast, the Marlins got chances against Latos and wasted them.
Miami got him a run in the third, but could have had more. Nick Green and Donovan Solano singled, and Slowey advanced them with a sacrifice bunt. Placido Polanco singled to right for one run, but Solano was thrown out at home by Jay Bruce.
"We haven't scored a ton of runs," Redmond said. "We're trying to be aggressive in situations when we can be aggressive."
Juan Pierre opened the sixth with a double and advanced on a fly out. He was out at the plate when he tried to score on Stanton's grounder to shortstop Zack Cozart with the infield drawn in. Pierre lowered his shoulder, but catcher Ryan Hanigan held on after making the tag.
NOTES: The Marlins designed struggling reliever John Maine for assignment and called up RH Tom Koehler from Triple-A New Orleans, where he was a starter. He'll move into Maine's role as a long reliever for now. ... University of Cincinnati football coach Tommy Tuberville threw a ceremonial pitch. ... Latos doubled with two outs in the fifth — his first hit in seven at-bats this season — but was stranded.
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