Top Games of 2022 #9: Lift Off for the Jrod Show in Miami

Division Series - Houston Astros v Seattle Mariners - Game Three
Division Series - Houston Astros v Seattle Mariners - Game Three / Steph Chambers/GettyImages

When you look back at the 2022 season, there are many storylines, primarily centered around All-Star Centerfielder Julio Rodriguez. Unfortunately, the 21-year-old rookie struggled through the first few months, falling victim to a floating strike zone. Manager Scott Servais went on record about the poor calls numerous times, but this game launched the JRod Show.

“What’s going on with Julio Rodríguez right now is not right,” he said. “I think it’s his 15th called strike 3, on pitches that are outside the strike zone. I sat home for a week and watched it out on COVID – very frustrating. I give all the credit in the world to Julio. Not many people could handle things the way he has. He’s not barked back, he’s not changed his approach, he’s not chasing balls outside the strike zone, but it’s wrong. He’s 21 years old. Let the kid play.”

The first day of May offered a compelling matchup with would-be NL Cy Young, Sandy Alcantara, and Logan Gilbert. Both pitchers were dealing, especially Gilbert, who came into the game with a 0.67 ERA. It was a homecoming, as he grew up in Orlando and attended Stetson University.

Gilbert’s would end up firing 5 2/3 innings of one-run baseball, keeping the game close for the main event. It was the sixth inning, and Alcantara was dealing until he ran into some trouble. J.P. Crawford singled with two outs and a switch hitter; Abraham Toro was up to bat. For some crazy reason, the Marlins intentionally walked Toro to face Rodriguez. Maybe they saw a rookie pressing (.237 average) and thought they could expand the zone with Alcantara’s deadly slider. Who knows what they were thinking, but this is what Rodriguez had on his mind.

“It was ‘OK, you want to challenge me, I’m going to give you the challenge.’ That is what I was feeling. ‘You want it? Let’s go.’ … I was really excited, honestly.”

Rodriguez would work the count in his favor (3-1) and unleash a mighty swing on an inside fastball. That ball left his bat at a whopping 110.4 mph and, according to Statcast, traveled 450 feet, the longest Mariner homer this year. Servais heaped a ton of praise on his rookie superstar after what would be a 7-3 win.

“That’s kind of the Julio breakout game,” manager Scott Servais said. “We have been waiting for that first home run to come and it couldn’t have come at a better time. He killed it. That was a bomb. He continues to trend in the right direction. He tells me all the time that he’s ‘trending.’ We’ll keep riding that trend.”

Rodriguez would go on a tear after that game launching 27 more home runs, an All-Star invite, and the AL Rookie of the Year. So it’s safe to say the Jrod Show lifted off in Miami and never came down.