Garrett Cooper hits winning homer in Wild Card Series

Excuse Garrett Cooper if his emotions got the best of him while rounding the bases on Friday afternoon, as he blurted a few unprintable words.
• NLDS presented by Doosan, Game 1: Tuesday on FS1 or MLB Network
For all the lows Cooper has gone through in his career, he

Excuse Garrett Cooper if his emotions got the best of him while rounding the bases on Friday afternoon, as he blurted a few unprintable words.

• NLDS presented by Doosan, Game 1: Tuesday on FS1 or MLB Network

For all the lows Cooper has gone through in his career, he was elated to experience the high of connecting on a momentum-changing home run that helped lift the Marlins to a 2-0 victory over the Cubs at Wrigley Field.

With the victory, the Marlins swept the best-of-three National League Wild Card Series, advancing to the best-of-five NL Division Series against the Braves on Tuesday at Minute Maid Park in Houston.

“I think I dropped a few bad words as I was rounding the bases,” Cooper admitted. “It’s just something you can’t explain, especially after I went through what I went through the first year I was here. To come back last year with the calf injury. To do what I’ve done.”

What the Marlins as a team have gone through is already well-documented. Their season started with 18 players testing positive for COVID-19. Cooper was one of them.

Miami has used 61 players this year and finished the regular season with 28 games in 24 days.

All this after finishing 57-105 and in last place in the NL East in 2019.

Cooper played in just 14 games in 2018 after undergoing right wrist surgery. In 2019, he appeared in 107 games, hitting .281 with 15 homers and 50 RBIs. This season, he batted .283 with six homers and 20 RBIs in 34 games.

“Coop is a guy that we’ve always said could hit,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. “He’s been hit on the hand a couple of times, so he’s had some injuries. This year, he had the COVID. He had a little bit of a quad [strain] when he came back and missed a couple of games. When he’s healthy and playing, he swings the bat pretty good.”

Even on Friday, Cooper’s homer in the go-ahead two-run seventh inning came after he struck out his first two times facing Cubs ace Yu Darvish.

But in a scoreless seventh, Cooper got a slider he could handle. He got just enough of it to lift the ball over the left-center-field wall.

The Marlins’ dugout went wild as he rounded the bases.

“It’s a crazy feeling,” Cooper said. “When I was running around the bases, you felt like you were floating out there.”

Statcast projected the drive at 370 feet, with an exit velocity of 104.4 mph.

“It’s the biggest homer I’ve ever hit,” Cooper said. “Just to have a year like I did to come back from COVID, to overcome another obstacle. The injury last year. The injury before. It’s not something I ever wanted or I ever thought would happen to start my career. This makes it sweet to help your team win a game.

“I feel I’ve always known I can hit up here. It’s kind of a cherry on top to do this. Our mission is not done. It’s another stepping stone to what we want to do as a team, as an organization.”

Joe Frisaro has covered the Marlins for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro and listen to his podcast.

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