WASHINGTON -- Over the final two months of the 2015 season, Marlins left fielder Christian Yelich came to bat 182 times and hit one home run. This year, in only 148 plate appearances, the outfielder has already gone deep five times.
Yelich's home run off Stephen Strasburg in the first inning of Saturday's 6-4 Game 1 doubleheader loss to the Nationals was the latest example of the 24-year-old's growing power. He is only two homers short of his total from all of last season and only four off his career high of nine, set in 2014.
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Manager Don Mattingly said the outfielder's power will only grow as he gains experience and tightens up his swing.
"I think it's just a matter of time," Mattingly said. "As he learns to firm up that front side, he's going to hit a bunch of them, and once he does that it's going to be a whole different animal."
Yelich also added an RBI double in the fifth inning, finishing the day 2-for-4 with a walk and two RBIs. Both of his extra-base hits came off Strasburg, who had held him to four singles in 24 at-bats entering Saturday.
"He's tough," Yelich said of Strasburg. "You've got to capitalize on mistakes he makes, and he didn't make too many of them."
Yelich is now batting .328 while leading the Marlins in on-base percentage and OPS. He has always been a good contact hitter, but the added power could earn him a trip to his first All-Star Game.
Yelich, who is hitting fly balls at a slightly higher rate than in previous seasons, is benefitting from a high home run-to-fly ball ratio. He said on Saturday he hadn't changed his approach in search of more home runs.
"Nope," Yelich said. "It's just happening."
Alex Putterman is a reporter for MLB.com based in Washington. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.