Giancarlo Stanton’s chase for 60 — and beyond — is on.
Stanton hit his 55th home run of the season Monday night in the Miami Marlins’ 13-1 win against the New York Mets. It was Stanton’s first long ball since Sept. 9 and second in two weeks, a September slump thrusting into question his MVP case and his quest for one of baseball’s rarest milestones.
With a dozen games remaining before the season ends Oct. 1, Stanton is six homers shy of 61, which for decades stood as the sport’s single-season record, set by the Yankees’ Roger Maris in 1961. The Giants’ Barry Bonds, the hitting coach for Stanton and the Marlins last year, is the record-holder with 73 in 2001.
Stanton is aiming to become just the sixth major leaguer to reach the 60-homer threshold. In addition to Maris and Bonds, Babe Ruth (60 in 1927), Sammy Sosa (66 in 1998, 64 in 2001, 63 in 1999) and Mark McGwire (70 in 1998, 65 in 1999) did it.
“Don’t play like I have been and we’ll worry about [the total] when we’re done,” Stanton said. “I haven’t had the greatest at-bats, so just have better at-bats and good things will happen. Whether they’re lineouts or homers, good things happen.”
Aiding Stanton’s pursuit is the Marlins’ schedule: a six-game road trip — half of their games left — to Chase Field in Arizona and Coors Field in Colorado, both hitters’ havens. Stanton has found past success at Coors in particular, homering 10 times in 20 games with a .316/.413/.797 slash line.
Stanton’s homer Monday at Marlins Park, a 455-foot shot to center, came under unusual circumstances. He was batting third — for the first time since June 2015, in place of Christian Yelich on his day off — and was fresh off an off day of his own, afforded to him by manager Don Mattingly at Stanton’s request because he was tired.
Asking out of the lineup is a rare step for Stanton.
“I don’t like doing that, but also you have to be smart as well,” Stanton said. “It’s that time of the year.
“Earlier in the year when you have a day off, you kind of feel sluggish afterward. But with all the miles we’ve tallied up through the year, it feels good to have them now.”
That fatigue has shown in Stanton’s performance, including three homers and a .170/.302/.358 slash line in 15 September games to begin the week. Some dropoff was inevitable after his scorching August — 18 dingers with a .349/.433/.899 line — but the severity of it has caused Mattingly to ease up. Sunday was Stanton’s third day day in nine games, after he started 37 in a row.
Stanton said he has felt better the past couple of days than he did in the weeks prior. In the eighth inning Monday, he scorched one even harder than his homer — 117.7 mph, according to MLBAM’s Statcast — but right at left fielder Brandon Nimmo for an out.
“Those are good outs,” Stanton said. “I haven’t even had too many good outs lately, but I’ve felt better the past couple days, so even if it doesn’t look as pretty, it’s how you feel. You build in and hopefully get some games like this that lead into something.”
In other goings-on Monday, the Marlins dominated in their fourth win of the month.
Every starter, including pitcher Dan Straily, had at least one hit. They rocked Mets righty Matt Harvey for seven runs on 12 hits in four innings. The last of those came in the fifth, when Harvey didn’t record an out and Miami scored seven times against four pitchers.
Dee Gordon (triple) and Marcell Ozuna (homer No. 34) each had four hits. Gordon, Ozuna and Brian Anderson drove in multiple runs. Stanton’s four RBI gave him 117 on the year, four shy of the single-season franchise record, Preston Wilson’s 121 in 2000. Ozuna is at 113.
Straily allowed one run on three hits in five innings. He battled a high pitch count all night, walking four and striking out eight.
Right-hander Vance Worley pitched three scoreless innings to end it for his second career save.
“It was one of those games,” Mattingly said, “you don’t get very often, but it’s nice to get them every once in a while.”
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