MIAMI — During his home run binge, Giancarlo Stanton is also content to settle for singles.
Stanton went 8 for 10 to lead the Miami Marlins to a three-game weekend sweep of San Diego, raising his average to a career high .296. He hit three homers, increasing his season total to 50, along with three singles and two doubles.
“A lot of people from the outside are probably thinking he’s just going up there trying to hit a homer every at-bat, but that’s not the case,” teammate Christian Yelich said.
The series raised Stanton’s average in 23 games since Aug. 4 to .402. That includes 13 singles, five doubles and 17 homers for an OPS of 1.531.
“It’s unbelievable,” Yelich said. “You feel everything he hits is an absolute rocket, and if it gets up in the air, it’s a homer.”
A recent tweak in Stanton’s stance has helped him lay off outside breaking pitches, long his biggest weakness. Swinging mostly at strikes, he’s willing to hit the ball the other way or on the ground or both, depending on the situation.
The goal, he said, is to make the most of every trip to the plate.
“That is the biggest key,” Stanton said. “You never know which at-bat is going to give you a chance. If you don’t give in, you’re set up for something good.”
The home runs make the headlines, but the surprising Marlins have surged into the NL wild-card race because Stanton seems to do damage almost every time he bats.
It’s no fluke he’s flirting with .300, manager Don Mattingly said.
“You’re seeing a more disciplined hitter in the sense of covering zones and laying off bad stuff,” Mattingly said. “He’s taking what they give, and for him, taking what they give can go all over the ballpark.”
Opponents continue to pitch to Stanton. He had 66 bases on balls through Sunday, which tied for ninth in the majors, and may fall short of his career high of 94. His walk rate hasn’t risen lately even though he has hit 17 homers in August, one shy of the major league record for the month.
When Dee Gordon singled to start the eighth inning Sunday in a tie game, Padres manager Andy Green decided to pitch to Stanton. The result: his 50th homer and a Marlins win.
“Every time he comes to the plate, you contemplate walking him,” Green said. He decided not to because of the hitters behind Stanton.
In May, Mattingly moved Stanton up to the No. 2 spot in the order, and he has hit .317 since. With Christian Yelich (15 homers, .283) and Marcell Ozuna (31 homers, .309) batting behind Stanton, he has been tough to pitch around, Green said.
“It’s a byproduct of how Donnie has put that lineup together,” Green said. “If he is deeper in the order, it’s much easier to get around him.”
Stanton began the week on pace to finish with 63 homers. By continuing his pace since Aug. 4, he would finish with 74, one more than Barry Bonds’ 2001 record.
Meanwhile, he’s leading a remarkable turnaround by the Marlins, who started 14-27 but have a shot at their first postseason berth since 2003. For Stanton, who is in his eighth season, that means playoff-race pressure for the first time.
“There’s no pressure for me,” he said. “I have to be prepared as anybody, but that’s standard. That’s not pressure.”
He’ll continue stepping to the plate prepared to hit homers — or singles.
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