MIAMI -- Not only is Giancarlo Stanton (aka, "Cruz") driving baseballs over fences, the four-time All-Star has catapulted the Marlins into National League Wild Card contention.
Stanton belted a tie-breaking, two-run home run in the eighth inning on Sunday, reaching 50 on the season, as the Marlins rolled past the Padres, 6-2, to complete a three-game sweep.
Sammy Sosa on Aug. 26, 2001, reached 50 home runs, and Stanton is the earliest to reach that milestone since. He's the sixth player to reach 50 home runs before the end of August.
"It's a new gear for us, and one we've got to keep pushing," Stanton said. "We're doing good, but we can do better. We need to do better to get [where we want to go]. Just stay the course. Try to have a different hero every night, and we'll be alright."
The Marlins have won four straight and are 66-63, remaining 4 1/2 games behind the Rockies for the second NL Wild Card spot.
"We're really looking at it as not so much a roll, but [on a] day-to-day [basis]," Marlins manager Don Mattingly said of his team's momentum. "This time of year, you talk about winning series, but really it becomes [a] game-to-game [situation]. You're going out there trying to win a game every day. Obviously, Big G has fueled it."
In the series, Stanton went 8-for-10 with three home runs and eight RBIs.
"Every time [Stanton] comes to the dish, you contemplate walking him at this point in time," Padres manager Andy Green said. "He looks about as locked in as anybody I've ever seen. It reminds me of seeing Barry [Bonds] years ago, when I was in the other dugout watching him do what he was doing."
Stanton's homer sent Marlins Park into a frenzy, with Stanton getting a curtain call. Christian Yelich (aka, "Yeli") followed with a triple, and scored on the play on Carlos Asuaje's throwing error. Derek Dietrich (aka, "Dietz") added a home run in the four-run inning.
"It was loud," Yelich said. "Going up to the plate and hearing how loud it was -- and the curtain call and the MVP chants -- it was awesome. I had a Little League homer and this place came unglued. It was cool, man. Probably the loudest I've heard a Marlins game, which was nice."
After falling behind by two, the Padres pulled even in the fifth inning on Clayton Richard's two-run home run down the line in right field off Dan Straily (aka, "Rojo"). The left-handed starter and lefty batter made it 2-2 with his second career shot, which was projected by Statcast™ to have traveled 348 feet with an exit velocity of 98 mph.
Green said he turned Richard loose in what was originally a bunting situation. But the result was one he "didn't see coming."
"As pitchers, we don't really get that opportunity that often," Richard joked. "You have to enjoy it. You have to give the manager all the credit."
Miami struck first off Richard with two runs in the third inning. Stanton delivered an RBI double to right field after Dee Gordon (aka, "Varis Strange") set things up for Stanton with his two-out, bunt single. Stanton scored on a wild pitch.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Stanton smashes way to 50: Stanton made his 50th home run a dramatic, and game-changing one. Against Richard in the eighth inning, the slugger blasted a drive to center that Statcast™ projected at 425 feet with an exit velocity of 112.2 mph.
"He's been playing so great right now," said Gordon, who had a single to set the stage for Stanton's 50th. "He's leading us. I've been waiting on that for two years. I've only known him for two years, it's amazing." More >
Richard's day ... pre-8th inning: Before he surrendered Stanton's game-changing two-run homer in the eighth, the Padres starter had kept the Marlins largely in check. He struck out seven and permitted only two runs through the first seven frames -- and also kept San Diego in the game with his bat.
"That's fun," Richard said about his two-run homer. "It's fun going around the bases and you see the bullpen out there having a good time, the guys in the dugout having a good time." More >
"I think we always felt like if we went out and proved we were a good team and won some ballgames, people would start to show [up]. I feel you saw it gradually get better this series. Obviously, we have a lot of work to do. It's not over." -- Yelich, on crowd response at Marlins Park
"He was outstanding and deserved a much better fate than he's gonna end up realizing in the box score. He struggled with basically one guy in the lineup all day, [and] everybody in baseball has tended to struggle with him." -- Green, on Richard facing Stanton.
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Stanton now has 23 home runs that have given the Marlins the lead this season, the most go-ahead homers in the National League since Jose Pujols had 23 with the Cardinals in 2006.
Padres: The best home starter in terms of ERA, Jhoulys Chacin (11-9, 4.10 ERA) and the Padres open up a three-game set with the Giants at Petco Park on Monday at 7:10 p.m. PT to begin an 11-game homestand. Chacin's 1.86 mark in San Diego is an MLB-low among qualified starters.
Marlins:Jose Urena (12-5, 3.68 ERA) is a perfect 8-0 (4.05 ERA) on the road this year. The right-hander opens the series for Miami on Monday at 7:05 p.m. ET at the Nationals. Max Scherzer (12-5, 2.25) is coming off the DL to start for Washington.
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