May 26, 2014, 6:29 PM EDT
Giancarlo Stanton has been in the majors – and in the National League East – for five years now. His power is nothing new, from the moment he stepped on a big league field he presented a home run threat.
The problem now, however, is that he has help. Only once before this season had Stanton played on a Marlins team that ranked in the top half of the majors in offense. That was 2010 when they placed 15th in MLB with 4.44 runs per game.
The 2014 Marlins currently place sixth in baseball in runs, as veterans like Casey McGehee, Garrett Jones and Jarrod Saltalamacchia have solidified their lineup. Stanton not only has the individual talent, now he has a supporting cast.
Whether his team is the primary reason or not, Stanton is off to the best start of his career. After his 3-for-4 performance on Monday – an outing that included two runs, two RBI and an estimated 447-foot home run – Stanton is hitting .316 on the year.
Tanner Roark, the Nats’ pitcher who served up Stanton’s two-run shot in the third inning, described his approach against the menacing slugger.
“You have to go out there and be aggressive and not be scared. You definitely can’t be scared. Just attack him.”
Roark was nearly out of the third inning before he hit Derek Dietrich on the elbow with two outs. Roark said he was trying to pitch inside to Dietrich, whom he described as a pull hitter.
“I know he likes to pull the ball. I just wanted to get in there and not even throw a strike, really. I kind of overthrew it and hit him in his elbow pad.”
Putting Dietrich on base extended the inning and set up Stanton’s at-bat. Roark threw him a slider and it just didn’t break.
“I didn’t execute it. He just put it a long way.”
“If it’s a hanging breaking ball, he can hit it over the fence. And that’s what it was,” Matt Williams said.
“Tanner certainly didn’t wanna throw it there, and that’s what happens sometimes with him – if you hang that breaking ball out over the plate, sometimes it gets whacked. And it got whacked today.”
Stanton currently leads the National League with 15 home runs and has 49 RBI. That’s through 52 games, putting him on pace for roughly 47 homers and 153 RBI. What was once one of the best sluggers in baseball has become one of the best overall hitters in the game.
What makes his emergence even more unfortunate for the Nationals is his remarkable success against them. Stanton’s numbers through five years against the Nats and while playing in Washington are jawdropping.
After Monday, Stanton is now hitting .317 in 61 games against the Nats. He has 21 home runs, 20 doubles and 50 RBI. Of his 69 total hits, 41 of them were for extra bases.
Stanton’s numbers are remarkably good at Nationals Park. Since entering the league, he has hit more homers by a visitor to D.C. (14) than any other player.
“I don’t know what it is, that’s just baseball,” Stanton said. “I understand I do a little bit better here, I can’t really attest it to anything.”
As noted in the game story, his 21 home runs and 50 RBI against the Nationals put him in pretty rare company. Only Jose Bautista has as many homers and RBI against one team (the Red Sox) since 2010.
Stanton is under contract through 2017, so even with the Marlins’ penchant for trading young stars before they reach free agency, he’s going to be around for a while. He’s a big problem and not an easy one to solve.
“He’s a really good hitter. He’s got big power. We’ve got to be careful with that guy,” catcher Wilson Ramos said.
COUNTDOWN TO OPENING DAY
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