WASHINGTON -- Giancarlo Stanton has ended his homer-less drought.
Facing Washington Nationals starter Edwin Jackson in the top of the first inning, Stanton launched a 440-foot solo shot that landed beyond the wall in left-center field. In doing so, the Miami Marlins slugger snapped his string of three consecutive at-bats without a home run.
The last time Stanton had gone deep was all the way back on Sunday, Aug. 27, against the San Diego Padres, when he hit a two-run, eighth-inning shot off lefty Clayton Richard to break a 2-2 tie and put Miami up for good.
Stanton’s first-inning bomb Tuesday was the fourth one he has clubbed this month at Nationals Park. That’s tied with Ryan Zimmerman for the most homers hit at Nats Park this month, which is weird, given that, well, Stanton doesn’t play for the Nationals. On the year, Stanton has 51 home runs, and he is on pace to finish with 63 bombs. He has now gone yard 18 times this month, tying the major league record for most round-trippers in August, previously set by Rudy York in 1937. That’s 80 years ago, which in chronology circles is commonly referred to as a really long time.
“That's pretty cool,” said Stanton said after the game, which, if you’re scoring at home, the Marlins lost 8-3. “Any major league record's a pretty awesome feat. We didn't get the win out of it, but to be able to do that's pretty cool.”
One thing that is decidedly not cool is the red-hot Stanton, whose fireworks in the District were the continuation of a tear that has been going on for the better part of the summer. The 27-year-old outfielder now has 25 taters in 43 games since the All-Star break, which is second-most in MLB history in a player’s first 50 games after the Midsummer Classic, according to ESPN Stats & Information. The only player to hit more was Mark McGwire, who went deep 26 times in his first 50 games following the 1999 All-Star Game. Going back another week or so, since July 5, Stanton has blasted 30 home runs, which is only one fewer than the 31 homers the entire San Francisco Giants team has hit in the same time period.
Despite Stanton’s reign of terror, opposing hurlers continue to give him pitches to hit, even in situations where logic would seem to dictate otherwise. Case in point: In the top of the fifth, with the Nationals leading 3-1 and Dee Gordon on base following a leadoff single, Jackson fell behind 3-0 to Stanton. What’s more, during the at-bat, Gordon stole second and later advanced to third on a wild pitch. In other words, first base was open. Wide open. Like, more open than a 7-Eleven at high noon. And yet, instead of putting Stanton on, Jackson challenged him.
“With a guy like that who’s hot like he is right now,” Jackson said, “you definitely have to make pitches, and you can’t leave balls over the middle.” Except for when you can. Even though Jackson’s 3-0 delivery was a center-cut fastball, he got away with it, as Stanton just missed it for a 370-foot-long (and 370-foot-high) sac fly to the warning track in left center.
“We ain't perfect,” Stanton said in explaining how his fifth-inning battle contributed to yet another homer-less drought that currently stands at three at-bats. “Still gotta hit a 95 mph fastball. I hit it good. The difference of a homer is this much."
Then the 6-foot-6 slugger held up his thumb and index finger to imply what normal humans would refer to as a smidge, but in the context of his gargantuan digits, it looked more like a chasm. “So I'm not worried about that. Can't do it every time," he said.
Two innings later, Jackson and the Nationals came to their senses. With runners on second and third and no outs, skipper Dusty Baker intentionally walked Stanton to load the bases. The fact that it was only his 11th intentional pass of the season (somehow, seven major leaguers have more IBB than a guy who's on pace for 60-plus bombs) is almost beyond comprehension. But maybe after what followed, more managers will start taking Baker’s lead: Lefty reliever Oliver Perez got Christian Yelich to bounce into a fielder’s choice at home, then righty Matt Albers fanned Marcell Ozuna and got J.T. Realmuto on a grounder to short to end the inning.
“It worked out for them, so it was a good strategy,” Stanton said. “What can you do?”