David Schoenfield, ESPN Senior Writer 90d

Real or not? Giancarlo Stanton hits his 55th HR, and 60 is still in play



As Yogi Berra would say, the Marlins' Giancarlo Stanton wasn't in no slump, he just hadn't been hitting. In his previous 11 games, Stanton went 7-for-40 with just one home run. After slugging 18 home runs in August, he had just three in September entering Monday's game in Miami against the Mets. Sitting on 54 home runs, his pursuit of 60 home runs looked ambitious. Then came his 55th, and we can once again dream of 60:

Yes, it counts even though it came off Matt Harvey. It was a 114 mph blast that traveled 455 feet and left the park in 4.5 seconds. You knew it was a Stanton special just from hearing the crack of the bat; we need to add "decibels" to the other Statcast measurements. Stanton would probably lead the league in that category as well.

Back in 2001, Barry Bonds set the single-season record with 73 home runs. The same year, Sammy Sosa hit 64, Luis Gonzalez hit 57, and Alex Rodriguez hit 52. Here are the 50-homer seasons since then:

Stanton climbs to third in what we'll call AB -- After Barry. He has 12 games to hit five home runs and reach 60, or six to tie Roger Maris at 61, or seven to reach 62, a figure topped only by Bonds, Mark McGwire and Sosa, and you can make your own judgment on whether that bothers you or not.

Stanton has homered every 10.0 at-bats this season, so given 50 at-bats the next 12 games, he would project to 60. Working in his favor is the Marlins' remaining schedule: two more games against the Mets (Seth Lugo and Rafael Montero will start), a six-game road trip to Arizona and Colorado (two hitter-friendly parks) and finally four at home against the Braves.

Does Stanton have a chance at MVP honors? It's still a race in which five or six players could get first-place votes, but with the Marlins 10 games under .500, Stanton would have to be above and beyond the other candidates to have a chance to win. Even if he finishes with 60, I don't think it would be enough to outpace Paul Goldschmidt or Nolan Arenado in the voting. Only five players have won the MVP Award on a losing team: A-Rod (2003 Rangers), Cal Ripken Jr. (1991 Orioles), Andre Dawson (1987 Cubs) and Ernie Banks (1958 and '59 Cubs).

Yankees win, Red Sox win. Interesting night in the AL East. Yankees manager Joe Girardi had to turn to Aroldis Chapman for a five-out save after Dellin Betances loaded the bases with a hit batter and two walks. Chapman struck out Joe Mauer and got Byron Buxton to fly out and then pitched a one-two-three ninth. His final pitch:

The Yankees failed to pick up a game on the Red Sox, however, as Boston beat Baltimore 10-8 in 11 innings, rallying from 5-0 and 6-1 deficits thanks to a six-run fifth. Mookie Betts doubled to clear the bases in that rally. There were a couple of interesting relief notes as the Red Sox improved to 14-3 in extra-inning games:

  • Manager John Farrell used Craig Kimbrel in the bottom of the ninth. Note that he did not wait to use Kimbrel for a save situation, instead using him against the Orioles' No. 5-6-7 hitters. The strategy made sense for this reason: The Orioles had already burned through six relievers, so Farrell was betting that the back end of his bullpen was better than Baltimore's -- even though he had already used seven relievers after starter Doug Fister lasted just two innings.

  • Matt Barnes pitched the 10th, and then Carson Smith tossed an 11-pitch 11th for the save after Andrew Benintendi singled in two runs with two outs. Remember, Smith had that dominant rookie season with Seattle in 2015 before getting injured last year. He has made just four appearances so far, but he was lethal on righties pre-surgery. Don't rule him out from making the postseason roster if he finishes strong.

Yes, this happened. Clayton Kershaw gave up the first grand slam of his career when Aaron Altherr homered with two outs in the sixth, good for all the runs in the Phillies' 4-3 win:

From Lee Singer of ESPN Stats & Info: Kershaw had faced 103 batters in his career with the bases loaded without allowing a grand slam. The only active pitchers to face more batters with the bases loaded without allowing a grand slam are Matt Cain (133) and Zach Duke (114).

This game also featured one of the craziest catches of the season.

Wild-card winner of the night. The Brewers blanked the Pirates 3-0 with a five-man shutout, gaining a half-game on the idle Rockies. They're two games behind Colorado and 3 1/2 behind the Cubs in the NL Central. Brent Suter threw five scoreless innings, and Corey Knebel closed it out for his 36th save in 40 chances since taking over as closer on May 14, but two of the Brewers' secret weapons helped bridge the gap from Suter to Knebel.

Josh Hader fanned three in 1 2/3 innings, and Anthony Swarzak pitched a one-two-three eighth. Those two have helped the Brewers to the eighth-best bullpen ERA in the majors and a 2.53 mark since Aug. 1 -- tied with the Rays for best in the majors in that span.

Hader is the rookie lefty who throws 95 mph with a funky delivery while sporting long, golden locks. A starter in the minors, he has the repertoire to pitch multiple innings, and manager Craig Counsell has used him for more than three outs in 14 of his 31 outings. With 58 strikeouts in 40 2/3 innings, he has quickly emerged as one of the better lefty relievers in the game. The veteran Swarzak, meanwhile, has been a key trade-deadline pickup, coming over from the White Sox on July 26. Never a big strikeout guy, he has ditched his curve and changeup and become a fastball/slider guy. He has 84 K's in 69 innings, including 32 in 20 2/3 innings with the Brewers (with just three walks).

Wild-card loser of the night. The Twins went 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position in that 2-1 loss to the Yankees. This was the first of a 10-game road trip, with two more in the Bronx, four in Detroit and three in Cleveland. Don't print those playoff tickets just yet.

As for Matt Harvey ... Since his return from the DL, he has allowed 21 runs in 14 1/3 innings and has recorded just eight strikeouts in 83 batters faced. He has had just 18 swing-and-misses. Back in 2015, he had nine starts with at least 15 swing-and-misses. The stuff has simply regressed. Harvey had no answers after the game:

With each bad start, it seems less likely that the Mets will bring Harvey back for 2018. It's sad to say, but Harvey's Mets career could end with a non-tender in the offseason.

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