MIAMI — Miami Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton has only ever witnessed the postseason on TV.
Through his first 594 games in the big leagues, none have come close to personifying that fall atmosphere until the Marlins’ 3-0 victory over the first-place Washington Nationals on Tuesday night at Marlins Park.
Each play felt important whether it be on the field or at the plate. In a pitchers’ duel between All-Star Henderson Alvarez and righty Stephen Strasburg, it looked as though one run would be the difference.
"Yesterday we were losing for so much it didn’t seem as head-to-head as today did and you notice the individual things like when I watch the playoffs how tiny things are that matter," Stanton said. "You should realize that every day but it’s when I watch and see the difference how a tiny mistake or a game with a pitcher giving up two or three hits in six, seven innings the significance of it.
"This is the first game that has been more magnified for sure, especially with pitchers like that on the mound. One little thing is going to change the game."
That execution has been instrumental during Miami’s six-game winning streak — its longest since May 1-7, 2012. The Marlins (53-53) have also taken nine of their past 10, pulling within four games of the NL East and Wild Card. For the first time since June 25 Miami is back at .500.
Stanton, who entered Tuesday hitting .205 in July, went 2 for 3 with a walk and a pair of RBI. In the sixth, he doubled home Jordany Valdespin, who singled to lead of the inning. After swinging and missing on two sliders from Aaron Barrett in the eighth, Stanton connected on the third to score Christian Yelich for a second insurance run.
"You know it’s coming 100 percent," Stanton said of the pitch. "It was just a matter if he was going to leave it to freeze me or bounce it again. That’s the difference when you feel better in your previous at-bats. I feel great and have swings like that, too, it’s just how early and late you pick up the ball."
In an MVP-worthy year, Stanton already has 11 game-winning RBI, tying a single-season career high done in 2011.
His at-bats on Tuesday felt and looked more comfortable than they have since June when he led the National League in both home runs and RBI. He had struck out in his previous four games — nine times during that span.
"G, big at-bat. He’s been in a little bit of a funk," manager Mike Redmond said. "But that’s the beauty of him. He has the ability to get out of it in one swing. I think you saw some great at-bats. I know (hitting coach Frank Menechino) and he and have spent a lot of time working on a comfort level and continuing to be patient. It paid off today."
With rumors circulating that Miami may make a big push for pitchers such as Boston Red Sox lefty Jon Lester or Oakland Athletics left-hander Tommy Milone before Thursday’s trade deadline, Miami seems to be hitting its stride.
That’s what happens when a club seems to show the front office it wants a postseason chase. The six-run deficit turned 7-6 victory on Monday proved that much. Tuesday’s win was an example of how it could handle a low-scoring, playoff-like contest.
"It’s how we started the year off," Stanton said. "I wouldn’t say we’re peaking at the right time — towards the end is the best time — but we’re peaking at the right time to make this push to be significant."