MIAMI — Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton had waited long enough.
In the second inning of Friday night’s game against the Seattle Mariners at Marlins Park, Stanton charged a ball off the bat of Dustin Ackley only to see it bounce over his glove and roll to the wall.
Two unearned runs scored on the play against right-hander Nathan Eovaldi, erasing a Marlins’ two-run advantage.
"I was like, ‘If I get a chance to hit, I better take care of it because of what I did earlier in the game,’" Stanton said. "It was definitely in my mind as a duty. … We wouldn’t have been in that situation, if I didn’t make that play (in the second inning)."
The opportunity arrived, and it developed like a legend: Bases loaded, no outs, tie game and bottom of the ninth.
Stanton blasted right-hander Yoervis Medina’s fourth pitch of the at-bat for a walk-off grand slam as the Marlins beat the Mariners 8-4 for just Miami’s second victory in the past 11 games.
Before Stanton’s game-winner, pinch-hitter Reed Johnson singled and Christian Yelich bunted for a hit to open the frame. Medina fielded Marcell Ozuna’s sacrifice bunt and threw to third for the forceout. Miami (7-10) decided to challenge the play, and the call was overturned because Kyle Seager bobbled it on the transfer.
It set up Stanton’s sixth homer of the season on a 1-2 slider that landed in left-center. Earlier in the game, Seattle (7-10) intentionally walked Stanton twice. Opponents had purposely issued a walk to the Marlins slugger only one other time so far this season.
"It’s just the way it goes unfortunately," Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon said. "We really tried to stay away from him all night. He’s the one guy in the lineup that can really hurt you. We had no choice there."
Stanton has now driven in a major-league-leading 26 runs. Friday marked his second five-RBI night of the week, which matches a career high.
Heading into this season, the 24-year-old was notorious for struggling out of the gate. His career numbers in March and April included just six dingers and 27 RBI in 63 games.
"He looks good. He looks confident," Marlins manager Mike Redmond said. "Big deal for him to get a big hit in a big situation especially after his mistake early. It was nice to see him have a chance to pick up the ballclub after he had something go against him."
Miami improved to 6-0 when Stanton and third baseman Casey McGehee record at least one RBI apiece. The duo leads the big leagues with the most combined RBI (40) among two teammates.
Yet Garrett Jones went just 1 for 4 in the cleanup spot behind Stanton. Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s bat woke up with a mammoth blast halfway up the upper deck in right in the third inning.
Seven of the nine starters collected at least one hit for 13 total.
"He’s going to be the guy on our team that the other team can’t have them beat him," Redmond said of Stanton. "Is he going to get intentionally walked? Probably. Probably will from this point on.
"The goal is to get guys (in front of him) on base and not let them walk him. We have to get guys in scoring position and the guys behind him have to get hits. We can’t rely only on (Stanton)."
A game that set itself up for disappointment with enough baserunning gaffes and blown leads quickly became Miami’s first walk-off victory of the season and first since Henderson Alvarez’s no-hitter on Closing Day, 2013.
As Stanton approached home during his second career walk-off home run trot, his teammates gathered around the plate to celebrate. They all tried to get their celebratory punches in.
"I was throwing punches, too," Stanton said.
The Marlins hope there are more reasons for him to do that all season, because their chances hinge upon his fight.