JUPITER, Fla. — Many fans attending games at Marlins Park hope to see Giancarlo Stanton blast his latest tape-measure home run. At the very least, they’d like to witness the slugger send a ball into the Clevelander or the centerfield home run machine.
But for the Miami Marlins to win games in 2013, they very likely will have to master the art of manufacturing runs. Small ball, as it’s known.
That’s exactly what Miami did on Saturday afternoon, when the Marlins opened their Grapefruit League season with an 8-3 victory against the St. Louis Cardinals at Roger Dean Stadium.
And they wasted little time in doing it.
After veteran pitcher John Maine threw a scoreless top of the first, Miami’s Juan Pierre opened the home half.
Signed as a free agent during the offseason, Pierre was the table-setter on the 2003 World Series-champion Marlins. He returns 10 years later aiming to do the same for a rebuilding team that could benefit from the veteran’s professionalism.
As if trying to send immediate notice of his jumpstart ability, Pierre tried to bunt off Cardinals starter Trevor Rosenthal, but the ball went foul.
Pierre tried to bunt a second time. Foul No. 2.
With two strikes, Pierre lofted a ball over the head of center fielder Jon Jay. Then again, Jay looked to be playing short. Regardless, Pierre ended up with a triple.
“I was like, ‘Wow, he didn’t catch it,’ ” Pierre said. “I don’t hit it over a center fielder too often.
“It feels good to get one every now and then. The outfielders might not cheat quite as much next time, but they’ll still be playing me in . . . and I’ll do what I did: bunt. ”
After Placido Polanco failed to bring home Pierre on a grounder to short, Stanton got his first of two RBI by grounding out to first.
“You don’t always need to hit it hard to get a hit or to be productive,” Stanton said. “We’re going to have to be scrappy, and get runs any way we can.”
Stanton’s 37 homers last year were second most in the National League. But unlike then, when a mostly veteran lineup forced opponents to pitch to Stanton, the big guy likely will not see as many good pitches this year.
Will Stanton be patient and accept walks? Or will he display a lack of discipline and swing at wild offerings? Those questions will be answered down the road.
With two out, first baseman Joe Mahoney doubled off the wall in right. He scored on Donovan Solano’s subsequent single.
“We had guys put the ball in play,” Marlins rookie manager Mike Redmond said. “Stanton delivered that run by battling, hitting the grounder. A couple of big two-out hits — we’re going to have to do that.”
With one out in the second, Marlins newcomer Adeiny Hechavarria walked and stole second. He then tagged up and took third when Gorkys Hernandez flied out to center.
Pierre then delivered Hechavarria with a push bunt that was lofted to the left of third baseman David Freese. The ball landed and was backhanded by shortstop Pete Kozma, but Pierre had an infield single.
“Because I didn’t get the bunt down in my first at-bat, I said, ‘No matter what you do, you have to get the bunt down in your second at-bat,’ ” Pierre said. “I was going to bunt to first, but I saw the third baseman just kept creeping in.”
Pierre credited Miami’s new shortstop for the run, though he wasn’t sure how to pronounce the last name. (Psst, JP, it’s pronounced “Etch-a-va-ria.”)
“He got to third, which is good, on a play most guys don’t,” Pierre said. “That allowed me to bunt and get the ribbie there.”
Redmond certainly enjoyed what he saw early from the third-base dugout.
“We’re going to have to manufacture some runs and still some bases,” he said. “We’re going to have to do all those things to try and score every single run we get in scoring position. It’s great to say, but tough to do.”