MIAMI — Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton called his two-run homer off Braves lefty Alex Wood in the third inning of Tuesday’s 9-0 victory the first of its kind — for him at least.
A week after Wood made him look "pretty silly" — his words — Stanton sent a 1-0 curveball to right field for his eighth homer of the season, tied for most in the NL.
"Stayed back on an off-speed pitch away," Stanton said. "Never hit one like that before. Staying inside and letting them get deeper."
Heading into Wednesday’s action, with one game remaining in April, the 24-year-old had an NL-leading 31 RBI — second in the majors behind White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu (32).
His RBI total is the most over March/April in club history, while his 29 RBI in April are one shy of the franchise record for the month set by Moises Alou in 1997.
"Not worried about it," Stanton said. "That’s pretty cool, actually, but it’s just April. We’ve got to keep it going."
Marlins ace Jose Fernandez impressed even himself during his performance Tuesday night.
Fernandez threw 18 changeups — his most in a game — over eight innings and 98 pitches. His previous high was 15. The 21-year-old said he would have to look back at the tape because he thought he tossed 30.
"I was excited about the changeup," Fernandez said. "It was working well. I’m just throwing it. I’m just trying to throw it low and hopefully it does what it’s supposed to do. I’m thinking fastball all the way."
The reigning NL Rookie of the Year’s off-speed pitch was clocked at 90 mph a few times, which reaches the speeds of some pitchers’ fastballs. It averages 89.1 mph.
"I think his changeup’s great, but his slider’s great too, and so is his fastball," manager Mike Redmond said. "I think I like all of his pitches right now."
Following Tuesday’s game, Redmond said he would wait to speak with Fernandez about not running out a grounder to short in the third inning.
Gold Glove winner Andrelton Simmons bobbled the ball twice on a routine play, but Fernandez had already begun a light jog to first.
"We talked. We’re good," Redmond said. "Nobody’s expecting the pitcher to run a 4.0 down the first-base line, but it’s just to be consistent every time out of the box.
"It’s more of being consistent of how you run. There are going to be times you may be able to beat the ball out. At the end of the day, it’s his game. He has the ability if he gets on base to score a run."
Effort isn’t something Redmond is worried about from his ace.
Later in the game, Fernandez drove in a run with a single to right and took advantage of a poor cutoff throw to the infield to advance to second.
"Believe me, this is the least of my worries," Redmond said. "He wants to win and there’s not a greater competitor than he is every five days.
"This guys comes to play and he understands the game and he runs hard and he does a lot of the little things instinctually — things that a lot of pitchers don’t do. He drove in a run, too. If you break down the whole night — that was a pretty big night. He definitely set the tone for us."
Marlins second baseman Rafael Furcal, whose rehab assignment was cut short over the weekend by a groin injury, will play in games starting this weekend with Triple-A New Orleans.
Furcal took grounders, ran and hit during batting practice on Wednesday.
Redmond said Furcal told him both the hamstring, which he is on the 15-day disabled list for, and the groin feel better.
"The good news is he’s feeling good. He was moving around pretty good. That’s a good sign," Redmond said. "It depends how he feels and how quickly he progresses and he’s able to get back in the flow of baseball. The good thing is he’s only been out a few days, so we’ll see how he feels."
SECOND BASE POSITION
While the Marlins continue to wait for Furcal’s return, Redmond has a trio of options at second base.
Ed Lucas was scheduled to start his second straight game at second Wednesday since coming off the DL. He went 3 for 4 with a run and RBI Tuesday.
Derek Dietrich has played in 16 games, starting four of the past six for Miami. He is hitting .261 with three homers and 10 RBI. In 12 games (four starts), Donovan Solano is batting .227 with a run and RBI.
"I think we’ll mix and match and try to keep everybody going," Redmond said. "We have flexibility out there with Solano and Dietrich. Dietrich can play against right-handed hitters, but he can also pinch-hit, which is nice as well, and come in and play defense."
Tuesday began a stretch of 20 straight games without a day off for the Marlins. That includes the current nine-game homestand followed by an 11-game California road trip.
Redmond hopes to give spot starts to Lucas, Solano or Dietrich as a way to rest players such as third baseman Casey McGehee, shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria and first baseman Garrett Jones.
McGehee and Hechavarria have played in all 26 games entering Wednesday.
"It’s a luxury we have that versatility and flexibility, which we talked about this winter having," Redmond said. "There’s probably going to be some days off in the infield for some guys, including Hech and maybe Stanton down the road as well.
"Give them rest and make sure we keep them fresh for September and the end of the season. Having those guys that can play multiple positions — that’s big for us. It’s going to enable us to keep McGehee and Jones and those guys fresh for as long as we possibly can."