Stanton showing he can do it all as Marlins push for wild-card spot

MIAMI — Miami Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton wasn’t wearing a cape when he leapt toward the warning track and saw the ball land in his glove to the dismay of the St. Louis Cardinals dugout.

Kolten Wong, who connected on a pitch from righty Tom Koehler in the fifth, couldn’t believe it. Not in a 5-3 ballgame with playoff buzz on the line.

Stanton, known for his power, made his most impressive defensive play during arguably his best all-around game in the majors as the Marlins beat the Cardinals 6-5 on Monday night at Marlins Park.

"You’re seeing Stanton go up there playing unreal," Wong said. "Definitely the first one I was kind of shocked, but those kind of plays are being made up here."

After spreading out his arms and getting back up, Stanton smirked and threw the ball in — sporting a dirty uniform that didn’t resemble Superman’s but could’ve fooled the crowd of 21,144. When the fans gave him an ovation for his effort, he smiled and acknowledged it with a wave.

"That was really cool," Stanton said. "They appreciate things like that. I’m just trying to help the team win. That was a cool moment."

But that wasn’t it from the National League MVP candidate, who blasted a pair of homers to extend his National League lead and tie him with Chicago White Sox rookie Jose Abreu and Baltimore Orioles outfielder Nelson Cruz for tops in the majors (31).

In the first inning, Stanton connected on a 95-mph fastball from righty Shelby Miller for a two-run shot to right-center. In his next at-bat, he sent a 2-2 pitch an estimated 470 feet over the Budweiser Bar. The ball took one hop before hitting the operable wall. Had the wall been open, it would’ve left the park.

Power trip

It marked Stanton’s seventh long ball of 450 feet or more. To put that into perspective, no other big leaguer has more than two.

Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said in both situations Miller was pitching Stanton tough, but he was able to capitalize on balls that saw too much of the plate. St. Louis didn’t make the same mistake a third time, unintentionally intentionally walking him in the fifth.

"I made some pitches at times but when it came down to their best hitter on their team I throw two of the worst pitches I’ve probably thrown all night and you can’t do that," Miller said. "That’s a guy who sees mistakes and does a good job of hitting those kind of pitches. He’s leading the league in home runs, and that’s the reason why. He’s got a lot of power, he’s a great hitter and I didn’t help myself at all throwing those pitches right down the middle."

Added Koehler: "Mikey obviously just playing both sides of the ball with those two big homers and probably the catch of the year."

Over parts of five big-league seasons, Stanton now has 13 multi-homer games, setting a franchise record and collecting the second most among active players before the age of 25 (Alex Rodriguez, 14). He is now tied with Hanley Ramirez with 148 career home runs as a Marlin.

Among Marlins, he is the fourth fastest to reach 30 homers in a season, doing so in his 118th game. Mike Lowell (105 in 2003), Stanton (106 in 2012) and Gary Sheffield (112 in 1996) are the only ones to top this current pace.

In his last 12 games, Stanton has knocked eight dingers. Remember when he had a homerless drought reach 79 plate appearances during July? There’s no better time for him to heat up then with a wild-card pursuit in progress.

"I’m just feeling better, having better at bats," Stanton said. "Pitch selection is a little better. You can’t take hitting on the field, but I feel better on both sides. It’s also good when you’re not hitting too to save runs on defense and contribute any way possible."

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