MIAMI — Right-hander Dan Straily will have his not-so-secret weapon with him when he takes the mound against the San Francisco Giants on Tuesday night — and it is not his fastball, his curve or his slider.
It is his teammate, Giancarlo Stanton, who has been every Miami Marlins pitcher’s best friend lately, launching baseballs over fences and walls at an incredible rate.
Stanton hit his major-league-leading 43rd homer on Monday. He also broke the Marlins’ single-season record that had been held — for 21 years — by Gary Sheffield.
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Aided by Stanton, the Marlins (57-60) have won four games in a row, tying their season best. Meanwhile, the Giants (47-73) lost for the third time in four games.
Giants pitcher Ty Blach, Stanton’s latest home run victim, noted how the Marlins slugger has improved.
“He’s gotten a lot better at hitting off-speed pitches and using the whole field,” Blach said. “He takes aggressive hacks and has the ability to change the score with one swing.
“I thought I made a pretty decent pitch, but he’s a strong guy.”
Blach is right about that — it was a pretty decent pitch, which is why Stanton “only” hit it 382 feet. Stanton, known for propelling some of the longest homers in the majors, said Blach got the ball in on him, which kept him from extending his arms fully.
That certainly is one strategy.
Another choice could be walking Stanton more consistently, which teams may go to soon, or simply throwing him curveballs away and out of the strike zone to see if he will chase.
On Tuesday, Straily (7-8, 3.74 ERA) will be countered by Giants left-hander Madison Bumgarner, a four-time All-Star and a three-time World Series champion who is having an uncharacteristically disappointing season, in part due to injury.
Bumgarner is 2-5 with a 2.71 ERA this season. The Giants are just 2-8 in the left-hander’s starts this year, including 0-5 on the road.
One of his biggest issues has been poor run support. The Giants have scored one run or none in half of his starts.
He has actually pitched well since coming off the disabled list on July 15, going 2-2 with a 2.52 ERA. But Bumgarner has struggled against the Marlins, going 1-3 with a 4.50 in six career starts. He hasn’t faced the Marlins since 2015, and he hasn’t beaten them since 2014.
Meanwhile, Straily has beaten the Giants every time he has faced them, going 4-0 with a 1.91 ERA. That includes a 1-0 record and a 1.08 ERA in one start against San Francisco this year.
Straily, though, has struggled in the second half of this season. He went 7-4 with a 3.31 ERA in the first half. Since then, he is 0-4 with a 5.17 ERA.
One thing that could really help Straily on Tuesday is … Stanton, who has hit 10 homers in his past 11 games and 22 in the past 34.
He is on pace to hit 60 homers this season, a number that has been reached by only five players in major league history: Babe Ruth, Roger Maris, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa and Barry Bonds.
Modesty aside, Stanton said he is not surprised that he broke the Marlins’ single-season home run record, but he didn’t think it would happen so soon — with 45 games left to play.
Stanton is aware of the buzz he is creating throughout baseball.
“I guess you have to be,” HE said. “I’m aware of it, but you can’t look into all that and be distracted. It’s a nice buzz for sports, for baseball and for Miami.”