Cubs-Marlins preview

BY foxsports • June 25, 2016

MIAMI -- Giancarlo Stanton, who led the National League in home runs as a 24-year-old and is already a three-time All-Star at 26, is a proud man.

This year's batting slump, which saw him hit just .173 in May and has him batting .203 in June, has taken its toll mentally on Stanton.

After all, Stanton is the player the Miami Marlins locked up with a 13-year, $325 million contract a couple of months prior to the start of the 2015 season.

Yet, he is hitting just .213 after a 0-for-3 performance on Friday in a 5-4 loss to the Chicago Cubs. Stanton did draw a walk and score a run, however. He also hit a long foul ball in the ninth inning that would have tied the score had it not gone foul.

Stanton was better on Thursday.

After getting the go-ahead hit to beat the Cubs in the opener of this four-game series, Stanton was almost repentant and seemingly embarrassed by his slump.

"I feel I've let my team down for a while now," Stanton said.

Worse yet, from Stanton's perspective, is the temptation to try to do too much too quickly, as if one big game can un-do nearly two months of subpar performances.

It can't.

And while Stanton knows that intellectually, knowing that emotionally is something else.

"It's worse trying to play while looking up at where you're at," Stanton said of his batting average, "and trying to get that all back in one at-bat.

"I'm not going to be at ease for a long time. I'm going to keep pushing forward. There's no ease until about October. I've got a lot of work to do."

He's right about that, but Marlins manager Don Mattingly is clearly worried about his slugger's psyche.

Mattingly also tried blaming the media for bringing up Stanton's slump, as if that were the real problem.

"I don't think we can worry about the past," Mattingly said. "That's part of the problem.

"We're always saying, 'Stanton hasn't done (whatever). At some point, you just have to say, 'My season starts today' because you are not going to get (the past) back. You just have to say, 'I'm starting over from right here.'

"If he can look at it like that, I will look at it like that."

That's a nice try by Mattingly, who was trying to play pop psychologist. But the conversation with Stanton shows that the Marlins slugger hasn't forgotten his slump, and he's not looking at it the way Mattingly would desire.

Stanton knows what he's done and what he hasn't done. He realizes his huge contract comes with a price on his shoulders if he fails to produce.

You can try all the head games you want, but Stanton is smart. He knows he has to play better, and, if he does, the Marlins have a real chance to be a playoff team.

Besides Stanton's effort to revert back to his prior role as one of the dominant power hitters in the game, here are some other story-lines for Game 3 of this series on Saturday:

--The Cubs will start John Lackey (7-3, 2.78 ERA). Lackey is 1-0 with a 1.80 ERA in his two career starts against the Marlins. Here's the crazy part: The two starts came 10 years apart.

--The Marlins will start Paul Clemens (0-0, 5.40 ERA). It will be Clemens' second start with the team. But the Marlins are reportedly hard at work to find a better solution in a trade.

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