Homer-happy Marlins hope to slow Nationals (Sep 05, 2017)

BY AP • September 7, 2017

MIAMI -- The 1959 Milwaukee Braves hit 47 homers out of the No. 2 position in the lineup, a major league record.

Those Braves had Eddie Mathews, who hit 46 homers that year, batting mostly second. Hank Aaron, who hit 39 homers, batted third.

All of that is relevant because the Miami Marlins on Monday tied that Braves record with 47 homers out of the No. 2 hole. Giancarlo Stanton, who homered in that spot Monday and leads the majors with 53 long balls, has hit 42 of them while batting second.

Stanton and the Marlins will take aim at the record Tuesday when they continue their series against the Washington Nationals, who won the opener 7-2 on Monday.

Stanton's homer on Monday was an opposite-field shot to right that was hit so hard it broke a TV camera in the bleachers.

"Giancarlo is taking what (the pitchers are) giving him," Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. "He seems really disciplined for the most part. They are going away from him."

In reality, Mattingly helped turn around what had been a lost Miami season by putting Stanton in the two-hole in late May.

More than three months later, the Marlins (67-70) are in playoff contention, although they trail the Colorado Rockies by six games and are also behind the Milwaukee Brewers and St. Louis Cardinals in a battle for one final playoff spot in the National League wild-card race.

The Nationals (83-54) lead the NL East by 16 games.

The Marlins have lost seven of their past eight games. Washington had dropped three of four before the Monday win.

Stanton is expected to be in the lineup Tuesday to face Nationals right-hander Stephen Strasburg (11-4, 2.90 ERA).

Strasburg has thrown more innings against the Marlins than he has against any other franchise. He is 14-7 with a 3.26 ERA in 27 career starts vs. Miami. At Marlins Park, however, Strasburg is just 4-5 with a 4.76 ERA in nine starts.

In addition, three of Miami's big bats have good career numbers against Strasburg. Stanton is hitting .333 with three homers, 11 RBIs and a 1.111 OPS in 45 at-bats. Marcell Ozuna is batting .314 with two homers, seven RBIs and a .923 OPS in 35 at-bats, and J.T. Realmuto is batting .375 with no homers but a 1.125 OPS in 16 at-bats.

Then again, Strasburg beat the Marlins last Wednesday, hitting a home run and pitching his second career shutout and complete game. He held Miami to six hits, just four more than he produced on his own in a 4-0 victory.

While Strasburg deals with hitters he knows well, Miami will start journeyman right-hander Odrisamer Despaigne (0-2, 4.13 ERA), who has little history with the Nationals.

In just 10 1/3 career innings against the Nationals, Despaigne is 0-1 with a 6.97 ERA. That covers just five appearances, including one start.

At least Despaigne won't have to face star Nationals right fielder Bryce Harper, who has been out since Aug. 12 due to a left leg injury that includes a deep knee bruise and a calf strain.

Washington hopes to get Harper back before the regular season ends, but he is a "ways away" from even being able to run, according to manager Dusty Baker.

Even without Harper, the Nationals have hitters such as Anthony Rendon and Daniel Murphy, who combined to drive in all seven of Washington's runs on Monday.

"Hitting is the hardest thing to do," Baker said late Monday night. "When you don't hit, people ask what's wrong."

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