It took Giancarlo Stanton 20 games last season to hit his first home run.
Heading into his third series of the 2013 season, the All-Star right fielder — who was 4 for 26 with 10 strikeouts before Monday night’s home opener against the Atlanta Braves— wasn’t just looking for his first long ball, but his first RBI of the season, too. Time to panic? Hardly.
“It’s a marathon not a race,” Stanton said. “We’ve only had six games, 20, 25 at-bats. People want to say this is how the season is going to go. No, you’ve got to go through the whole year.”
Stanton isn’t the only slugger in baseball who had a rough opening week. Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano, the MVP of the World Baseball Classic, went 3 for 23 with no homers or RBI in his first week of action.
The Braves, in town for a three-game series, have two stars struggling: Jason Heyward (2 for 20, one homer, two RBI, seven strikeouts) and B.J. Upton (3 for 20, one homer, one RBI, nine strikeouts). Other All-Stars with rough opening weeks: Josh Hamilton (4 for 25, no homers, two RBI, 10 strikeouts), Ryan Howard (4 for 24, no homers, three RBI, eight strikeouts) and Matt Kemp (2 for 20, no homers, two RBI, six strikeouts).
Stanton isn’t placing the blame for his struggles on anyone but himself. Even though the Marlins lineup doesn’t feature a true clean-up hitter to protect him, Stanton said Monday he has been seeing about the same amount of pitches inside the strike zone as he did a year ago. He has just been swinging and missing more often than not.
“They’ve been going at him with fastballs — he’s just not there yet,” manager Mike Redmond said. “I know he’s a streaky guy. We’ll keep running him out there and stay positive.”
Closer Steve Cishek said he waited for the Marlins locker room to clear out Sunday in New York before he went over to congratulate and apologize to pitcher Jose Fernandez for blowing what would have been his first big-league win.
“I just said, ‘Congratulations, that was awesome. I’m very proud of you,’ ” Cishek said. “If he fills up the strike zone like that, he’s going to have a very bright future. There’s going to be more opportunities for him to get a win.”
As for his own performance, Cishek said he didn’t have a feel for his slider, which ended up hurting him in the ninth. The pitch that he felt turned everything around was grazing Ruben Tejada’s jersey with one out and a 1-2 count.
“I didn’t think it hit him,” Cishek said. “It must have been a thread.”
Redmond explained Monday why he elected not to load the bases with runners on second and third and one out and instead had Cishek pitch to Marlon Byrd, who delivered the game-winning hit.
“I felt like we had a better chance to get a groundball from Byrd than [ Collin] Cowgill,” Redmond said. “He can run a little bit. [Plus left-handed hitting Daniel] Murphy was coming up behind him. It’s one of those situations — Shrek is a ground-ball guy. I thought he would get a ground ball, which he did. He just hit it down the line.”
• Tuesday: Marlins LHP Wade LeBlanc (0-1, 3.60 ERA) vs. Braves RHP Kris Medlen (0-1, 3.60), 7:10 p.m., Marlins Park.
• Wednesday: Marlins RHP Alex Sanabia (1-0, 0.00) vs. Braves LHP Mike Minor (1-0, 1.23), 7:10 p.m., Marlins Park.
• Scouting report: Medlen went 2-0 with a 1.50 ERA and 22 strikeouts in five games against Miami last season. LeBlanc got pummeled in five outings against Atlanta (0-2, 8.49 ERA).