Seattle Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon had nothing but praise for Giancarlo Stanton after the slugger’s ninth-inning grand slam on Friday night left the Mariners walking off in defeat.
“He’s a force,” McClendon said. “His strike zone is getting better. He’s probably a much more patient hitter now than when he first came into the league. Knowledge is power, and he’s got knowledge. He knows the pitchers now. He knows how they’re going to try to work him.”
Marlins manager Mike Redmond was even more effusive about the red-hot Stanton, who entered Saturday leading the majors in RBI with 26 — seven more than the next player on the list — leading the National League in runs scored with 14 and tied with three others for the league lead in home runs with six.
“This guy has had an unbelievable month,” Redmond said. “Really, it started for him in spring training. He came in ready to go. You could just see a new focus, a new energy and drive out of him. I think that’s really carried over.”
Redmond said the most notable change from Stanton this season as compared to a year ago is his pitch selection.
“He’s more aggressive at pitches that he knows that he can handle,” Redmond said. “Pitches up in the zone, last year, maybe he took some of those pitches, whereas this year he seems to be right on them all the time. I think the key for him is to eliminate the balls down and away and in the dirt. Once he’s able to do that, then watch out.”
Redmond said Stanton is also making better adjustments within at-bats. Example: his ninth-inning at-bat Friday against Mariners reliever Yoervis Medina.
“[Friday night], he missed that first breaking ball he threw him, and the second one he crushed it,” Redmond said Saturday. “That shows you he’s able to make in-game adjustments pitch by pitch. And, usually when you see a hitter able to make adjustments pitch by pitch, that’s a pretty good sign he’s locked in.”
The walk-off grand slam by Stanton was the fifth in Marlins history. The others: Bobby Bonilla (Sept. 16, 1997, vs. Colorado), Dan Uggla (June 11, 2008, vs. Philadelphia), Stanton (May 13, 2012, vs. New York Mets) and Jeff Mathis (June 30, 2013, vs. San Diego).
According to Elias, Stanton is one of only two players to hit two walk-off grand slams before his 25th birthday.
The other: former Marlins hitting coach Jim Presley. The major-league record for most career walk-off grand slams is three and is shared by Alex Rodriguez, Cy Williams and Vern Stephens.
• Jacob Turner will throw one more bullpen session Sunday before heading up to Jupiter to begin a rehab assignment for the Single A Hammerheads. Turner will make his first rehab start on Wednesday for Jupiter and throw anywhere from 50 to 55 pitches. He will make one more rehab start after that before rejoining the Marlins’ rotation.
“If all goes according to plan, it’ll probably be the beginning of May,” Turner said of his return.
• Second baseman Rafael Furcal (hamstring) will continue his rehab assignment at Double A Jacksonville starting Monday. Furcal has been seeing action in Jupiter.
• Top prospect Colin Moran, who has yet to play this season because of a minor knee injury, will likely begin playing in extended spring games this week in Jupiter. The third baseman was the Marlins’ first-round pick in last year’s draft.
• Sunday: Marlins RHP Kevin Slowey (0-0, 4.38 ERA) vs. Seattle Mariners RHP Brandon Maurer (2014 debut), 1:10 p.m., Marlins Park.
• Monday: Marlins RHP Tom Koehler (2-1, 1.89) at Atlanta Braves RHP Julio Teheran (2-1, 1.93), 7:10 p.m., Turner Field.