SAN DIEGO -- Giancarlo Stanton couldn’t contain his smile because he couldn’t believe what he had just done. He hammered an 0-2 pitch from Padres reliever Dale Thayer over the fence in right-center, an opposite-field shot that most hitters can only dream about, and broke into a wide grin as he rounded third base.
The ball landed in a sandy area at Petco Park known as “The Beach.”
“That was the last thing that I expected,” Stanton said of his two-run shot in the 11th inning on Thursday that gave the Marlins a 3-1 victory.
When it comes to power, nothing should come as a surprise anymore when it involves Stanton — especially when he’s anywhere near his stomping grounds in southern California.
“Cali air, man,” Stanton said of his success out west. “Grew up breathing it.”
Stanton, 24, is off to the hottest start of his career and fueling the Marlins’ early-season surge. With Thursday’s victory, the Marlins took over sole possession of first place — the first time they’ve been in that spot since June 2012.
He leads the league in home runs with 11 and the majors in RBI.
And considering where he’ll be spending the coming 10 days, those numbers figure only to improve. Stanton rakes out west.
Of the six ballparks where he’s posted a career OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage) of 1.000 or greater, four are located in the National League West: San Diego’s Petco (1.183), Colorado’s Coors Field (1.421), San Francisco’s AT&T Park (1.089) and Arizona’s Chase Field (1.202). And his OPS at Dodger Stadium — .926 — isn’t skimpy.
He has averaged one home run per every 7.95 at-bats in the five NL West parks.
The only other ballparks where he’s put up similar types of numbers, at least in terms of a high OPS, are Washington’s Nationals Park and his own Marlins Park.
But Thursday’s blast was unlike some of his others. It left teammates and opponents marveling. It wasn’t a no-doubter the second it left his bat. In fact, he didn’t think it was going to go out.
He didn’t even put a “home-run swing” on the pitch.
“Heck no,” he said. “No way.”
But his “easy swing” produced a major blow that got the Marlins off to a good start on their road trip.
It all came about after Padres second-baseman Jedd Gyorko muffed Derek Dietrich’s easy ground ball that should have been the third out of the 11th.
But it extended the inning long enough for Stanton to step to the plate. Thayer put Stanton into an 0-2 hole. Thayer’s second pitch, which Stanton swung at and missed, was a high fastball that Stanton said made him look “pretty silly.”
Stanton figured the next pitch had to be one of two types.
“I knew he was either going to throw something in the dirt or try to elevate that fastball again to see what I was going to do with it,” Stanton said.
Thayer came back with the same pitch, and Stanton sent it over the fence.
The blow left Padres catcher and University of Miami product Yasmani Grandal shaking his head in disbelief.
“That’s probably the best pitch [Thayer] threw,” Grandal said. “He painted it. It was right on the spot. But there’s only one guy that can hit that, and he was at the plate. I guarantee you there’s not another player in this league who could hit that pitch.”
Marlins manager Mike Redmond was awestruck, as well.
“That was quite a homer,” Redmond said. “I didn’t think anybody, especially a righty, could hit an [opposite-field] home run here. That ball was crushed and on a line. I don’t know if you’ll ever see a right-handed hitter hit a ball out of a ballpark like that.”
If it’s on the West Coast and Stanton is at the plate, there’s always a chance you will.