The ball rocketed off his bat, soared over the Budweiser sign and bar in left-center field, bounced off the floor of the concourse level, clanked off one of the pillars supporting the roof and eventually landed in the hands of a fan.
That’s how the night began Friday: Giancarlo Stanton’s mammoth, 484-foot, two-run home run off Padres starter Eric Stults in the first inning, the longest in Marlins Park history, according to ESPN.
It ended in another offensive barrage by the home team. The Marlins, the worst offensive team in baseball and a 100-loss team a year ago, continued their red-hot start to 2014 with an 8-2 blitz of San Diego.
A paid crowd of 17,783 saw shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria, who batted .227 in his first big-league season a year ago, raise his batting average through five games to .579 with a career-high four hits Friday. The Marlins put up 13 hits in all.
Through five games, the Marlins (4-1) now have as many wins and runs scored (35) as they did through 17 games last year.
“We knew there was a different vibe coming into the season from spring training,” said starter Tom Koehler, who followed up his stellar spring with a solid six-inning, two-run effort Friday to pick up the win.
“We didn’t know what that vibe was going to be, what results we were going to get when the season started. But we knew that this was going to be a scrappier team, a group of guys who were going to fight every single day to get games over. That’s what you’re seeing right now.”
What Marlins fans are seeing for the first time in a while is an eye-opening barrage of offense.
Catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, one of the few Marlins who struggled out of the gate, had three hits, too — including a clutch two-out, two-run double in the third to help break the game open.
First baseman Garrett Jones, who went 3 for 16 against the Rockies to start the season, scored two runs and drove in another with a double in the fifth. And third baseman Casey McGehee set a new club record with 10 RBI through five games, besting the previous mark of nine set by Pudge Rodriguez in 2003.
“It doesn’t matter how we drive those runs in. We don’t need homers. We don’t need the ball to go in the seats. We just need hits,” manager Mike Redmond said. “Whether that be doubles, singles or whatever we’ll take them. But the more guys we get on base in front of Stanton and the middle of our order, the better chance we have of that. The beauty of our lineup right now is guys are just taking what they’re given and not trying to do too much.”
The pitching has also been very good. Koehler cruised through the first four innings Friday before the Padres finally got a rally going in the fifth. The 27-year-old right-hander who won the fifth starter’s job over Brad Hand by giving up only three earned runs in 18 innings in Grapefruit League play, worked his way out of trouble in the fifth after surrendering three consecutive line-drive singles with one out.
He retired pinch-hitter Tommy Medica on a popout to Jones at first. He then got Padres leadoff hitter Everth Cabrera to bounce out to first.
“Times in the past that’s the one where you kind of saw things spiral out of control [for me],” said Koehler, who scattered seven hits, walked one, struck out one and gave up the only two runs he allowed in the sixth after the Marlins had already built a 7-0 lead. “To get out of that with nothing and get the team in dugout was a good pick-me-up for me and I’m sure for the guys.”
Hand worked three innings of relief to pick up his first big-league save — and first since high school he said.
Hand was just as awed as everyone with Stanton’s home run, which surpassed the previous Marlins Park record of 467 feet set by Logan Morrison.
“Now you can’t say LoMo has a bigger homer than me,” Stanton said with a smile. “Sweet.”