The West Coast seems to bring out the best in Giancarlo Stanton.
On Thursday, with family members on hand after making the drive down from his hometown outside Los Angeles, Stanton blasted a two-run home run in the 11th as the Marlins opened an 11-game road trip with a 3-1 victory over the San Diego Padres.
“It’s the Cali air,” Stanton said afterward with a smile. “I grew up breathing it.”
Stanton’s home run came on an 0-2 pitch from Padres reliever Dale Thayer just after second baseman Jedd Gyorko muffed an easy ground ball for an error to keep the inning going.
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But it was not just any home run. It was hit on a line to right-center in a park where that seldom happens.
“That’s probably the best pitch (Thayer) threw,” said Padres catcher Yasmani Grandal. “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.”
Stanton said Thayer made him “look silly” on the previous pitch, a high fastball that he swung at and missed. So he knew the pitcher would either waste one in the dirt, or come back with another high heater.
“That was just putting the barrel on it,” Stanton said. “It wasn’t a home run swing. But when you have an easy swing like that, good things happen.”
Stanton didn’t even think the ball was going out after it left his bat. But he thought it would perhaps hit the fence and enable Dietrich to score from first. The ball went out, though, continuing Stanton’s run of success out West.
He has now hit five homers in 42 career at bats at Petco Park.
Until that point, Stanton said he was upset that the Marlins played so lethargically after winning eight out of nine on the just-completed home stand. The Marlins totaled only five hits and struck out 17 times Thursday. It wasn’t the way Stanton and the Marlins hoped to begin a road trip, especially given their 2-10 road mark going in.
“I was a little upset with the way the team came out,” Stanton said. “It was very lackadaisical. I didn’t want us to cruise through this road trip and save us at home again. That’s not going to work all year. That’s why I was a little uneasy.”
While the Marlins didn’t do much at the plate, they received strong pitching from starter Jacob Turner and the bullpen.
Manager Mike Redmond said he was hoping to get six good innings out of Turner, who struggled in his only two starts this season, and the right-hander delivered, going exactly six. But it wasn’t easy. The Padres loaded the bases in the first but failed to score and also came up empty after leadoff hits in the third and fourth innings.
It was Padres starter Ian Kennedy who inflicted the only real damage on Turner, blasting his first major league home run on a 2-0 pitch in the second. The home run by Kennedy was the 17th all-time by a pitcher against the Marlins and first since Gio Gonzalez went deep off them on April 3, 2013.
“Anybody that swings a bat can hit the ball,” Turner said of Kennedy’s shot. “Just because he’s a pitcher doesn’t mean he can’t hit. After that, I felt like I settled down and got in a groove.”
Turner’s improvement from his previous outing, one in which he was tattered for six runs on nine hits in only four innings, came at good time for the Marlins, who are counting on him to make three starts -- more than any other member of the rotation -- during the team’s 11-game road trip.
Turner’s only problem Thursday was a lack of run support. The Marlins gave him only one, and it was a while in coming.
Kennedy, who had received the win when the Padres defeated the Marlins on April 6 in Miami -- one of only five home losses for them so far -- set down the first 14 batters he faced before Garrett Jones doubled in the fifth. Kennedy struck out 12.
The Marlins didn’t get on the board until the sixth when Dietrich delivered a two-out RBI single. But after loading the bases, Kennedy got out of the jam by whiffing Jarrod Saltalamacchia for the third time.