Giancarlo Stanton isn’t ready to proclaim the season a success simply because the Marlins are back at .500 and lurking in the playoff hunt. But neither is he complaining.
He’s smiling a lot these days.
For the first time since Stanton went from “Mike” to “Giancarlo,” Miami is playing meaningful baseball in August, and the bright mood inside the clubhouse is a welcome change from what it had been.
“It’s not a morgue here every time you walk in [with] black drapes,” Stanton said of previous years, when the Marlins were stumbling to three consecutive last-place finishes. “That’s the way it feels like when you’re like that.”
Stanton on Sunday powered the Marlins to a 10-3 blowout victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks, walloping a three-run homer and driving in another run with a single as Miami continued to hang on the periphery of the playoff picture.
The victory improved the Marlins to 62-62, giving them a .500 record this late in the season for the first time since 2010 and as many wins as they totaled all of last season, when they lost 100 games.
They remained 3 1/2 games back in the National League wild-card race.
“Getting back to .500 is huge because I don’t think any team’s making the playoffs under .500,” winning pitcher Tom Koehler said.
“We know we have a lot of work to do, and there’s a bunch of teams ahead of us. To sit here and say we’re all satisfied at being .500, I don’t think that’s the case.”
But Koehler said those around baseball are probably looking at the Marlins with greater respect.
“It’s no longer, ‘Oh, those Fish,’ ” Koehler said. “When we play good baseball, we can play with anybody.”
The Marlins did what they had to accomplish with the Diamondbacks, taking three out of four games in the series. They put Sunday's finale out of reach early.
Stanton’s first-inning shot off Josh Collmenter fell in the Arizona bullpen and was his 32nd of the season.
It was also the 149th homer of Stanton’s career, moving him into second on the team’s all-time list behind Dan Uggla, who hit 154. He also established a new career high by raising his RBI count to 88 with a single in the seventh.
"I don't know how many times he's hit a home run for me in the first inning, but I love it," Koehler said.
Garrett Jones also homered for the Marlins in the first, providing Koehler with ample support, and the Marlins scored five times in the sixth to put the game out of reach.
Though he got off to a shaky start by loading the bases in the first inning, Koehler worked out of the jam -- striking out Jake Lamb on a 3-2 pitch to end it -- and made it through six innings to improve to 9-9.
"I think there were a lot of moments in the first inning that kind of changed the complexion of the game," Koehler said, pointing out Jeff Baker's walk to set up Stanton's home run as one of those moments.
With a man on second, Baker fell behind 0-2 in the count before working a walk out of the at bat.
Instead of having first base open, a scenario that would likely have resulted in Collmenter either walking or pitching around Stanton, the Arizona right-hander he was forced to pitch to him and "Stanton does what he does right there," Koehler said.
"I hit to sit here and say we expect him to do that, because that wouldn't be fair to him," Koehler said of Stanton.
"But I know every time he swings the bat, I feel like there's a chance he's going to hit a homer. And when he's playing at a MVP caliber level like he is, when he kind of takes the team on his back…when your big guy is producing the way he is, you've got a good chance of winning the ballgame."
It was the most runs scored by the Marlins since an 11-6 win over Tampa on June 5.
The Marlins' next five games will be against the two teams with the worst records in the majors, Texas and Colorado.