Chris Rusin didn’t just beat the Marlins last Saturday with seven strong innings, he also became the first pitcher to strike out Giancarlo Stanton four times in a game.
Rusin and the Rockies didn’t just beat the Marlins 10-5 last Saturday, they also tagged David Phelps for a career-high nine runs and 11 hits and knocked him out of the game after only 32/3 innings.
On Thursday night, Stanton and Phelps got a little payback.
Stanton drilled his major-league leading 22nd home run and drove in four runs, and Phelps tossed a career-high eight scoreless innings as the Marlins opened up a six-game homestand with a 6-0 win against Colorado in front of 18,003 at Marlins Park.
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“I like to think that I learned what not to do last time out,” said Phelps, who held the best hitting team in baseball (.275 average) to only four hits and one walk.
“I’ll sleep a lot better [Thursday night] than I did five days ago, that’s for sure.”
Phelps was sensational. He struck out six dropped his ERA from 4.68 to 4.11 while improving his record to 3-3 on the season.
Had he not hit Charlie Blackmon with two outs in the eighth — and then given up a single to D.J. LeMahieu to put runners on the corners — Phelps might have been able to keep his pitch count down and pitch the ninth.
“But I’ll take zero runs any day, no matter how many innings it is,” Phelps said.
Stanton, hitting in the cleanup spot for only the second time this season after manager Dan Jennings moved him down a spot in the batting order for the first time Wednesday in Toronto, made it a little easier on Phelps early when he smacked a three-run shot off Rusin in the first inning.
Stanton’s seventh home run in his last nine games was a scorching liner that barely cleared the wall in left field. But it left his bat at a rocket-paced 115 mph and caromed off the walls in the visiting bullpen like a pinball.
Stanton, 13 for 36 (.361) with 11 RBI since June 2, is off to the fastest home-run pace of his career. The quickest he had previously hit 22 homers prior to this season was in 89 games back in 2012. At this rate (22 homers in 60 games), he’s on pace to finish with 58 long balls for the season.
“We’re gonna ride him as long as possible,” left fielder Christian Yelich said. “It feels like every time he goes up there he’s putting good swing on the ball, and he’s just caught a bunch in the last few days.”
After his blast in the first, Stanton tacked on his major-league leading 55th RBI an inning later with a slow dribbler down the third-base line that scored Yelich.
Stanton, who has made 334 of his 675 career starts batting third in the lineup, hit fourth for the 100th time in his career, and it could be the spot he stays in if Yelich keeps hitting the way he has lately.
Yelich’s two-out RBI triple in the second inning preceded Stanton’s fourth RBI of the game and manager Dan Jennings said before the game he likes how Yelich, who had two hits Thursday, has been swinging the bat lately.
“We’re going to let it play itself out,” Jennings said. “The whole idea to put him there was to get more traffic on in front of ‘G’ and let him swing the bat and give him run producing situations.”
Yelich doesn’t care where he hits in the lineup. But he knows batting in front of Stanton’s has its perks.
“They’re probably gonna go after me more and make me beat them rather than pitch to him,” he said. “Everybody knows what he can do. You just have to try to get a good pitch to hit in front of him and try to do what you can with it.”