Christian Yelich and Giancarlo Stanton grew up in Los Angeles neighborhoods about 30 minutes away from each other.
Yelich, a Thousand Oaks native, grew up going to games at Dodger Stadium, as did Stanton, who grew up in nearby Sherman Oaks.
“Every year it’s nice to go back and play in the stadium where I grew up playing baseball and learned the game,” Yelich said. “It’s always a cool couple of days.”
As they visit their home area during a four-game series with the Dodgers starting Monday, Yelich and Stanton have been on much different trajectories for most of this season.
Yelich has reached base safely in all 17 games this season, and his on-base percentage entering Sunday’s game (.529) led the majors. He also entered Sunday with 15 walks, which was tied for third overall in the majors.
“Christian is maturing all the time at the plate; he’s getting better all the time, and he’s got even more than this,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. “He’s seeing the ball early. He stays in the middle and uses the whole field. He doesn’t get worried if he has a strike on him.”
Stanton’s start to the 2016 season has been much different. The star slugger was hitting only .193 (his worst average through 15 games in his career) entering Sunday’s game, when he had three hits, including a solo home run — his fourth of the season.
The Marlins are hoping the familiar confines of Dodger Stadium, a place where Stanton has played well during his career, will help him continue to progress, while Yelich continues his torrid pace.
“It’s always fun to go to L.A. whether I’m playing good or bad,” Stanton said. “I have a lot of built-up memories that will stay with me forever.”
Stanton missed the second half of last season after breaking the hamate bone in his left hand.
The last time Stanton began a season hitting this poorly was in 2013 when he hit .200 through April 25 after coming off knee surgery to remove bone chips.
“I just have to have better selection and put the ball on the barrel, just find something good to hit,” Stanton said. “Nothing is clicking on all cylinders, but if you get a few dingers here and there and a few hard-hit balls when you’re not feeling your best … that’s where pitch selection and a few other things come into play.”
Stanton typically thrives at National League West ballparks. He had gone 0 for 8 with four strikeouts through the first two games against the Giants before Sunday’s better results.
“He just looks like a guy who’s not seeing the ball well right now,” Mattingly said. “I don’t think there’s anything wrong with his swing or wrong with him. He’s just not picking it up early.”
Stanton has hit .304 for his career at Dodger Stadium (17 for 60) with six home runs, including a towering home run last season, and 15 RBI.
“I hope being in L.A. helps him, but I just don’t think it’s about a place,” Mattingly said. “I think it’s more like he’ll get his feel in there, and he’s going to pick it up. Of all the worries I have about this team, he’s not one of them. He’ll end up being Giancarlo and will do what he does.”
Adeiny Hechavarria did not start Sunday’s game but delivered a pinch-hit single in the eighth inning. Hechavarria was hitting just .184 (9 for 49) with one home run and eight RBI in 15 games entering Sunday, and he’s gone 0 for 16 when batting in the seventh spot in the lineup. Mattingly said he would like to give Hechavarria rest periodically to avoid any issues with his hamstrings — an injury that ended his season in early September last year.
▪ Monday: Marlins LHP Wei-Yin Chen (0-1, 4.91 ERA) at Los Angeles Dodgers RHP Ross Stripling (0-0, 2.65), 10:10 p.m., Dodger Stadium.
▪ Tuesday: Marlins RHP Tom Koehler (1-2, 4.80) at Dodgers LHP Clayton Kershaw (2-0, 1.50), 10:10 p.m., Dodger Stadium.