Gary Sheffield never imagined his home run record with the Marlins would last as long as it did.
"Very surprised it’s taken this long," Sheffield said Sunday, just before Giancarlo Stanton matched his 21-year-old Marlins’ single-season mark with his 42nd home run.
Stanton bashed his Major League-leading 42nd homer off Rockies starter German Marquez, a game-tying opposite-field shot in the third inning. The home run was also the 250th of his career and gave him 21 over his past 33 games.
In terms of his 941 total games played, Stanton became the sixth-fastest player to reach 250 homers, trailing only Ryan Howard, Ralph Kiner, Harmon Killebrew, Albert Pujols and Juan Gonzalez.
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"It’s been fun," Stanton said of his historic power surge. "It’s been a fun challenge every night for me. There’s sometimes where if (a pitcher) throws his pitch, it’s going to get demolished. Can’t explain it. As long as I get extension and lift on the ball, it’s going to go."
Stanton is on pace not only to shatter Sheffield’s record, but surpass the 50- homer benchmark. The Marlins still have 46 games remaining.
Sheffield said he’s surprised Stanton -- or some other Marlin through the years -- hadn’t already broken his record. Miguel Cabrera twice hit more than 40 home runs after he was traded to the Detroit Tigers, but never once hit that many with the Marlins. Carlos Delgado eclipsed 40 homers three times with the Toronto Blue Jays, but failed to hit that many in his one season with the Marlins.
Stanton is the first Marlin other than Sheffield to get to 40. But out of all Marlins, Stanton is the one Sheffield assumed would have already wiped his name from the team’s record books.
"Especially for a guy like him, who is known for home runs," Sheffield said. "I wasn’t really known for just hitting home runs."
Which is true.
Jeff Conine said Sheffield’s 1996 season was the best he’s ever witnessed by any teammate he’s ever played with, and not because of the home runs.
"I hit behind him all year long and the violence of his swing and the ability to lay off pitches and take his walks was remarkable," Conine said. "The ability to do damage when he got a pitch to hit was unreal."
That season, Sheffield hit .314, had a .465 on-base percentage, drove in 120 runs, and struck out just 66 times.
In terms of advanced metrics, Sheffield’s 1996 season ranks as the greatest in franchise history. His 189 OPS+ (on-base plus slugging percentage adjusted by league and park effects) led the majors. By comparison, Stanton’s OPS+ of 164 in 2014 ranks second to Sheffield among the most prolific seasons by a Marlin.
Conine said that by the end of the ’96 season, opponents stopped pitching to Sheffield, which could help to explain the fact he failed to homer over the Marlins’ final 14 games and hit just five in the final month of September.
"It was just one of those things where I was getting walked a lot," Sheffield said. "That’s the part of the game where guys don’t want to face in the lineup. They would allow the next guy to try to hurt you. But my game plan was to try not be a selfish player and make they pitched to guys like Terry Pendleton and Jeff Conine. I believed in their abilities to get the job done.
Monday -- Marlins LHP Adam Conley (4-5, 5.43) vs. San Francisco Giants LHP Ty Blach (8-7, 4.15), 7:10 p.m., Marlins Park.
Tuesday -- Marlins RHP Dan Straily (7-8, 3.74) vs. Giants LHP Madison Bumgarner (2-5, 2.71), 7:10 p.m., Marlins Park.