It took him longer than he wanted, but when Giancarlo Stanton finally belted his first home run of the season Saturday night, and he really got into it.
The first inning blast off Cubs left-hander Travis Wood soared over the left-field video scoreboard and only stayed inside Marlins Park because it bounced off the sliding glass doors behind it.
The ball traveled an estimated 472-feet — the third-longest blast of his career and the longest hit in Marlins Park history. But even a Stanton-sized power jolt doesn’t seem to be enough to jump-start the Marlins these days.
Thanks to some shoddy defense and continued troubles at the plate, the Marlins lost for the third consecutive night to the Cubs, 3-2, in front of an announced crowd of 27,519 — the second-largest home crowd of the season — on University of Miami Family Day.
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“I feel like I’m saying the same thing every single night,” said frustrated Marlins manager Mike Redmond, whose team fell to 5-19, which is just one loss shy of matching the worst start in franchise history set in 1995. “We’re right there. We’re waiting on that big hit.
“A guy makes a heck of a play on [Austin] Kearns’ ball up the middle in the eighth. It’s just kind of the way it’s been for us this year.”
The guy Redmond is referring to is Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro, who made the play of the game in the bottom of the eighth to preserve the Cubs’ 3-2 lead.
With runners on first and second and two outs in the Marlins’ eighth, Castro dove to his left and stopped a stinging ground ball from Kearns to stop what would have been the game-tying RBI. From the ground, Castro then flipped the ball to Darwin Barney at second base for the force out.
Although replays appeared to show otherwise, second base umpire Jeff Nelson ruled the throw just beat a sliding Stanton to the bag.
David DeJesus drove home Wellington Castillo with what turned out to be the winning run for the Cubs (9-14) in the seventh inning on a two-out RBI single up the middle off Marlins reliever Mike Dunn.
“[Alex] Sanabia pitched his butt off tonight,” said Dunn, who came in with two outs and a runner on first to face left-handed pinch-hitter Julio Borbon, whom he promptly walked before giving up the decisive hit to DeJesus.
“The team battled the whole game. My job is to go in there and get two lefties [out]. It’s on me. The team’s battling until the last out of every game. It was on my shoulders tonight, and I didn’t get the job done.”
Sanabia went 6 2/3 innings, gave up six hits and two walks and ended up taking the hard-luck loss — the first time in his career he’s had back-to-back losses.
“As a pitcher you want to stay in there for as long as possible, but it’s a situational move with the lefty coming up and a fresh arm in the bullpen,” said Sanabia, who fell to 2-3 with a 4.85 ERA. “Makes sense.”
Had the Marlins played better defense before that, Sanabia might not have left the game. Castillo opened the frame with a softly hit single to right field that landed between Stanton and second baseman Donovan Solano, one of whom might have made the catch had there been better communication.
“It was in no man’s land,” Redmond said. “But we probably should have caught that ball.”
The Marlins had arguably the best chance to rally just after that. But Miguel Olivo, who belted his second home run of the season — a 398-foot solo shot that landed in The Clevelander to tie the score at 2 in the second, bounced into a rally killing double play after Justin Ruggiano and Joe Mahoney opened the seventh inning with a walk and a single.
The good news for the Marlins — if there is some — is that at least the power in their biggest bat appears to be flickering a little.
By hitting Saturday’s home run, Stanton ended a run of 72 consecutive at-bats dating back to Oct. 1 of last season without a long ball. It was the third-longest stretch of his career without a long ball. Last season, he opened the year without hitting a home run until his 69th at-bat.
“We’ve all been waiting for that,” Redmond said of Stanton’s homer. “It was a great at-bat. He was aggressive on the 3-1 count and he crushed it — definitely a good sign. He’s been putting good at-bats together. He’s going to hit. We know he’s going to hit. I’m sure it’s a big relief from him to get that first home run out of the way.”