The final missing piece of the Marlins’ resurgent lineup might return this weekend.
Marlins manager Don Mattingly said Giancarlo Stanton, who has been limited to a pinch-hitting role since returning from the disabled list Sept. 6, and might be reinserted into the starting lineup as early as Friday in Philadelphia.
Stanton suffered a grade 3 groin strain on August 13 and was originally feared lost for the remainder of the season.
Stanton made a remarkably quick return, and has gone 1 for 4 with a single and an RBI on a sacrifice fly in his five pinch-hit appearances, but has not played in right field.
Stanton has hit 10 home runs in 42 career games at Citizens Bank Park, but has gone 1 for 22 there this season.
Stanton would be the latest key player that has returned to health and productivity in recent weeks and has given the Marlins’ batting order a much needed boost.
Stanton has hit 25 home runs and has 71 RBI this season, and has looked more comfortable of late in batting practice and in fielding drills.
The Marlins scored seven runs in three consecutive games this week — something they had not done the entire season.
Christian Yelich continues to have a career season, with Martin Prado and J.T. Realmuto each maintaining above-.300 averages.
But with Dee Gordon’s suspension coming after only 21 games, and subsequent injuries to Justin Bour and Stanton leading to prolonged time on the DL, and Marcell Ozuna hampered by nagging injuries, the Marlins’ lineup has not had time to gel to its full potential.
That is until now perhaps?
“Since we’ve been able to get [Bour] back and Marcell back healthy again it’s like the two-headed or three-headed monster becomes a lot more dangerous,” Mattingly said. “Then you have five guys in there and some add-on guys and it takes the pressure off. We were missing that for about 45 days and that hurt us.”
Ozuna matched his single-season high home run total Wednesday when he hit his 23rd of the season to give the Marlins the lead for good in a 7-5 win over the Braves. Despite dealing with wrist and knee injuries, Ozuna is hitting a career-best .270 and has 72 RBI.
Bour is 4 for 17 with two RBI since also coming back from the disabled list Sept. 6, but has begun to show progress at the plate.
With Stanton’s return, the lineup could take shape the way the Marlins originally intended.
But will 16 games be enough time to overtake at least two of the trio of teams they are chasing for a Wild Card spot?
The Marlins (73-73) entered their day off Thursday trailing the Giants (the top Wild Card team) by 4½ games, the Mets (second Wild Card) by four games and the Cardinals by 3½.
The Marlins have three games left against the Mets, whose other 13 remaining games are against the Twins, Phillies and Braves — all of whom are at least 16 games under .500.
The Cardinals and Giants’ remaining schedules are tougher as they began a four-game series against each other Thursday.
St. Louis finishes with trips to Colorado and the Cubs before playing the Reds and Pirates at home. San Francisco has six more against the Dodgers, three against the Rockies and four more against the Padres, whom they have gone 0-6 against since the All-Star break.
“We’re talking about winning every day,” Mattingly said. “We still don’t have control of our situation and someone else could still do the same thing. But we’re capable of putting the pressure on by going out and putting wins up every day.”
The Marlins claimed right-handed pitcher Odrisamer Despaigne off waivers from the Orioles Thursday and designated Robert Andino for assignment. Despaigne went 9-18 with a 4.84 ERA in three seasons in Baltimore and is expected to join the team Friday in Philadelphia.
▪ Friday: Marlins RHP Tom Koehler (9-11, 3.97 ERA) at Philadelphia Phillies LHP Adam Morgan (2-10, 5.73 ERA), 7:05 p.m., Citizens Bank Park.
▪ Saturday: Marlins RHP Jose Urena (4-6, 4.89 ERA) at Phillies RHP Jeremy Hellickson (11-9, 3.76 ERA), 7:05 p.m., Citizens Bank Park.