Don Mattingly likes the way things are going with Giancarlo Stanton batting in the No. 2 hole and he sees no reason to move last year’s Home Run Derby champion from that spot moving forward.
The Marlins skipper, who reached out to Stanton prior to moving him on May 23 from the cleanup spot to batting right behind leadoff man Dee Gordon, said as long as Stanton keeps producing the way he has and the guys behind him keep driving in runs he could see the Marlins lineup remaining as is the rest of the season.
“I think the combination of [Stanton] and Dee has been very good up there,” Mattingly said prior to Friday’s game against the Arizona Diamondbacks when asked if his plan was to keep Stanton in the No. 2 hole the rest of the season.
“Dee has been hot with Giancarlo behind him also. I think it puts pitchers in a tough spot with Dee. They’ve got to throw some fastballs, they need to try to speed up and when they do that they make mistakes. You get a pitcher divided a little bit where he has to think about Dee and and he’s not going to worry so much about Giancarlo. It’s been a good combination.”
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Stanton, who has made all but 299 of his career plate appearances as either the No. 3, 4, 5 or 6 hitter, went into Friday’s game batting .394 (13 for 33) with four runs scored, three homers, eight RBI and 10 strikeouts in eight starts in the No. 2 hole this season. Prior to the move, Stanton was batting .261 with 23 runs scored, 11 homers, 30 RBI and 43 strikeouts.
Gordon has clearly benefitted as well. He’s batting .424 (14 for 33) with nine runs, four RBI, four walks and four strikeouts since Stanton moved behind in the lineup. Prior that, Gordon was batting .263 with 21 runs, six RBI, seven walks and 26 strikeouts. He also producing steals (4 in 8 games) at a higher rate with Stanton behind him than he was when Stanton was batting fourth (13 steals in 40 games).
The key, though, is the fact Ozuna (.333, 3 HR, 9 RBI) and Bour (.389, 4 HR, 8 RBI) have continued to produce since Stanton was moved up in the batting order.
“I think as long as Ozuna keeps swinging the bat like that, the way he has, and Justin Bour back there... I think it's a great spot for [Stanton] and it’s worked,” Mattingly said. “So, right now, if you ask me ‘Are you going to leave him there?’ Yeah. I’m going to leave him there. Will he be there the whole year? You don’t know that part.”
▪ Bour’s first career stolen base in Thursday’s 3-2 loss to the Diamondbacks came unexpectedly to his manager.
“I was surprised,” Mattingly said. “Actually we thought maybe we gave [a sign] we didn’t. [Diamondbacks starter Zack Giekne] was getting long with [his delivery] over there. Zack can get really short. But also when he thinks a guy won’t run he can get a bit long. Obviously Bone [first base coach Perry Hill] recognized it, gave JB the time and that’s a possibility.”
▪ Mattingly said the reason he yanked starter Jeff Locke had nothing to do with his pitch count. Locke had thrown 80 pitches and was leading 2-0 with two runners on base and two outs in the sixth when Mattingly called on reliever David Phelps. The bullpen eventually blew the lead.
“It wasn't so much pitch wise, it’s the ups and downs and it was really where he was at in the order,” Mattingly said. “[With All-Star Paul] Goldschmidt [up] there, we knew it was the right spot [to make the change]. We knew [Locke] was getting tired a little bit. So, you know, his outing was really, really good. We hope he’s able to continue to do that.”