It was a good thing the seats were mostly empty on Thursday at Citizens Bank Park. Otherwise, the ball Giancarlo Stanton drilled on a line drive into the left-field bleachers might have caused serious harm.
Instead, the ball struck some concrete steps, shot 15 to 20 feet straight up in the air, and eventually came down in a fan’s outstretched cap.
“Looked like a 2-iron,” said Marlins pitcher David Phelps.
“[A fan] would not have had time to get out of the way,” chimed in reliever Mike Dunn.
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Stanton’s screaming home run wasn’t the turning point in the Marlins’ 9-1 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies. It was the exclamation point on a sour road trip that ended on a positive note.
Though the Marlins went 4-6 on the trip, they notched series wins over the Phillies and Braves. It was the middle part, when they lost four in a row to the Mets in New York, that stung most.
The Marlins received a strong pitching performance from Phelps while pounding out 12 hits — with Adeiny Hechavarria and Martin Prado combining for seven of them — to close out the trip with their second win in a row.
Phelps turned in seven scoreless innings to earn the victory.
Never mind that it was against a Phillies lineup that didn’t contain a single household name. The Marlins are so starved for wins after their slow start that the quality of the opponent mattered little to them.
“I’m really happy with the results, that’s for sure,” said Phelps, who is filling in for injured starter Henderson Alvarez.
With Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Carlos Ruiz all getting the day off, Phelps held what was left to only three hits. It was the first time in 42 career starts that he went at least seven innings without allowing a run.
On the offensive side, the Marlins — especially Hechavarria and Prado — came to life against Phillies starter Dustin McGowan, who came out of the bullpen to make an emergency start.
After McGowan managed to make it through the first three innings unharmed, he walked the bases loaded in the fourth before Hechavarria came through with a two-run single that put the Marlins on top.
Prado followed later in the inning with another two-run single, and the Marlins were on their way, breaking it open with four more runs in the sixth and capping it off in the ninth on another RBI hit from Hechavarria.
“We had a couple of rough weeks offensively the first two weeks,” said Prado, who went 3 for 5 and drove in four runs. “[Now], I think guys are realizing we were swimming against the current. Now we’re just trying to go with the flow, not try to do too much, not try to be the hero.”
Playing conditions weren’t great on Thursday. A strong wind made the temperatures feel even chillier than they were, and fans stayed home, likely due to the weather and the lousy look of the Phillies.
As a result, the announced attendance of 17,097 made it the smallest crowd in the history of the ballpark, which opened in 2004.
Balls hit high in the air turned into adventures. On one fly ball hit to deep left, Ichiro Suzuki backed toward the wall before running back in too late to make the catch on a ball that dropped in front of him.
The wind could do nothing to the ball Stanton hit, however. Because it was struck with such force and lined low, Stanton’s blast got out in a hurry.
With the trip behind him, the Marlins now return home to open a nine-game homestand, beginning Friday to open a series against the Washington Nationals. The red-hot Mets then visit, followed by the hapless Phillies.
After losing five in a row, the Marlins won their final two games on the trip and returned him in better spirits.
“We all know it’s a long season,” Phelps said. “But nobody likes to lose. You lose five straight, it’s tough. So hopefully it does take off some of the edge.”