On the same day the Marlins made their blockbuster trade with Toronto in 2012 and Giancarlo Stanton expressed disgust over it on Twitter, Bryce Harper reached out to him and suggested the Nationals would make a great new team for him.
“Get some red, white and blue in your life!” Harper told Stanton on Twitter.
“Dang bro,” Stanton responded. “If only my last name backwards wasn’t NotNats!”
Stanton, $325 million richer and much happier in Marlins colors three years later, sure knows how to stick it to the guys from Washington.
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On Saturday, he drove in the Marlins’ first run with a laser-beam double and added one of the final exclamation points — a solo bomb in the eighth — leading the Marlins to arguably their best win of the season, an 8-0 shutout of the reigning division champions and Stephen Strasburg in front of 18,129 fans at Marlins Park.
“This team can’t be about just one guy,” manager Mike Redmond said. “But he’s our guy in the middle of that lineup that can do a lot of damage, and it seems like when he’s firing on all cylinders that everybody else is, too.”
After stumbling to a 3-11 start, the Marlins, winners of four in a row, are finally showing signs of being the team some picked to be a legit playoff contender. Better starting pitching has a lot to do with it.
Tom Koehler, shredded for seven runs in New York last Sunday, tossed 71/3 scoreless innings — the deepest a Miami starter has pitched into a game all season — and delivered the fourth consecutive quality start by a Marlins pitcher.
During the Marlins’ 3-11 start the starting rotation had an ERA of 5.29 and only four quality starts. Over the past four games, Jarred Cosart, David Phelps, Mat Latos and Koehler have quality starts in each game and have allowed only three earned runs over a combined 262/3 innings (with a combined 1.01 ERA).
“When things are going good, you want to keep it going,” said Koehler, who is now 2-2 with a 4.50 ERA. “We had a rough stretch where we all kind of struggled a little bit, some more than others. I think everyone is starting to get their footing now.”
Koehler gave up six hits but only walked one and struck out four on 95 pitches.
Said Nationals left fielder Jayson Werth: “That was probably the best I’ve seen him pitch.”
Koehler got some defensive help. Second baseman Dee Gordon, leading the majors with 28 hits, made a number of nifty plays. He threw out Harper from his knees to start the fourth, turned a double play in the seventh and made a crucial diving stop up the middle with runners in scoring position to end the sixth.
“I told Dee, ‘You saved Tommy right there,’” Redmond said. “Dee Gordon has done a great job over there.”
The Marlins, ahead only 2-0 after Gordon’s stop in the sixth, got a second RBI single from Justin Bour to make it 3-0 in their half of the sixth and then a fourth run when Marcell Ozuna scored on a double-play groundout by J.T. Realmuto.
Strasburg, 2-1 with a 0.45 ERA in his previous three starts against the Marlins, ended up surrendering four earned runs on eight hits in six innings and was seen having an animated conversation with his pitching coach in the dugout.
Stanton, who went 3 for 3 on Saturday with two RBI, is now a .321 hitter with 23 home runs and 55 RBI in 67 games against the Nationals.