Growing up in Southern California, Giancarlo Stanton remembers going to what is now called Angel Stadium, hanging out in the outfield bleachers during batting practice, and chasing down home runs.
He would have never laid hands on the one he hit there Monday.
Stanton hammered his 3-run cannon shot beyond human reach. The ball landed in a rock pile on the other side of the wall in left center, bouncing off one boulder before striking another and veering off in a new direction, bing-boinging this way and that like a crazy pinball.
“It’s a warrior,” Stanton said of the baseball, which was retrieved and placed on a shelf in his locker.
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The 33rd home run of Stanton’s season brought a respectful quiet to the crowd, their collective voices going “awwwwww” soon after the ball struck the fat part of his bat, while also helping lift the Marlins to a 7-1 pounding over the first-place Angels.
The home run was also Stanton’s 150th, putting him four behind Dan Uggla on the team’s all-time list.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Stanton — at 24 years and 290 days — became the third-youngest among active players to reach 150 homers. The others: Albert Pujols (24 years and 212 days) and Alex Rodriguez (24 years and 250 days).
In a series that features two of the biggest young superstars in the sport, Stanton and the Angels’ Mike Trout, it was the Marlins’ slugger who took Round 1 of the pseudo-showdown, as Trout went hitless in four at bats.
Stanton’s blast all but overshadowed a strong pitching performance by Jarred Cosart, who is making the Marlins look smart by trading for him before the July 31 deadline. Cosart turned in stellar outing, limiting the Angels to a run while pitching into the eighth.
“He killed that ball,” Cosart said of Stanton’s low-altitude blast. “If that’s not the MVP, I don’t know what is. Hits balls harder and farther than anyone I’ve ever seen. Hopefully he gets a chance to play in the playoffs and let the whole world see what he can do.”
Cosart has gone 2-1 with a 2.08 ERA in his four starts for the Marlins.
The win was a quick elixir for a pair of maddening losses over the weekend in Denver, where the Marlins dropped two games to the last-place Rockies and fell to a game below .500.
Monday’s victory balanced the won-loss scales again. They have held a .500 record at 16 different points this season. They also pulled to within three games of the wild card lead.
Stanton wasn’t the only contributor in the Marlins’ slightly revamped lineup, which featured Marcell Ozuna in the clean-up spot for the first time this season. While Ozuna didn’t turn manager Mike Redmond into an instant genius, going 0 for 4, quite a few of the Marlins’ other hitters fattened their numbers.
Christian Yelich drove in two runs on three hits and slumping Reed Johnson, who had totaled only two hits in his previous 37 at bats going back to June 29, produced two in each of his first two at bats on Monday against Angels starter (and former Marlin) Wade LeBlanc.
LeBlanc, who was making his first major league start since taking the mound for the Marlins in that role on May 6 of last season, made it through the first two innings before coming apart in the third on the second swing through the order.
The Marlins scored three runs in the third.
But it was the fourth when they put the game away. After Yelich gave the Marlins a 4-0 lead with his second RBI single off the ineffective LeBlanc, Angels manager Mike Scioscia went to his bullpen and summoned Cory Rasmus, who promptly struck out Jeff Baker. But he left a 1-0 fastball over the plate to Stanton, who gave it a ride.
“(The difference between) a 4-run game and a 7-run game is night and day,” Stanton said.
With a 7-run cushion, Cosart was able to coast.
“It’s very relaxing,” Cosart said of inheriting a large lead.
Though he had lost to the Angels both times he faced them earlier in the season while still a member of the Houston Astros, he didn’t let them to beat him a third time.
“That’s one of the best lineups in the game, and you know the names on the backs of the jerseys,” Cosart said of the Angels. “From the beginning, I wanted to attack the strike zone.”
Cosart took a shutout into the eighth before Kole Calhoun spoiled the bid with a no-out RBI double.