MIAMI — It’s the Summer of Stanton, and that means baseballs are flying over fences at an impressive rate.
In fact, it’s been a decade since a National League slugger reached 50 homers. Prince Fielder hit exactly 50 for the Milwaukee Brewers in 2007, and Miami Marlins star Giancarlo Stanton figures to easily eclipse that total with a month-plus remaining in the regular season.
Stanton, who leads the major leagues with 49 homers, will get a chance to add to his total on Sunday as Miami closes a brief three-game homestand with an afternoon game against the San Diego Padres. Stanton also has a team-high 105 RBIs.
But he is not Miami’s only slugger. Left fielder Marcell Ozuna has 31 home runs and 102 RBIs. In Marlins history, only one other duo has reached at least 30 homers and 100 RBIs in the same season — Carlos Delgado (33 homers, 115 RBIs) and Miguel Cabrera (33 homers, 116 RBIs) in 2005.
Stanton and Ozuna have a shot at the Marlins single-season RBIs record of 121, which was set by Preston Wilson in 1999.
Ozuna had a solo homer on Saturday in Miami’s 2-1 victory over the Padres in 11 innings. And by defeating the Padres (57-72), the Marlins (65-63) won their third straight game and remained 4 1/2 games behind Colorado for the final wild-card playoff spot. Since May 28, the Marlins have one of the top four records in the majors at 48-33.
“At this point, it’s just move on,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. “We’ve talked about winning series. But at this point, we have to get greedy (and go for the sweep on Sunday).”
To get that sweep, the Marlins will start right-hander Dan Straily (8-8, 3.83 ERA) against Padres left-hander Clayton Richard (6-12, 4.89).
Straily, 28, will make his 27th start of the season, which will tie for second-most in his career. His personal best in terms of starts occurred last year, when he opened 31 games.
Last year was a career season for Straily, who went 14-8 with a 3.76 ERA. His ERA this year is comparable, but his results have not been there in terms of wins.
Part of the problem has been a poor second half this year. After starting out 7-4 with a 3.31 ERA, he has gone 1-4 with a 5.10 ERA in the second half. Interestingly, he was huge in the second half last year, going 10-2 with a 3.10 ERA.
Richard is 3-1 with a 1.99 ERA in five career starts against the Marlins. And he is 1-0 with a 1.46 ERA in two games at Marlins Park.
Against all competition this season, Richard has been a ground-ball machine, producing 308 rollers, which ranks No. 1 in the majors.
He’s been hot lately, posting a 3-1 record and a 2.36 ERA in his past four starts.
Richard, who turns 34 on Sept. 12, will be a free agent this season. The former Michigan Wolverines standout could bolt the Padres in search of a bigger contract given the death of even mid-level major league pitching.
If the Padres happen to get a lead late in the game, manager Andy Green will likely turn to All-Star closer Brad Hand to avoid a sweep.
“He’s as good as anybody,” Green said of Hand, a former Marlins reliever. “It’s fun to be able to call on him in tough situations.”