MIAMI (AP) — Roused from its apathy for baseball, South Florida let out a long roar Sunday for Giancarlo Stanton, who responded with a wave from the top step of the dugout, affording the crowd a good look at the sport’s newest 50-homer man.
Stanton reached the round number with a tiebreaking drive in the eighth inning, helping the surprising Miami Marlins sweep the San Diego Padres with a 6-2 victory.
Baseball fever broke out at Marlins Park, where Stanton earned a curtain call for the first time since the place opened in 2012.
“For here, that’s about as lively as they’ve been,” he said.
The crowd of 23,725 was typical for the attendance-challenged Marlins, but fans went wild when Stanton became the first National League player to reach 50 homers since Prince Fielder hit 50 for Milwaukee in 2007.
With the score 2-all, Dee Gordon singled to lead off the eighth. Stanton then drove a 2-1 slider from Clayton Richard (6-13) into the hedge in center field.
Fans roared as Stanton celebrated with teammates after returning to the dugout, and the curtain call prompted chants of “M-V-P! M-V-P!”
“He deserves it,” Gordon said. “I don’t know who else deserves it more.”
“We’re a bit early,” Stanton said with a chuckle, “but it’s cool that they’re showing love like that. I really appreciate it.”
Stanton also walked, doubled home a run and singled, going 3 for 3 to hike his average to .296. He increased his RBI total to 108, a career high.
His 17th homer in August tied him for the second-most in major league history in the month, behind Rudy York’s 18 in 1937.
“He’s as locked in as anybody I’ve ever seen,” Padres manager Andy Green said.
The cheering didn’t end with Stanton. After his tiebreaking drive, Christian Yelich hit his first triple of the year and continued home on a throwing error, further raising the decibel level.
“A Little League homer,” Yelich said. “This place came unglued. It was probably the loudest I’ve ever heard a Marlins game, which is nice.”
That ended Richard’s outing. Derek Dietrich then homered off Carter Capps.
The Marlins’ three-game sweep and fourth consecutive victory overall gave them 13 wins in the past 16 games. They swept a series from the Padres for the first time since 2012.
Miami remained 4 1/2 games behind Colorado in the race for the final NL wild card. The Marlins started the season 14-27 and haven’t been to the playoffs since 2003, the longest drought in the league.
“It’s a new gear for us, and one we’ve got to keep pushing,” Stanton said. “We’re doing good, but we can do better, and we need to do better to get there.”
Dan Straily, Kyle Barraclough (5-1) and two other pitchers combined on a seven-hitter. San Diego’s only runs came on Richard’s two-run homer, which barely cleared the 335-foot sign next to the right field foul pole. His only other homer came in 2012.
Richard allowed five runs in seven-plus innings.
“He was outstanding,” Green said. “He deserved a much better fate. He struggled basically with one guy in the lineup all day, and that’s someone who everyone in baseball is struggling with.”
Stanton appreciates the sport’s history, but said he had never heard of York.
“Thinking about all that, the numbers and catching up with this guy and that guy, it’s a distraction,” he said. “You can’t be reading all this. I’ve got to stay focused and be prepared every at-bat. If I’m thinking about my pace and ‘I didn’t hit one yesterday,’ it ain’t going to work.”
A bizarre baserunning mistake helped Straily escape in the fourth. With two out and a runner on first, Jabari Blash hit a popup that first baseman Tyler Moore allowed to drop for a single. When Blash took a wide turn, second baseman Gordon scrambled for the ball and threw behind him to catcher A.J. Ellis, who tagged the runner out.
Padres: RHP Jhoulys Chacin (11-9, 4.10 ERA) starts Monday in the opener of a three-game series against San Francisco. Chacin is 3-0 with a 3.04 ERA in four starts against the Giants this year. RHP Jeff Samardzija (8-12, 4.67 ERA) pitches for visiting San Francisco.
Marlins: RHP Jose Urena (12-5, 3.68 ERA) gets the ball Monday in the opener of a three-game set at NL East-leading Washington.