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MIAMI — The Colorado Rockies still lead the National League wild-card race, but they are in danger of getting swept by the Miami Marlins on Sunday.
Miami right fielder Giancarlo Stanton, who has homered in each of the first two games of this series, is making things miserable for the Rockies (65-51), who have lost four of their past five games overall.
Stanton leads the majors with 41 homers, and his Marlins (55-60), while realistically out of playoff contention, have been playing good baseball lately. In fact, the Marlins have won five of their past seven series, including a series victory over the first-place Washington Nationals.
As for the 6-foot-6, 250-pound Stanton, virtually everyone is impressed with what he is accomplishing, including Rockies bench coach Mike Redmond, who used to be his manager with the Marlins.
“I had him for a few years, and nobody hits the ball harder than he does,” Redmond said. “When he’s going good, you have to be really careful.
“The last couple of days, we just haven’t executed good enough pitches to get him out.”
Rockies right-hander German Marquez (9-4, 3.88 ERA) has the unenviable task of trying to get Stanton out on Sunday.
Marquez is set to make his 20th start of the season against the Marlins, a team he has never faced. He has made six straight quality starts, a record for a Rockies rookie. And in those six starts, he is 4-0 with a 2.95 ERA, 41 strikeouts and 10 walks in 39 innings.
Miami will counter with right-hander Vance Worley (2-2, 4.82 ERA). In three career appearances against Colorado, Worley is 1-1 with a 2.45 ERA, but he has not faced the Rockies since 2012.
But the big story continues to be Stanton, who went 3-for-4 with three RBIs and two runs scored on Saturday. He fell a triple short of the cycle and has 20 homers in his past 32 games.
Stanton is one homer short of the Marlins’ season franchise record set by Gary Sheffield in 1996.
Furthermore, since 2000, only two players — David Ortiz in 2006 and Chris Davis in 2013 — have reached 40 homers quicker than Stanton, who accomplished the feat on Friday.
“It’s been fun,” Stanton said of the groove he is in lately. “It’s been fun downloading info on the pitchers. The daily preparation has been fun.
“You can never expect that every time a pitcher throws a pitch it will get demolished. But as long as I get extension, and I get lift on a ball, it’s going to go.”
Marlins manager Don Mattingly said he thinks that pitchers, during this Stanton hot streak, are afraid to make mistakes against him, and that fear has backfired.
“Pitchers are trying to make (perfect) pitches, and sometimes they hold on to it too long and don’t want to do this or don’t want to do that.
“(As a result,) they are leaving some stuff there to hit. And (Stanton) is not missing.”
The Rockies have an incredibly dangerous lineup that features major-league RBIs leader Nolan Arenado, All-Star leadoff batter Charlie Blackmon, who went 4-for-5 with two steals and two runs scored on Saturday; Mark Reynolds, who has 23 homers; Gerardo Parra, who is hitting .343; Trevor Story, who has 15 homers; two-time All-Star catcher Jonathan Lucroy; and 2016 NL batting champ D.J. LeMahieu.
Miami, on the other hand, has a red-hot Stanton. And, right now, that’s enough.
“Every time he comes up to bat, it’s a game-changer,” Marlins pitcher Justin Nicolino said Saturday after picking up his first win of the season. “I’m glad I don’t have to face him. He is locked in right now.”