Leading up to the Home Run Derby last Monday in Minnesota, we heard several players — Jose Abreu and Mike Trout among them — cite the myth that the Derby leads to second-half woes. Perhaps Marlins outfielder Giancarlo Stanton can serve as evidence in the opposite direction.
The slugger, who lost 1-0 in the semifinals of the Home Run Derby to Todd Frazier, homered on Friday and Saturday against the Giants, the first two games back from the All-Star break. Stanton went into the break slumping, going homerless with a .580 OPS in his previous 15 games. As MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro reports, Stanton credits the Derby for helping rediscover his swing:
“Having to lock in for the Derby made me feel better,” Stanton said. “I wasn’t myself the last couple of weeks. The short time off and the Derby kind of helped me out. I think it will be all right.”
Stanton leads the National League with 23 home runs. He is locked in a tie with Paul Goldschmidt for the league lead in RBI with 65 and he carries an impressive .295/.394/.551 slash line.
As Ken Woolums and Daniel R. Braunstein explained at Five Thirty Eight, a hitter’s second-half decline has more to do with expected regression rather than messed up mechanics caused by the Home Run Derby.
Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw entered Wednesday night’s start against the Marlins without having issued a walk in his previous three starts. In fact, his last walk came on April 3 when he issued a free pass to Paul Goldschmidt with the bases empty and two outs in the bottom of the first inning. All told, Kershaw was on a streak of 26 walk-less innings before he took the mound at home to take on the Marlins.
Kershaw started off Wednesday in character, striking out the side in the first inning. He issued a walk in a tough second inning, but escaped without allowing a run. Kershaw walked two more in the third and again danced out of danger. In the fourth, Kershaw walked Lewis Brinson to load the bases with no outs and — you guessed it — didn’t end up allowing a run. His errant control finally came back to bite him in the fifth when Kershaw issued back-to-back two-out walks, then served up a three-run home run to Miguel Rojas down the left field line. His night was done when he completed the inning. Five innings, three runs, five hits, six walks, seven strikeouts, 112 pitches.
The six walks Kershaw issued over five innings marked his first six-walk outing since April 7, 2010 when he issued six free passes to the Pirates in 4 2/3 innings. The only other time he walked as many was on August 3, 2009 against the Brewers in a four-plus inning outing. Kershaw hasn’t even walked five batters in an outing recently — the last time was September 23, 2012 against the Reds.