Update: Stanton hit No. 59, a two-run shot in the bottom of the eighth inning off of Rex Brothers.
Marlins outfielder Giancarlo Stanton was looking like a sure bet to reach 60 home runs, but he hit the skids these last few days, going a homerless 2-for-14 in the final game of a three-game set in Arizona and all three games at Coors Field against the Rockies.
Stanton got back on track on Thursday evening, blasting his 58th home run of the season in the bottom of the fourth inning at home against Braves starter Julio Teheran. The Marlins were already leading 4-0 and the bases were empty with two outs when Stanton lifted a first-pitch breaking ball out to left-center field.
The Marlins have three more games remaining against the Braves before the season ends, but hitting two more home runs in three games is certainly something Stanton is capable of doing. Along with the major league-best 58 home runs, Stanton is batting .277/.374/.630 with 127 RBI and 120 runs scored in 676 plate appearances.
The Red Sox have some tough decisions to make in advance of the World Series next week; namely, what to do with some of their hottest-hitting players once the series shifts to a National League park — and National League rules. During a press conference on Saturday, manager Alex Cora said he’d be open to the idea of starting All-Star right fielder Mookie Betts at second base when the club’s regular DH, J.D. Martinez, is forced to play the outfield during away games.
The Red Sox carry home field advantage through the Fall Classic, so Games 1 and 2 will be played at Fenway Park — as well as Games 6 and 7, should those become necessary. Depending on the outcome of NLCS Game 7 later tonight, World Series Games 3 through 5 will be played at Dodger Stadium or Miller Park. That’s when Betts might take over the keystone from Ian Kinsler and Brock Holt, both of whom have shared second base duties over the course of the 2018 postseason.
The idea isn’t without merit. Betts and Martinez comprise two of the team’s top talents at the plate and, should the Red Sox need to stave off elimination in Games 4 and 5, sitting either of them doesn’t make sense. The 26-year-old Betts led the team with a staggering .346/.438/.640 batting line, 32 home runs, 30 stolen bases, and career-best 10.4 fWAR over 614 PA, while Martinez posted some career totals of his own, slashing .330/.402/.629 with 43 home runs, a 1.031 OPS, and 5.9 fWAR in 649 PA. This wouldn’t be the first time Betts has taken reps at second, either, as he’s logged 15 games at the position over the course of his five-year career, most recently during a 4-1 win over the Yankees in August.
Whether or not Betts is considered a lock for all three games is another question, one to which Cora didn’t give a definite answer. “I don’t know, man,” the skipper told reporters Saturday. “[Betts] already played second during the regular season, so there’s always a chance, I guess.” He later added that while Betts would be taking ground balls at second, it’s part of the routine he’s maintained all year — so nothing should be read into it until a clear decision has been announced.