|Yankees' Stanton faces Marlins for first time in Miami since trade|
MIAMI -- When the New York Yankees visit the Miami Marlins on Tuesday for the start of a two-game series, much of the attention will be on the return of right fielder/DH Giancarlo Stanton.
A four-time All-Star, Stanton starred for the Marlins last year, leading the league in homers (59), RBIs (132) and slugging percentage (.631). He was named the National League MVP after his incredible 2017 season and yet the Marlins dumped his huge contract this past winter, trading him to the Yankees for second baseman Starlin Castro and two prospects.
Stanton, who is battling through hamstring pain, is expecting the unexpected in this brief series in Miami.
"Walking in and going to the visitors' side of the dugout (at Marlins Park) will be weird," Stanton said. "But I'm looking forward to it -- (Miami) was a big part of my life. It will be a cool experience."
Yankees manager Aaron Boone said he expects this to be emotional for Stanton.
"He's going back to a city where he grew up in a lot of ways," Boone said. "He came up through their system, made the major leagues and became the face of their franchise.
"From what I've seen of him the past four or five months, I think he will handle it pretty well."
Stanton, whose OPS is down from a career-best 1.007 last year to .896 this season, is batting .285 with 26 doubles, 32 homers and 80 RBIs in 123 games.
He is being relied on more than usual at the moment because the Yankees are without three injured starters who combined to hit 110 homers last season -- catcher Gary Sanchez, shortstop Didi Gregorius and right fielder Aaron Judge.
Sanchez (groin injury) could return by the end of this month. Judge (fractured right wrist) will be out until at least early September. Gregorius, who has a left-heel contusion, could return this week but likely not Tuesday.
"There's nothing broken, but he's got a significant bruise," Boone said of Gregorius. "There is swelling in there."
Perhaps those injuries might level the playing field a bit between the Yankees (78-46, second place in the American League East) and the Marlins (50-76, last place in the NL East).
Tuesday's pitching matchup features a battle of right-handers -- rookie Pablo Lopez (2-3, 3.79 ERA) for the Marlins and veteran Masahiro Tanaka (9-4, 4.03) for the Yankees.
Lopez, 22, struggled in his most recent start, allowing six runs in 5 1/3 innings in a loss to the Atlanta Braves.
A 6-foot-3, 200-pounder from Venezuela, Lopez has a respectable WHIP of 1.17 in his eight major-league starts.
But since making his big-league debut on June 30 with a win over the New York Mets, Lopez has never had either three consecutive poor starts or three straight quality outings. What Lopez is or can be as a pitcher has yet to be determined.
Tanaka, a 6-3, 215-pounder from Japan who turns 30 in November, is much more established, posting a 61-32 record and a 3.62 ERA in five major-league seasons.
He is one victory from his fifth consecutive double-figure-win season. Batters are hitting .232 against him this season, and his WHIP is 1.12.
Tanaka has been much better on the road than at home this year, posting a 6-0 record and a 3.86 ERA when not inside Yankee Stadium. He is 3-4 with a 4.27 ERA at home.
That could bode well for Tuesday's start. However, Tanaka wants to reverse a trend that saw him dominate in July (2-0, 1.75 ERA) but struggle so far in August (0-3, 5.17 ERA in three starts).
Watch out for Marlins first baseman Derek Dietrich on Tuesday. In six career at-bats against Tanaka, he is batting .667 with a home run and two RBIs.
As for the Yankees' lineup without their injured stars, expect second baseman Gleyber Torres to slide over to shortstop. Neil Walker will likely start at second base. Catcher Austin Romine has passed concussion protocol and should start behind the plate.
New York's outfield, left to right, could be Brett Gardner, Aaron Hicks and Stanton.
"I think we've responded well," Stanton said when asked about the injuries. "It's a good test for us to play well when we are not at our full potential. I think other guys will step up."