Stanton’s homers fuel Marlins’ surge in May

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Cash is part of a growing throng of admirers. Stanton went to a Miami Heat playoff game this week and was besieged by fans wanting to pose with him for photos.

He’s fine with the attention.

“Being more popular or whatever comes with the territory,” he said. “It’s better to be good and popular than someone who has people saying, `Whatever. He’s an OK player.’”

The Californian started the season less than OK. On April 28 he was hitting .246 with no home runs, and it’s hardly a coincidence the Marlins were 8-12 and last in the NL East.

“When he was struggling, we went to San Francisco,” Buck recalled. “I told him, `All you need is a little West Coast air, since you’re from here. Get that in those big old muscles of yours, and you’re going to take off.’ He hit a bomb in San Francisco and I said, `There you go, take off.’ Maybe he took it literally.”

Stanton hit five homers in a seven-game stretch and has hardly slowed since. His walk-off grand slam beat the Mets, and his grand slam against the Rockies made part of the scoreboard go blank.

He doesn’t have to homer to make jaws drop. Early this year he hit a liner that never climbed higher than 10 feet and still reached the center field wall on a single bounce.

“I’ve never seen anybody hit a one-hopper to the fence, and he did it,” manager Ozzie Guillen said. “In my time, I don’t see anybody who has the ball jump off his bat like this kid.”

Stanton said the ball he hit hardest in May wasn’t a homer, but a double that started a comeback in the ninth to beat Mets closer Frank Francisco.

He begins June ranked among NL leaders with 13 homers and 39 RBIs, and his average is a season-high .304.

The statistic that makes him proudest is the last one.

“That’s the kind of hitter I’ve been working to be,” he said. “I don’t like having a low average, period. I don’t like the whole 1 for 5 with a homer and everyone else is like `great game’ because you hit a homer. I really don’t like that kind of game.”

Stanton batted .343 in May, and Guillen said the reason was his willingness to hit pitches up the middle and to right field. Guillen considers his young slugger a potential .300 hitter.

“He has the talent to do it,” Guillen said. “And if this guy hits .300, he has a chance to win the MVP, because he’ll have RBIs and home runs.”

The biggest concern about Stanton is keeping him healthy, in part because he tends to flop about in right field with coltish zeal.

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