Pink Louisville Slugger suits slugger Stanton
Walk-off hero jokes he wants to use bat 'tomorrow, next day'
MIAMI -- Mark down Giancarlo Stanton as a fan of the pink Louisville Sluggers that were used at ballparks throughout Major League Baseball on Mother's Day.
Stanton was one of four Miami players Sunday -- joining Omar Infante, Austin Kearns and Emilio Bonifacio -- to use the pink bats, which have been utilized every Mother's Day since 2006, and are meant to raise awareness for breast cancer.
Sporting the pink bat, Stanton made the most of the opportunity to raise awareness for a good cause. The Marlins slugger went 3-for-5 on the afternoon with a pair of singles and a walk-off grand slam that he described as a "no-doubter" in the Marlins' 8-4 win against the Mets.
"I'm gonna use [the pink bat] tomorrow, and the next day," Stanton joked after the game.
While Infante and Kearns started the game with the pink bats, both switched back to their usual bats after unsuccessful trips to the plate in the first inning. Stanton, on the other hand, singled in his first plate appearance, but said he would've stuck with the pink bat even if he had gotten out, because he liked the weight and feel of it.
Whatever the reason for Stanton sticking with the pink bat, it paid off. His grand slam was the third of his career, and it capped a six-run ninth for the Marlins, who overcame a two-run deficit in the inning and clinched their fourth straight series victory.
While Sunday will be remembered mostly for Stanton's grand finale, he wasn't the only Marlin to find success with the special bats. Like Stanton, Bonifacio stuck with the pink Louisville Slugger throughout the game, and it resulted in a 3-for-4 afternoon at the plate, including a pair of triples -- his first two of the season.
Zambrano extends string of quality starts
MIAMI -- Carlos Zambrano is enjoying his offseason move to the Marlins, and his performance on the mound is reflecting that.
Zambrano entered the season as the fourth starter in the Marlins' rotation, but through seven starts, the guy who manager Ozzie Guillen described as the biggest question mark on the staff entering the season is making a case as the team's strongest starter. In Sunday's 8-4 win against the Mets, Zambrano turned in another stellar performance.
"I'm just having fun," Zambrano said. "I'm enjoying my time here in Miami, and it's everything I was looking for."
Zambrano pitched seven innings and gave up just two runs, only one of which was earned, while striking out seven and walking three on the afternoon. The outing marked the third straight start Zambrano has pitched at least seven innings, and it came on the heels of a three-hit shutout of the Astros in his previous start.
"I don't want to say he's back to the top of his game, but very close to that," Guillen said. "He's showing people he can still pitch."
Despite earning a no-decision against the Mets, Zambrano lowered his rotation-best ERA to 1.88. He set the tempo early with a 10-pitch first inning that included two strikeouts and saw the righty locate eight of the 10 offerings in the strike zone. Of the 27 batters he faced, Zambrano threw first-pitch strikes to 20 of them.
Zambrano cruised through three innings, facing 10 batters, but he gave up three singles in the fourth inning, which led to two runs and snapped his string of scoreless innings at 19.
Kirk Nieuwenhuis and David Wright singled to open the inning. They advanced to second and third on John Buck's passed ball. Lucas Duda's groundout to second put the Mets on the board, and Murphy delivered an RBI single.
But Zambrano, who Guillen pushed hard for in the offseason, worked around that inning to turn in his sixth straight quality start, making the Marlins' decision to acquire him from the Cubs for righty Chris Volstad on Jan. 4 seem like arguably their best offseason move.
"If I say I had to do a lot to get Carlos here, I have my opinion and my opinion is very strong," Guillen said. "But I don't have to pay Carlos. [Marlins president of baseball operations] Larry [Beinfest] is the one who has to make those deals. And [Marlins owner] Jeffrey [Loria] and those front-office people.
"Carlos wanted to pitch for us. Carlos told me a long time ago, if you ever go to the Marlins, make sure you mention my name. I think it's been working for both sides -- it's working for him and it's working for us."
Reyes heating up, puts April slump behind him
MIAMI -- He's not quite where he wants to be, but Jose Reyes is certainly getting close to hitting his stride.
A four-hit game on Saturday clearly helped as it raised the Miami shortstop's batting average to .256.
Actually, in the month of May, the All-Star has shown signs of breaking out of an April slump. Reyes entered Sunday hitting .319 with a .407 on-base percentage, plus 10 runs scored.
In April, Reyes floundered at a .220 average with a .293 on-base percentage and six runs scored.
"It's getting close," Reyes said. "I know when I'm at the top of my game, I'm going to help this ballclub to win a lot more ballgames."
Perhaps not by coincidence, the Marlins have been winning in May after going through a rough first month.
"I'm seeing the ball better. I'm swinging at better pitches," Reyes said. "I'm going up there with an idea. The first month of the season, it was rough for me to put it together. I just need to be consistent. I know if I'm able to be consistent on a daily basis, I'm going to be fine."
For Reyes, the early part of the season also has been an adjustment process after spending nine seasons with the Mets. He signed the richest contract in Marlins history -- $106 million for six years.
"I don't think I put pressure on myself because I signed a big contract here and stuff like that," Reyes said. "It's a long season. You're going to go through some struggles. You need to continue to work and good results are going to come. It's a long season. I believe in my talent and I believe in what I can do on the field. I know from the bottom of my heart that I'm going to turn it around."
Webb emerging as dependable bullpen arm
MIAMI -- Versatility is one reason why Ryan Webb has become a valuable Marlins reliever.
The right-hander can pitch in the sixth or seventh innings, and he's durable to work more than one inning. On Wednesday in Houston, he threw 1 1/3 innings and picked up the victory. Twice he's gone two innings.
"We all have got to step up and do whatever we're called upon to do that day," said Webb, a native of Clearwater, Fla. "It's kind of been different for everybody at different times. You've got to always be ready to pitch and do whatever job they ask you to do that day."
Webb has quietly gone about his business. But his numbers are showing he's one of the most dependable arms in the bullpen.
The right-hander's 18 appearances are most on the team and tied for the second most in the Majors.
Mets lefty Tim Byrdak paces the Majors with 20 appearances, entering Sunday.
Webb is one of five relievers with 18. And his 17 2/3 innings is tied for the 16th most in the big leagues.
A sinkerball pitcher, Webb also happens to be throwing harder than any Miami reliever.
According to FanGraphs.com, which charts pitcher's velocity, Webb's fastball average is 94.2 mph. Closer Heath Bell is second at 93.2 mph.
In the past, Webb has reached 97 mph, which is rare for a sinkerball pitcher.
"I think velocity comes over the course of the season," Webb said. "The more you build up, the harder you're going to throw. Mechanically, right now, I feel pretty good. I'm repeating the delivery and being aggressive down in the zone. That's all I'm trying to do."
Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro. Tom Green is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.