WASHINGTON — Only three times in the past 33 games has Giancarlo Stanton failed to reach base.
Max Scherzer is one of those pitchers to temporarily halt the white-hot Marlins slugger, holding Stanton hitless with two strikeouts in three at-bats Monday, an 11-2 Nationals win. Stanton’s slashing .364/.473/.926 with 20 homers, 43 RBI and 22 walks in that 33-game stretch, oh by the way.
In his weekly appearance with The Sports Junkies Wednesday, Nats GM Mike Rizzo was asked — as the Burke & Herbert Bank Fan Question of the Week — how sweet it was to watch his ace pitcher take down Stanton.
“Those moments to me are awesome,” Rizzo said. “I’ve known Max for a long time, drafted him back in 2006. To me, it’s the same guy that I drafted in Arizona. It’s get after you, compete, respect but don’t care who you are. I’m coming at ya. Here’s my stuff against your stuff and let’s see who wins.”
Rizzo is gleeful speaking in these terms. It’s what drives him. Baseball’s best pitcher versus its best hitter.
“There’s been some classic matchups in the past that stick out in my mind,” he said. “I remember [Manny] Machado against Scherzer in Baltimore.”
“It was like a classic 12-pitch at-bat,” he described. “And these two guys were grunting and snorting at each other, and Machado ended up hitting a three-run homer and beating us.”
“But it was the same kind of challenge yesterday with Max and Stanton,” he said. “It’s must-see TV and you’ve got two of the best grinding it out and getting after it, one-on-one. It’s beautiful. Regardless of the outcome, I love watching that thing.”
“Obviously it’s much more fun when our guy wins that one-on-one battle,” he clarified. “But that’s baseball in a nutshell right there. That’s what it’s all about. You’ve got two great, elite athletes getting after it and just one-on-one.
As for whether Stanton should be NL MVP, Rizzo said, “I wouldn’t put so much credence in the month of August and September.”
“I mean, this guy, he’s an MVP candidate on his own volition and, to me, it’s a whole body of work,” he said. “It’s the most valuable player of the regular season, not of the last two months.”
Stanton is the first hitter to cross the 50-home run threshold since Chris Davis’ 53 for the Orioles in 2013. On the season, he’s batting .295 with a .670 slugging percentage, 51 homers, 110 RBI and 67 walks in 129 games, the most in which he’s played since 2014 (145).
Could he be the first to reach 60 since Barry Bonds’ record-breaking 73-home run season in 2001? Ryan Howard and Alex Rodriguez have come the closest, with 58 in 2006 and 57 in 2002, respectively.
“He’s a force, man,” Rizzo said. “He’s a guy, when it comes up, it’s like, ‘Uh oh. Stanton’s three hitters away. Stanton’s two hitters away.’ And it affects the mindset of the coaching staff, of the advanced scouts and of the manager. He’s certainly an MVP candidate for sure, for me, if that’s the question. I just wouldn’t base it all on the month of August and September.”
Oh, Stanton still has 31 games left to play.