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Different hand placement, approach have helped Stanton break out of early struggles at the plate

Four inches. 

Giancarlo StantonThat's what's made all the difference in Giancarlo Stanton's swing since the end of April.

"Basically, I'm keeping my hands about four inches further back," said Stanton, who is hitting .344 with two doubles, five home runs and nine RBI since April 28th. "Keep them here and the shoulder stays down. Four damn inches is the whole thing."

Well, four inches and a better approach -- one that relies less on trying to destroy the ball and more on trying to put backspin on it.

Hitting coach Eduardo Perez said creating more backspin on swings has been something he's trying to get all Marlins hitters to do more of this season because of the larger dimensions at Marlins Park. Instead of just crushing the ball and see it fly out of Sun Life Stadium like they did in the past, Perez said his hitters realized through a painful month of April that creating backspin is a necessary ingredient to hitting success.

"Flyballs don't get out of that ballpark," Perez said. "What gets out is line drives. I think you saw it early in the [Cubs] series with Hanley the way he hit those home runs to straight away center. It was more of a line drive. Left-center is a line drive. Those balls have to have backspin in order to leave that ballpark.

"Can the ballpark hold these guys? No. But you have to have the right approach. Right now, we're working on approach more than anything. We have to be able to backspin baseballs. We have to use gap to gap [hitting]. We have to be conscious of base hits, starting rallies and keeping the lines moving. That's the way to go there."

The Marlins hit just .228 in the month of April and produced a franchise-low 73 runs. At home, the they actually hit better than they did on the road, posting a .255 average with 46 runs scored in 11 games. But they hit just nine home runs at Marlins Park and had a lot of long, meaningless fly ball outs.

"I don't think it was about listening to me. I think it was about their experiences," Perez said. "You could see their flustered faces on the way back to the dugout. They were like 'Wow. I got a hold of that.' Or, I hit it well and in a lot of ballparks it goes.' Well, no. You got to get some backspin on it. We get some backspin going the ball is going to go no matter what.

"You look at Murph. Right now, he calls himself the all-time leader in home runs at the stadium. He's turning on pitches on the inside part, has good backspin on it and it goes. It's a matter of having the right approach, looking for the pitch you have to look for and driving the ball to the gaps. If you get out it front, with that rotation, it's going to go [out]. I don't care who you are -- how big or how small. If you try to lift, my friend you're in for a long night."

Stanton said before he adjusted his swing he felt like he had hit "maybe three home runs" out at Marlins Park only to be disappointed to see them land in opposing mitts as outs. Before his three-run blast to center on April 29th, Stanton went a career-long 97 at-bats and 27 games without a home run.

"I had some line drives too that just didn't go far enough either," Stanton said. "The same ones I got in Frisco -- my homers in Frisco -- those wouldn't have gone out at home.

"For guys like me, Gaby [Sanchez], [John Buck], we kind of hit those high fly balls if we're going to hit homers. Now, those are routine fly balls at home. It's just more stick to the gaps and line drive approach like we've been doing. Hanley's balls. My balls in Frisco. Subconsciously you see that big ballpark and you try to put a little more into it. But that's what you have to stay away from."

> Manager Ozzie Guillen said he thought about putting Stanton back in the cleanup spot Monday in Houston, but decided against it.

"LoMo is hitting about .500 against the kid who is pitching today -- Wandy," Guillen said. "But [aside from that] I think when you're winning you try to leave stuff as it is, make it easy for everyone. I'm not going to start moving people around and start playing around with the lineups when you're winning."


> Marlins (14-14): 1. Jose Reyes SS, 2. Emilio Bonifacio CF, 3. Hanley Ramirez SS, 4. Logan Morrison LF, 5. Omar Infante 2B, 6. Giancarlo Stanton RF, 7. Gaby Sanchez 1B, 8. John Buck C, 9. Carlos Zambrano P.

> Astros (13-15): 1. Jordan Schafer CF, 2. Jose Altuve 2B, 3. J.D. Martinez LF, 4. Carlos Lee 1B, 5. Jed Lowrie SS, 6. Chris Johnson 3B, 7. Travis Buck RF, 8. Chris Snyder C, 9. Wandy Rodriguez P.