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Stanton explains why he didn't use face mask in final at-bat Tuesday; Yelich talks back tightness

ATLANTA -- For the first time since a Mike Fiers fastball struck him in the face and ended his 2014 season last Sept. 11, Giancarlo Stanton went to bat Tuesday night without the specially designed protective face mask made for him.

It happened in his final at-bat in Tuesday's 8-2 win over the Braves -- and only because Stanton said he was facing a left-handed pitcher.

So how did it feel? "Fine," Stanton said. "Just like my whole career prior."

Stanton doubled down the third baseline against Braves reliever and former Marlins Rule 5 pick Andrew McKirahan. The hit plated two runs and completed a 3-for-3 evening with four RBI for the two-time All-Star. Stanton walked in his other two at-bats and raised his batting average from .130 to .231.

Stanton had faced a lefty only two other times previously to Tuesday, but opted not to go without the protective mask.

The Marlins face Braves left-hander Eric Stults on Wednesday. Asked if he'll go without the mask again  versus Stults, Stanton said: "Honestly, it's whatever I feel like doing."

Stanton said he'll continue to wear the mask "for the most part" against right-handers.

How did it feel to finally break out of a 3-for-23 slump to start the season and get a win?

"We've got to win, that's the biggest part," Stanton said. "Contributing too is good for us. We need [to win] a series tomorrow."

What did Stanton think of second baseman Dee Gordon laying out the team's bats across the clubhouse pre-game to wake them up?

"At least we keep it loose still," he said. "We're not coming in here like our dogs died. We've got to have fun."

> Gordon, by the way, wanted no part of taking ownership for the little bat display he orchestrated. Instead, he opted to play coy.

"I walked in here today and there were a lot of bats on the floor and I was like, who did it? and nobody knew,' he said with a grin. "It worked I guess. Whoever did that they are pretty smart. It helped. He’s a team player I guess."

Pitcher Tom Koehler, who got the win Tuesday, saw it all go down.

"I actually got here while it was going on and I was really confused," Koehler said. "[Gordon] said, 'Where's your bat? You've got to get a hit today too.' All of a sudden he's dumping out the pitcher's bag. I said, 'Dude man, save the hits for you. I'm not going to get a hit.'

"He got us going. Who knows. When he threw my bag down it probably helped me get that bunt down.' Had he thrown it a little bit more, maybe I would have gotten two bunts down.'"


Left fielder Christian Yelich, scratched from Tuesday's lineup with back tightness, is hoping to feel better and get back in the lineup by Thursday against the Mets. But he's not going to rush back either.

"It kind of hasn't been feeling good for the last few days," Yelich explained postgame Tuesday. "I kind of tried to play through it and it was making it worse. I talked to [head trainer] Sean [Cunningham] and all those guys, Red, and they said 'let's give it a few days and get back out there.' Give it a day or two and hopefully I'll be back at it."

Yelich insists the highlight reel diving catch he made in Monday's game didn't make the back feel any worse. "It was already going on," he said.