Stanton smacks 13th homer but Marlins can't keep up with surging Pirates in 4-2 loss

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PITTSBURGH — Giancarlo Stanton doesn't need much help to lift the Miami Marlins back toward respectability following a rough start.

At the moment, though, he's barely getting any at all.

The star outfielder smacked his 13th homer of the season, drove in both of Miami's runs and added a spectacular catch in a 4-2 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates on Monday night.

Starter David Phelps gave up his first two homers of the year and the rest of Miami's offense could muster little more than groundballs against Pittsburgh's Charlie Morton.

Stanton produced one of the few flyballs allowed by Morton, a shot to the seats over the Clemente Wall in right field in the third inning. The hit came after his leaping grab just in front of the wall that took extra bases away from Pittsburgh's Josh Harrison. It was a spectacular sequence, but also an isolated one for a team trying to find traction after a bumpy two months that cost former manager Mike Redmond his job a week ago.

"He has 'wow' moments pretty much every game or every other game," Jennings said of Stanton. "He's a special player. It's great to see him relax and do the things that he's capable of doing because he can also put a team on his back and carry us awhile."

The problem is, outside of Stanton there isn't a ton of 'wow' to go around.

David Phelps (2-2) gave up his first two homers of the season, a three-run blast by Francisco Cervelli and a liner over the wall by Pedro Alvarez. He struck out four and walked two but received no support from anyone not named Stanton.

The Marlins hit into a pair of double plays, left five men on base and went 1 for 7 with runners in scoring position, the lone hit an RBI-single by Stanton in the first.

Miami is just 2-6 since Jennings left the front office for his first big-league managing job.

"We had some chances," Jennings said. "We just didn't get the hit there when the opportunities presented itself."

GOING DEEP

Phelps came in 2-0 with a 1.50 ERA in three road starts but wasn't quite as sharp this time out. He left a fastball up that Cervelli sent into the seats in right field in the second that gave the Pirates the lead and a solo homer by Alvarez that landed just over the wall in left-center.

Phelps attributed Alvarez's fourth home run in his last eight games to simple brute strength. It was another matter entirely with Cervelli, who caught Phelps last year when both players were with the New York Yankees.

"It's frustrating," Phelps said. "I played with Cervy for three years now, see him in the batter's box just thinking along with me and I just made a bad pitch in the first at-bat to him, he hit it out."

GROUND GAME

Whenever Miami tried to get something going, Morton would roll out a sinker the Marlins would pound into the dirt. Miami didn't produce one fly ball out against Morton, Stanton's home run to the seats in right field in the third marked one of the few times the Marlins got the ball in the air at all.

Morton (1-0) was making his first start of the season after undergoing hip surgery last September and spending most of April and May on the disabled list trying to improve his delivery. The results were seven solid innings in which he struck out three and produced 18 groundball outs.

"''My stroke is a little bit better, more fluid," Morton said. "My timing is a little bit better. My direction. Everything is a little bit better overall. Those are things I can keep tweaking, fine tuning and get better. That was the best I felt in awhile."

TRAINER'S ROOM

Marlins: Jennings is optimistic RHP Mat Latos will be back relatively quickly after going on the 15-day DL last Friday with knee inflammation. ... RHP Henderson Alvarez continues to work on strengthening exercises for his ailing right shoulder. Alvarez underwent a second MRI on the shoulder on Sunday but it's still unclear what the next step will be in the evaluation process.

Pirates: With Morton back in the rotation, the Pirates designated RHP Radhames Liz for assignment. Liz was 1-3 with a 3.63 ERA in 11 games in his return to the big leagues after six-year absence.

UP NEXT

Miami will call up RHP Jose Urena from Triple-A to take Latos' spot in the rotation. Urena made two relief appearances for the Marlins last month. Jeff Locke (2-2, 5.28) starts for the Pirates. The 2013 All-Star is 0-2 with a 6.75 ERA in his last six starts.

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