AP Sports Writer
MIAMI (AP) – Home runs before small crowds in the eighth inning of lopsided games between also-rans count, too, which is fortunate for Giancarlo Stanton.
Now he needs only five more for 61.
Stanton hit his major league-leading 56th homer in the eighth Wednesday to punctuate the Miami Marlins’ 9-2 win over the New York Mets, which completed a three-game sweep.
Announced attendance was 16,033, but the actual turnout was perhaps one-third that total. The Marlins are destined to miss the playoffs for the 14th year in a row despite Stanton’s homer show.
“It’s fun to watch, no doubt about it,” manager Don Mattingly said. “You’d like it to be happening when you were chasing somebody or leading somebody and it was a pennant-race situation, and the place was starting to fill up with some people where every game matters.
“That’s what you’d like. It would be more fun to watch. But that’s a lot of homers.”
Only 10 players have hit more homers in a season. Stanton’s total matches the career high of Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr.
“That’s some good company,” Stanton said. “I’m getting up there with some great company. That’s a good one. He was one of my favorite players.”
Stanton drove in three runs, increasing his RBI total to a career-best 120 while trying not to focus on such eye-popping stats.
“I’ve get 10 games left,” he said. “The season’s not over. Once you get to the end of the season, you look back. But I don’t go each day, ‘Hey, I’ve got this or that.'”
However, Stanton has acknowledged his goal to match Roger Maris’ 1961 total of 61 homers, the most in the pre-steroids era.
Miami led 5-2 before A.J. Ellis and Miguel Rojas hit back-to-back homers off Mets reliever Erik Goeddel to start the eighth. With one out, Stanton lined a 1-1 breaking pitch from Goeddel over the left field fence for a two-run homer.
As usual, he knew it was gone when he connected.
“That one had a motor on it,” Stanton said.
Stanton made a fine catch, too, against the right field fence to rob Asdrubal Cabrera.
The Marlins slugger emerged this week from a 10-for-69 slump, regaining his patience at the plate. He drew a season-high four walks Tuesday and took that as a good sign.
“The walk is OK,” he said. “You get your timing on those pitches still. It’s just being smarter and getting pitches out over the plate consistently. Just stick to my plan, and don’t worry about theirs.”
Stanton’s homer overshadowed a strong outing by Jose Urena (14-6), who allowed two runs in eight innings. The Marlins finished the season 12-7 against the Mets and swept their NL East rivals for the first time since May 2014.
Justin Bour hit a two-run homer, his 23rd. Marcell Ozuna had a pair of two-out run-scoring singles, increasing his RBI total to 115.
Brandon Nimmo hit his fourth homer for the Mets. Pinch-hitter Travis d’Arnaud had an RBI single.
Rafael Montero (5-11) allowed five runs in four innings. He leads the Mets in losses.
Stanton has 35 homers against the Mets, including eight this year.
“He kills us. He literally kills us,” Mets manager Terry Collins said. “You can’t hang stuff. We had him down and away all series long when we made pitches. When you make mistakes on the plate, he kills you, and he did today.”
Urena allowed seven hits and walked none. The 26-year-old right-hander came into the season with a career record of 5-14 and has been one of the few bright spots in Miami’s disappointing season.
“His next progression is being able to get deeper into games,” Mattingly said. “It was good to see him get extended.”
Urena departed after throwing 107 pitches and still has no complete games in 47 career starts. The Marlins’ only complete game this season was thrown by Edinson Volquez when he pitched the lone no-hitter in the majors this year.
Mets: SS Amed Rosario (stomach ailment) felt better and may return to the lineup Friday. … OF Juan Lagares (sore left thumb) sat out.
Stanton takes his homer chase on the road for the Marlins’ final trip beginning Friday, when LHP Adam Conley (7-7, 5.20) is scheduled to start for Miami against Arizona RHP Zack Greinke (17-6, 2.87).
RHP Jacob de Grom (15-9, 3.55) is scheduled to pitch Friday when the Mets begin their final homestand against Washington.
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