Baseball: Giancarlo Stanton finishes just shy of 60 home runs

Giancarlo Stanton #27 of the Miami Marlins hits during a game against the Atlanta Braves at Marlins Park, on Oct 1, 2017.
Giancarlo Stanton #27 of the Miami Marlins hits during a game against the Atlanta Braves at Marlins Park, on Oct 1, 2017.PHOTO: AFP

LOS ANGELES (AFP) - Giancarlo Stanton, who spent the final three games of the regular season unsuccessfully chasing the elusive 60th home run, still managed to lead Major League Baseball in a record-setting home run season.

The Miami Marlins star led the majors with 59 home runs this season, the most by a player since 2001 when disgraced San Francisco Giants slugger Barry Bonds hit 71 at the height of baseball's steroid era.

This season saw 6,105 home runs, which is 142 more than the previous single season record set one year before Bonds hit 71.

Stanton's quest for No. 60 ended with a ninth inning strikeout in an 8-5 loss Sunday to the Atlanta Braves in front of a crowd of 25,200 at Marlins Park.

Stanton said he wasn't disappointed he didn't reach 60.

"If I hit 60, you guys would be sitting here asking me why I didn't hit 61," said Stanton, who is the first player in 10 years to surpass 50 homers.

"If hit 61, I would be asked why I didn't hit 62."

Stanton not only led the league in home runs but also in RBIs with 132. Stanton singled twice, struck out twice out and grounded to shortstop.

Still, he goes down in baseball history as the sixth player to hit at least 59 homers in a season, joining Babe Ruth, Roger Maris, Bonds, Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire.

With the close of the regular season on Sunday night, attention now shifts to the playoffs, which kick off Tuesday and Wednesday with the wild-card games.

The New York Yankees, who are seeking their 28th World Series crown, host the Minnesota Twins in the American League wild-card game.

Minnesota, coming off a 100-loss season in 2016, will start Ervin Santana while New York will go with Luis Severino.

The National League wild-card game is set for Wednesday night in Phoenix, where the Arizona Diamondbacks will host the Colorado Rockies.

The AL Division Series will begin Thursday with the AL West champion Houston Astros meeting the AL East champion Boston Red Sox in Houston.

The AL wild-card winner will face the AL Central champion Cleveland Indians Thursday at Progressive Field.

On Friday, the NL East champion Washington Nationals will host the NL Central champion Chicago Cubs in game one of their NL Division Series.

The NL wild-card winner will square off with the NL West champion Los Angeles Dodgers, at Dodger Stadium on Friday.

In other games on Sunday, Charlie Blackmon went one-for-two, played three innings and finished with a National League-leading .331 average in Colorado's 6-3 loss to the Dodgers. It was Los Angeles' 104th victory, tying for the second-most in franchise history.

The Dodgers won 105 games in 1953 and 104 in 1942 while playing in Brooklyn.

In Boston, the Astros and Red Sox rested most of their regulars in the Astros' 4-3 victory in the regular-season finale before they face each other in the playoffs.

The Red Sox scored three runs on four hits, a walk and a passed ball off Astros starter Collin McHugh in the fourth inning.

The Astros came back with four runs off three pitchers in the seventh inning. Fernando Abad took the loss, falling to 2-1 with a 3.30 ERA this season.