Thank God for instant replay! For the first time since the replay system was instituted, the Braves had a significant call up for video review. And boy, was it significant. With the score tied 6-6 with 2 outs in the bottom of the ninth inning, Brian McCann hit a line shot that clearly hit off the top of the right-field wall, bounced off the back wall, then back onto the field. At Turner Field, that is a home run--and a pretty obvious one--but the first-base ump, a rookie, either wasn't familiar with the Ted's double-wall or didn't see it hit off the back wall. He ruled it a double.
Fortunately, the crew chief went to review the play, and after a couple minutes of suspense, McCann finally got to finish rounding the bases. It was the ultimate in delayed gratification, but I'm sure it was no less sweet despite that.
The Braves trailed 6-1 for most of the game before rallying for 6 runs in the last two innings thanks to the Marlins' weak bullpen and horrific defense. Eric Hinske drove in a run in the 8th off of Will Ohman to make it 6-2. Then, on a slow roller by Melky Cabrera, Marlins first-baseman Gaby Sanchez couldn't handle the throw from our old pal Wes Helms, allowing two huge runs to score.
After Takashi Saito threw a scoreless top half of the 9th, the Braves went right back to work against Marlins closer Leo Nunez. Brooks Conrad worked that bullpen-killer, the leadoff walk. That brought up pinch-hitter and Destroyer of Marlins Matt Diaz. Matty D smoked a ball to the opposite field for a two-run, game-tying homer. It was a huge, huge play even if it was soon overshadowed.
Though Saito got the "win", the best pitching on the Braves' side was by Christhian Martinez, who fulfilled his long-man role to perfection, going 4 innings while giving up only 2 hits and 1 run. He kept the Braves close enough that they could come back, and that turned out to be huge. Great job, Christhian, even if your WPA wasn't very good.
Another pat on the back goes to Bobby Cox, who proved once again that Chipper Jones' "Momentum-Turn Hypothesis" has some basis in fact. Bobby got tossed protecting Eric Hinske after Hinske was called out on a borderline check-swing strikeout. Hinske was going ballistic, and Bobby may just have saved him from being tossed. That turned out to be huge because Hinske drove in the Braves' second run later on, and possibly contributed to the Braves' inspired comeback. Yet another reason why we love Bobby.
More after the jump...
The Braves seemed lifeless for much of the first 7 innings, thanks largely to Josh Johnson. Johnson struggled a bit with his command early but settled in. He gave up only 1 (unearned) run in 6 innings, with 3 hits, 3 walks, and 8 strikeouts. Had the Braves not rallied, he would have been the story of the game, but as it is, he's basically a side note. Sorry, Josh, but it's better this way.
His counterpart, Derek Lowe, pitched very poorly. He gave up a 3-run homer to Hanley Ramirez before he'd even recorded an out in the first inning, then a 2-run single by Chad Tracy in the third inning. Lowe actually got somewhat lucky, too, as he gave up 9 baserunners (6 hits and 3 walks) in 3 innings. He got only 4 ground balls (compared to 5 line drives), good for only 36%. Clearly his sinker wasn't working today, though he did somehow strike out 4.
The Braves did get a lift when Ramirez left the game in the 3rd inning after apparently losing his breath and becoming dizzy while on the bases. Considering what he did while he was in the game (2/2 with the 3-run bomb), that probably helped the Braves win (though his replacement, Donnie Murphy, did drive in the Marlins' last run with a triple).
All in all, it was just one more thrilling comeback for a team that seems to rally from a big deficit on a weekly basis. And what's more, we somehow won the series. After how bad this team looked on Friday (and most of today), a series win is pretty dang sweet.
Brian McCann-- 3/4, BB, HR, 2 R, RBI, GIDP, 0.481 WPA
Matt Diaz-- 1/1, HR, R, 2 RBI, 0.461 WPA
Christhian Martinez-- 4 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 2 K, -0.011 WPA
Eric Hinske-- 2/4, 2B, R, 2 RBI, K, 0.117 WPA
Melky Cabrera-- 0/2, 2 BB, huge ROE, K, 0.125 WPA (Melky's GBOP skills strike again)
Bobby Cox (for getting tossed and keeping Hinske in the game)
Instant Replay (for preventing an untested umpire from screwing us over)
Leo Nunez-- 0.2 IP, 2 H, 3 ER, 2 HR, 1 BB, 1 K, -0.922 WPA
The Marlins' defense-- 3 errors leading to 3 unearned runs
Derek Lowe-- 3 IP, 6 H, 5 R, 1 HR, 3 BB, 4 K, -0.355 WPA
Diaz's homer (0.461 WPA) and McCann's homer (0.469 WPA). Sweet.