In an entertaining affair in Miami, the Braves were able to hang a couple of crooked numbers on the scoreboard today and ultimately kept the Marlins at bay late, turning a late 1-run lead into a 4-run victory for their 2nd straight win over Miami.
The scoring started in the 3rd, and the biggest sign that this was going to be a good day for the bats was that Freddie Freeman finally got a hit against the Marlins, and it was a run-scoring hit at that. With Gerald Laird and Jason Heyward aboard, Freeman finally ended his 0-29 slump against the Marlins by hitting an 86-mph changeup from Jacob Turner into right field. The double put the Braves up 2 and was a sign of things to come for the offense, as Justin Upton spread the lead to 3 with a single in the next-at bat. Atlanta added onto that lead in the very next inning, as Jason Heyward bounced one right through the middle of the infield to spread the lead to 5.
The Marlins finally got on the board in the bottom half of the 4th, as Derek Dietrich brought in Christian Yelich with a single. With Giancarlo Stanton coming up to the plate after that, it seemed like we were headed for another one of those innings for Ervin Santana. Fortunately, Santana struck out Stanton and retired the next two guys in order to get out of that inning relatively unscathed.
Derek Dietrich wasn't done, though. Dietrich struck again in the bottom of the 6th, as he hit a RBI triple that split the gap between B.J. Upton and Jason Heyward to give the Marlins their 2nd run of the day. Fredi Gonzalez then had Ervin Santana give Giancarlo Stanton a free pass in order to get to Casey McGehee, and McGehee then proceeded to bring in Dietrich with a sac fly to cut the once 5-run lead down to 2. Once again, Santana managed to get out of a jam without significant damage to the lead by inducing a double play against Garrett Jones to end the inning.
Today was a day of firsts for the more recent call-ups. We'll get to Shae Simmons and his auspicious debut later, but in the top of the 7th, Tommy La Stella got his first career RBI as he rolled a grounder into right field to score Chris Johnson, giving the Braves a more comfortable 3-run lead.
That comfortable lead was in danger of completely evaporating in the bottom of the 8th, which is when another first happened, this time for Shae Simmons. After Luis Avilan made routine work of the first two batters, David Carpenter came in and made things interesting. Making things interesting is not good if you are a reliever, and you better believe that having a 3-run lead turn into a 1-run lead in the 8th inning is interesting. This set the stage for Shae Simmons to make his major league debut with 2 outs and runners on 1st and 2nd. All he did was this:
LOOK. AT. DAT. HOOK.
Simmons' hold was rewarded with another 3-run inning from the Braves in the top of the 9th. With Andrelton Simmons on 2nd after a single and Ryan Doumit on first after a walk, Gerald Laird came up and hit a grounder to left to score Simba. Ramiro Pena then came off the bench and laid down a bunt. Ol' Salty made a meal of the throw to first, and what should have been a mildly-successful sacrifice bunt turned into a wildly-successful play for the Braves that scored the 2nd run of the inning. A.J. Ramos capped off his adventurous 9th inning with 2 consecutive walks to Jason Heyward and B.J. Upton. The first walk was intentional, the second one wasn't, and that was the one that brought in the 3rd run of the inning and ended the appearance for Ramos on a dour note for the Marlins, as they saw a close game going into the 9th turn into another wide lead for the Braves.
David Hale then came on in the 9th to seal the deal. 3 batters, 2 baserunners, and 1 out later, Fredi decided to quit messing around and brought in the big gun in the form of Craig Kimbrel. Kimbrel struck out Dietrich to get the 2nd out, and got Stanton to ground to 3rd for what should have been the end of the game. It wasn't the end of the game because Chris Johnson's routine throw to 2nd for what should have been the 27th out of the game was dropped by Ramiro Pena. Blood pressure began to rise (namely, mine) as thoughts of the Boston series began to creep into heads (again, mine). Fortunately, those thoughts were assuaged and the blood pressure went down when Kimbrel got Casey McGehee to ground to short so that Andrelton Simmons could make the routine throw to first to nail down the victory.
The Braves now have a 2-game lead on top of the NL East, and the save also tied Kimbrel for first on the Braves' All-Time saves list with the legendary John Smoltz. I'm going to go out on a limb and say that the record is not only going to be broken, but it'll be put far out of reach...unless Shae Simmons catches him one day. Maybe not, but it's fun to dream, right?