Heading into the weekend, the Atlanta Braves had nothing going in the way of momentum. The team had lost five out of six games to fall to 15-19 on the season, and much of the optimism put forth by a strong start to the season had evaporated. Then, the Miami Marlins happened.
The Braves prevailed in all three games against the Marlins, and that fact is doubly impressive considering the weekend series took place at Marlins Park. Still, Miami is Miami and the Marlins had a hand in the final outcomes.
In the opening 5-3 victory on Friday, much of the offense came from two unlikely sources. Todd Cunningham, making his first Major League start, put together a three-hit night that included the eventual game-winning RBI in the 8th inning, and utility man Phil Gosselin also added three hits. On the mound, Julio Teheran wasn't electric, allowing nine hits in 5.2 innings, but the right-hander did enough to keep things close until timely hitting took over down the stretch.
Saturday's 5-3 win (look! matching scores!) was an exercise in one significant swing being the difference. Jace Peterson pounded a grand slam in the second inning for his first MLB home run, and that bat-to-ball impact was enough to give Atlanta the victory. Alex Wood looked like Alex Wood on the hill, which is encouraging, but there is certainly something to monitor when it comes to his lack of strikeouts, with the left-hander only punching out one member of the Marlins.
The series finale belonged to one man.
Miller tossed a complete game shutout while allowing only two hits, and the right-hander carried a no-hit bid into the ninth inning. In fact, Miller had two outs in the ninth before Miami pinch-hitter Justin Bour came up with a single that was quickly followed by another from Dee Gordon. The Braves did escape with a 6-0 victory without the use of a single pitch from the bullpen, and Shelby Miller has been flatly ridiculous during his time in Atlanta, posting a 1.33 ERA to this point in the campaign.
Of note, Jace Peterson built on his Saturday heroics with the best offensive day of anyone on Sunday, going 2-for-4 with a walk and 2 RBI on the day. In addition, Todd Cunningham continued his bid for more playing time with two hits of his own.
The Atlanta Braves went into "enemy territory" and broke the Marlins to the point where Miami fired manager Mike Redmond on Sunday afternoon. Obviously, it was not the intent of the Braves to force a man to the unemployment line, but Atlanta played very well over the weekend, and that strong performance will hopefully carry over to a quick, two-game series against the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday and Wednesday. Stay tuned.