Well, the Braves may not be able to beat anyone else, but at least they can beat up on the Marlins. The Braves took their third series of the year (and first at home!) with a 7-2 win over the Marlins. Much like last night, some lapses from the Miami defense went a long, long way towards giving the Braves a victory.
Aaron Blair started the game with an eventful first inning. The game's leadoff hitter, the legendary Ichiro Suzuki, reached on a play where Blair vaguely appeared to miss the first base bag with his foot after receiving a feed from Freddie Freeman. Interim manager Brian Snitker challenged the call, but to no avail. Luckily, a few batters later, Ichiro was erased on a heads-up throw from shortstop Daniel Castro to third base after Marcell Ozuna hit a routine grounder, stifling the threat.
The Marlins were only delayed, however, as they struck in their second attempt. Derek Dietrich hit a rocket of a single past third base with the shift on, which set up Cole Gillespie, who hit a deep drive to center on a 2-2 pitch. Mallex Smith raced back but was unable to make the catch despite getting his glove in the vicinity of the ball, giving Gillespie a triple and the Fish a 1-0 lead. The next hitter, Adeiny Hechavarria ("The Hech," as I like to call him), hit a sharp single past the drawn-in infield to double the Miami tally. Blair finally escaped the inning by striking out Martin Prado, who is either a brilliant Braves-based sleeper agent or is just having a really hard time in this series. (Remember, Prado muffed the liner that gave the Braves a lead last night.)
Marlins' starter Wei-Yin Chen cruised through the Atlanta lineup for the first time, but hit a rough patch the second time around. Gordon Beckham led off the fourth with a ringing double to right center, and advanced to third when Ozuna had trouble corralling the ball effectively. Freddie Freeman struck out to follow, which was inauspicious, but with one out, Nick Markakis drove a ball to deep center for a sacrifice fly that cut the deficit in half. Unfortunately, that was all the Braves would get in that inning.
Aaron Blair zoned into somewhat of a groove afterwards. He had a really easy fifth where he threw just one ball, and then retired the first two batters in the sixth before Snitker lifted him after allowing a two-out single to The Hech. Blair was only at 94 pitches at the time, so it was a little disappointed to see him not allowed to close out the inning, but the start was definitely something to build on. Overall, it was easily Blair's best start of the season, as he walked two and struck out five, allowing just five hits. The two runs he allowed likely don't score if Mallex Smith was able to convert Gillespie's deep drive in center, and it seemed to me that Blair made great strides in going after hitters and then carving them up with offspeed stuff off the plate. Tyler Flowers also stole more than a few strikes in this game, helping Blair get ahead in some counts.
The Braves waited until Chen was gone after five innings of work to strike. (As a side note, it was somewhat strange for the Marlins to pull Chen after 90 pitches for a pinch-hitter, considering they already had the lead and it was a man on first, two outs situation, but I'm not going to look that particular gift horse in the mouth any longer.) Jose Urena allowed a one-out single to Freddie Freeman and then walked Tyler Flowers on four pitches. After a long at-bat where he fouled off multiple tough pitches, Nick Markakis laced a liner to center. Freddie Freeman froze to see whether the ball would drop, and Marcell Ozuna tried to come up throwing, but horribly botched fielding the ball, which rolled past him, all the way to the wall. Freeman and Flowers both scored easily, and Markakis ended up on third with the Braves now leading 3-2. Jeff Francoeur then got in on the fun by hitting a ground-rule double over Ozuna's head, capping the three-spot in the inning. It's hard to play counterfactuals in baseball, but needless to say, Ozuna gave the Braves a huge gift by misplaying the ball.
Former (2015) Brave Edwin Jackson contributed to the second consecutive three-spot for the Braves in the seventh, walking pinch hitter Chase d'Arnaud and Mallex Smith to start his outing, and then giving up a three-run shot to Gordon Beckham, who is playing out of his mind right now.
That was all the scoring the game would see -- the Snitker-managed bullpen squad of Eric O'Flaherty, Alexi Ogando, Hunter Cervenka, Jason Grilli, and Chris Withrow kept the Fish scoreless, with O'Flaherty earning his first "W" as a Brave since April 2013. Gordon Beckham, Nick Markakis, and Jeff Francoeur led the aforementioned charge for the Braves; potential saboteur (I told you) and dear old friend Martin Prado went 0-for-5 with three strikeouts in the contest. For once, the Braves also won a game where they were both out-hit and out on-based by the opposition, which is likely rare given their proclivities towards not hitting for any power.
They go for the sweep tomorrow behind Julio Teheran, who both throws heat and has been really hot in May.