After back-to-back wins in Tampa Bay, the Atlanta Braves appeared to be locked into a battle with the Miami Marlins for much of Thursday’s series opener. Then, the sixth inning arrived and, with haste, the Braves secured an advantage that would never evaporate on the way to 9-2 victory.
At the outset of the evening, Mike Foltynewicz navigated trouble, as his own throwing error placed a runner on third base with only one out in the first inning. The right-hander managed to induce a pop-out, though, and that escape from danger set the tone for the rest of his performance.
Foltynewicz cruised through the second, third and fourth innings while allowing only one base-runner and, even after giving up a run in the fifth (with some help from a Johan Camargo throwing error), he completed what was a strong bounce-back showing. All told, Foltynewicz lasted only five innings while allowing the single run but, as evidenced by the sixth inning explosion, removing him after only 86 pitches did not prove to be a costly decision.
Offensively, the scoreboard lit up for the first time in the second inning, when Nick Markakis singled to lead off the inning, moved to third on a double from Ender Inciarte, and scored on a groundout from Jose Bautista. Other than that, the lineup was largely quiet until the aforementioned sixth frame but, then, things became fun in a hurry.
In an amusing twist, the Braves had only one base-runner and two outs at one point in the inning but that wasn’t an issue. After an intentional walk to Camargo, Foltynewicz was lifted for Preston Tucker and the outfielder drew a walk to load the bases for lead-off hitter Ozzie Albies.
On cue, Albies lofted a grand slam (the first of his young career) over the right field wall to break the game wide open and provide the Braves with a four-run advantage.
Atlanta wasn’t done there, however, as Ronald Acuña then singled, setting the stage for a two-run home run off the bat of Freddie Freeman to send the margin to 7-1. Markakis and Kurt Suzuki then reached base before a ground rule double from Inciarte and, when the onslaught halted, the Braves held a dominant 8-1 advantage.
From there, the end result was academic but the Braves were still forced to secure 12 additional outs. Sam Freeman zoomed through the sixth inning without blemish, setting the stage for Luiz Gohara, making his 2018 MLB debut in relief to begin the seventh. Gohara did allow a single (to old pal Cameron Maybin) but the young left-hander finished the inning without damage and he looked solid in doing so.
Gohara produced an encouraging scoreless seventh. His fastball averaged 96.1 mph and touched 97.2. That heater was clocked in the low 90s as he spent the past couple weeks with Gwinnett.— Mark Bowman (@mlbbowman) May 11, 2018
The youngster then remained in the game for the eighth inning and ran into a bit of trouble, allowing two base-runners. Gohara picked up a strikeout to end the frame, though, and he remained in the game (including a plate appearance) for the ninth. Though he didn’t need it, Gohara was also blessed with an insurance run when Albies plated Camargo with a two-out single. Gohara did allow a solo home run in the ninth inning to slash the margin to seven but he picked up the 27th out and closed out a three-inning save.
Though Foltynewicz’s pitching showing was certainly worth acknowledgment, this was a night for offense in many ways and there were some individual performances worth noting. Freeman was Freeman, zooming to a 5 for 5 day (including a home run) that also represented the first five-hit game of his impressive career and that speaks for itself.
Inciarte, hitting in the No. 6 spot for the first time all season, enjoyed himself thoroughly to the tune of a 3 for 5 evening (with two doubles) and plenty of speculation that a return to the leadoff spot (at least against right-handed pitching) could be coming... for better or worse. Finally, Camargo (two hits, two walks, two runs) Markakis (2 for 5, two runs) and Albies (2 for 6 with five RBI) produced strong nights at the office and fun was had by all.
The Braves and Marlins will do battle again on Friday evening, with Atlanta sending Brandon McCarthy to the mound against Miami’s Dan Straily, who happens to be the first right-handed pitcher the Braves have encountered in some time. Stay tuned.