ATLANTA — The Marlins put an end to their winless road streak on their trip to Georgia, but they left for New York knowing they let two winnable games against the first-place Atlanta Braves get away from them.
Evan Gattis, becoming a terror for the Marlins to deal with only two seasons into his big-league career, once again delivered the big blow for Atlanta on Wednesday afternoon.
Two days after drilling the game-winning home run to beat the Marlins in the 10th inning, Gattis came off the bench and stroked a two-run double to left off reliever A.J. Ramos with two outs in the eighth, lifting the Braves to a 3-1 victory in front of 21,508 sun-soaked fans at Turner Field.
“You don’t get moral victories in the big leagues. There’s not a column for that,” manager Mike Redmond said. “Much like Washington, we know we can play with these guys. But at the same time, we’ve got areas we’ve got to get better at. We need to limit our mistakes. When we do that were going to get on the other end of these games and win them.”
The Marlins (10-12) can point to a few reasons why they’re still looking for their first road series victory of the season after three tries.
For starters, they struck out 41 times against the Braves — including 16 on Wednesday, one shy of matching the franchise record for a nine-inning game.
The Braves (14-7) own the best ERA in baseball (2.10) and held the Marlins to only four runs in the series. But Miami had plenty of opportunities to drive in runs — especially late — and finished 2 for 21 combined with runners in scoring position in their two losses.
Trailing 1-0 after a throwing error, wild pitch and RBI single by Ryan Doumit scored Chris Johnson in the fourth inning, the Marlins tied it at 1 in the sixth when Giancarlo Stanton dropped a ball between three Braves fielders in short left-center field with two outs, scoring Jeff Mathis from second. It was Stanton’s 27th RBI of the season and the first run Braves starter Aaron Harang had allowed in 14 1/3 innings.
But that’s all the Marlins were able to push across the plate because Harang struck out Garrett Jones with runners on second and third to end the rally.
The Marlins had their first two hitters reach base in the seventh, ending Harang’s afternoon after 101 pitches. But after Adeiny Hechavarria fouled off two bunt attempts trying to move the runners over against reliever Jordan Walden, he struck out swinging. Walden then got out of the inning when he struck out pinch-hitters Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Greg Dobbs swinging.
The three consecutive strikeouts with a runner in scoring position and the opportunity to take the lead mirrored what happened in the ninth inning with Craig Kimbrel on the mound in Monday night’s loss. On Wednesday, Kimbrel pitched a 1-2-3 ninth to pick up his sixth save of the season.
“First things first — you have to put the ball in play,” Stanton said. “Even if you have bad contact or something doesn’t go right, if you put it in play something can happen. If you don’t, you know where you’re going — [back to] the bench.
“These are the teams you can’t make mistakes against, and if you have an opportunity, you have to advance on it. There’s no second chances versus teams like these.”
The Marlins put the ball in play in the eighth but still couldn’t capitalize. After Christian Yelich extended his career-long hitting streak to 17 games with a bunt single and advanced to second on a wild pitch, Stanton was intentionally walked for the sixth time this season with one out. The Braves got out of that jam, though, when left-handed reliever Luis Avilan got Jones to pop out to third, and David Carpenter induced Casey McGehee to fly out to right.
On the flip side, the eighth inning once again became the nightmare frame for the Marlins’ bullpen. After Mike Dunn gave up a one-out walk to Johnson and then a two-out infield single to Dan Uggla, Gattis came to the plate and delivered his heroics against Ramos.
Redmond said he didn’t want Gattis seeing too many fastballs. What Gattis crushed into left field was a 1-1 fastball. Ramos said he left it over the heart of the plate.
“I wanted to get a fastball. I have faith in my fastball,” Ramos said. “You throw it that far down the plate anybody can hit it like he did.”
With that hit, Gattis is hitting .370 with four homers and 17 RBI against the Marlins in 13 career games. The Marlins’ pitching staff, meanwhile, continues faltering in the eighth. It now has given up 18 of its 73 earned runs — nearly a quarter of its season total — before being able to hand the ball to closer Steve Cishek in the ninth.
“We haven’t gotten the job done. It’s pretty much plain and simple,” Ramos said of the Marlins’ eighth-inning woes. “There’s no explanation for it. We haven’t made the pitches we needed to make, we put ourselves in the situations we’ve been in, bad pitches, maybe bad pitch selection at times.”