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Pinch-hit homer dooms Braves to 3-1 loss in Miami finale

The Braves got stung on a three-run homer by pinch-hitter Tyler Moore in the seventh, as the offense failed to push more than one run across against Justin Nicolino.

MLB: Atlanta Braves at Miami Marlins
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Going for a sweep in Miami, the Braves bats were stymied by Justin Nicolino, and Tyler Moore’s pinch-hit, three-run homer off of R.A. Dickey handed them their 21st loss of the season.

The low-scoring affair was plagued with wasted offensive opportunities by both teams in the early going. Two walks and a Freddie Freeman pop single into no man’s land loaded the bases in the top of the first, but Nick Markakis hit a first-pitch tapper from Nicolino that ended up going for an easy 1-2-3 double play to end the threat. R.A. Dickey similarly continued his highwire act, as he also allowed two baserunners in the first but struck out Giancarlo Stanton with a dubious called strike three to keep the game scoreless.

This sort of offensive ineffectiveness continued through the middle innings. Both teams got a pair of baserunners in the third, but couldn’t score them. The Braves wasted a Kurt Suzuki one-out double in the fourth, but finally broke through in the fifth, as a Nick Markakis two-out RBI single gave them a 1-0 lead.

The Braves got a great chance to extend their lead in the seventh, as Adonis Garcia singled and attempted to take third base on a subsequent Freddie Freeman single, but was thrown out by Marcell Ozuna. Replay showed the play potentially warranted challenge and review, but manager Brian Snitker did not throw in the proverbial flag, and, as a result, the Braves had a man on second, one out situation rather than a second and third, none out situation. A soft groundout from Matt Kemp, an intentional walk to Nick Markakis, and a flyout from Kurt Suzuki ended the inning, with the Braves still holding a 1-0 lead.

Dickey, who had allowed three hits and two walks in six scoreless innings up to that point, quickly found himself in hot water in the bottom of the frame. Stanton, who had looked beffudled by Dickey’s knuckler up to that point, smashed a leadoff double. Dickey got two outs, sandwiching a walk to A.J. Ellis, which brought up pinch-hitter Tyler Moore. Moore, holder of a career 84 wRC+, failed to play in the majors at all last season, but did this unfortunate bit of hitting from the first Dickey knuckler he saw:

That quickly turned the game completely around, and set the score by which the Braves would end up falling. Dickey’s final line included five hits, three walks, and three runs (all earned) in seven innings of work. It was another start in which Dickey allowed a homer and at least two runs; Dickey has allowed at least one homer in each of his starts since April 15, and has yet to exit a start having allowed fewer than two runs. For Moore, meanwhile, the homer was his first of 2017, and his first since September 20, 2015. It was just his fifth hit and second extra-base hit of the year.

The Braves failed to do anything against David Phelps in the eighth, or against A.J. Ramos in the ninth to end the game. There was a small glimmer of hope as Ramos walked Ender Inciarte to start the game’s final frame, and Adonis Garcia got a hold of a ball and drove it to deep left center, where it died near the warning track and nestled into the glove of center fielder. Ramos then struck out Freeman and got a flyout from Kemp to end the game.

On the pitching end, Sam Freeman and Jason Motte combined to throw a scoreless inning in relief of Dickey.

Justin Nicolino, making his first major league appearance of 2017, surrendered just the one run to the Braves while allowing six hits and four walks. Matt Kemp, Kurt Suzuki, and Ender Inciarte combined to leave five runners in scoring position with two out. Nicolino also struck out five Braves; it was his third-highest strikeout total ever as a major leaguer, and he had struck out just 10 batters across his last four AAA starts prior to this outing.

The Braves are now tied for the Marlins recordwise. Tomorrow night, they’ll play in Toronto, as part of wacky home-and-home duet of two-game sets against the Blue Jays.

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