For the first half of their final game against the Marlins of 2018, the Atlanta offense continued to sputter and could not push a run across the plate. Thankfully, Tyler Flowers’ RBI single in the sixth opened the floodgates, and by the time it was all said and done, the Braves had captured a 4-0 victory to salvage a series split in Miami. The pitching was stellar once again, as Kevin Gausman fired a one-hitter over five innings, yielding only a single to the opposing pitcher, while the bullpen chipped in four innings of one-hit ball.
The Braves showed a high degree of offensive futility in the first. Ronald Acuña Jr. hit a leadoff single, and Ender Inciarte drove a fly ball into the right-center gap that dropped in between the outfielders and bounced over the fence for a ground-rule double. It was a ripening scoring opportunity for Atlanta, but Freddie Freeman grounded out to the pitcher, and after an intentional walk to Nick Markakis, Johan Camargo fouled out to left in a manner that didn’t allow Acuña to race home. Charlie Culberson then worked a full count before softly grounding out to short.
In the second, the Braves got a leadoff single from Tyler Flowers, who chopped a ball between the first baseman and the foul line. But, three consecutive outs afterwards quashed that potential rally. Yet another leadoff hitter reached in the third, thanks to Ender Inciarte’s line drive. But Freddie Freeman tapped the first pitch he saw from Miami starter Pablo Lopez right back to him, and ruined the auspicious start thanks to a 1-6-3 double play. Unsuccessful at getting the leadoff man, the Braves tried a two-out rally in the sixth with an Acuña single and an Inciarte walk, but Freeman flied out softly to left to keep the game scoreless.
Meanwhile, Kevin Gausman was cruising through the Miami offense. Aside from a two-out single to Lopez in the third and a two-out walk to catcher Bryan Holaday in the fifth, he encountered no challenges. He struck out five.
The Braves finally struck in the sixth, after once again getting the leadoff man courtesy of a walk drawn by Nick Markakis. Markakis advanced to second on a Camargo groundout, and finally scored the game’s first run as Tyler Flowers pulled a grounder between third and short. Left fielder Austin Dean’s throw to the plate was a big loop, and Markakis’ scoring chance was uncontested. Things then got a little more intense, as Lopez walked Swanson. After failing to do so yesterday, Brian Snitker pulled his pitcher from the game in favor of a pinch-hitter. Rio Ruiz stepped to the plate for his first major league plate appearance of 2018 and drew a four-pitch walk to load the bases. That was the end of the road for Lopez, but new Miami pitcher Javy Guerra elicited a flyout from Acuña to keep Atlanta’s lead to a single run.
It was then up to the Atlanta relief corps to keep Miami off the board, and they passed that test with flying colors. Jesse Biddle walked the first man he faced, but then got three straight outs. Dan Winkler then came on for the seventh and worked a 1-2-3 frame.
In the eighth, the Braves extended their lead against Drew Rucinski. Charlie Culberson hit a leadoff single, and Flowers was hit by a pitch. Dansby Swanson then bunted the runners over, and pinch-hitter Ozzie Albies miraculously drew a walk to load the bases. Ronald Acuña then hit a roller to first. First baseman Derek Dietrich fielded the ball and threw home, but his ball shorthopped the catcher and got past him. Culberson scored on the play, and as the ball rolled to the backstop, Flowers also came around to score. Ender Inciarte then hit a fly ball to left that went for a sacrifice fly as Albies scored ahead of Dean’s throw. Freddie Freeman then completed his miserable night with a strikeout.
The Braves bullpen then finished out the game. Brad Brach had a 1-2-3 eighth, and although A.J. Minter allowed a two-out single to Dietrich, he struck out Starlin Castro to record his second punchout of the afternoon and end the game.
After playing their 22nd game in 20 days, the Braves get a well-deserved off day tomorrow. One guy that might really be looking forward to a breather is Freddie Freeman, who failed to reach base in 5 PAs for the first time since August 13. Freeman hasn’t had a game where he made five outs and failed to record an RBI since July 2 in New York. Today was only his 12th game of the year where he failed to reach base, and only his fifth where he failed to do so in five plate appearances.
On Tuesday night, the Braves will welcome the Rays to SunTrust Park, with Sean Newcomb set to make his second start of the year against them.