Fresh off clinching the NL East for the sixth consecutive season, the Atlanta Braves strolled into loanDepot Park on Friday to begin a three-game set with their division rival Marlins. An exciting back and forth contest ended with the Marlins taking down the mighty Atlanta Braves to a final score of 9-6.
“I mean, if nothing else really happens this year, just super proud of how these guys go about their business,” said Miami Marlins manager Skip Schumaker following the game. “There’s no quit. They fight to the end. When we gave up the lead in the sixth inning, I guess it’d be six to four. With a really good back end bullpen, De La [Cruz] coming out of the game, they just didn’t give up.”
After a tough outing against the Philadelphia Phillies, Johnny Cueto was on the mound and was able to provide a marginally better start on Friday as he went four innings, struck out two and gave up three runs on seven hits. This season, Cueto has mostly used his fastball followed by his slider. On Friday, Cueto shifted his attention towards a fastball/changeup combo.
All eight of Cueto’s whiffs came on those two pitches. A big factor has been the way that he has used his infamous shimmy, messing with hitters’ timing and generating some weak contact.
“I thought it was tough,” said Schumaker. “Tough for him to get through. It’s tough on any pitcher to get through that that lineup, but for him to give us four innings with the bullpen day tomorrow, it was important. Considered him going out in the fifth inning, but just felt like it was already third time through and we had some guys that were semi-fresh.”
The Marlins’ offense took advantage of Atlanta starter Bryce Elder’s recent rough stretch these past few months and ambushed him for three runs in the bottom of the first inning. Luis Arráez got it going for Miami as he hit his fifth career lead-off homer and his third as a Marlin. Arráez home run also was his eighth of the season, tying a career high. Arráez got to Elder’s sinker, which is his primary pitch. Marlins led, 1-0.
After slashing .214/.267/.214 in Miami’s four game set in Milwaukee, Jake Burger was happy to finally be back home. Following a strikeout of Josh Bell, Burger laced an 102.1 mph double to left, his first XBH since September 9. Jazz Chisholm Jr. struck out after, but Bryan De La Cruz, who is the king of September, drove in Burger on an RBI single to make it 2-0, Miami.
Miami’s final first inning run came from a Jesus Sanchez triple, his third of the season which drove in Bryan De La Cruz from second. Miami took the 3-0 lead early in the first, giving Johnny Cueto some room to work with.
It didn’t take long for the Braves to get their offense going. After a quiet two innings, the Braves number nine hitter Michael Harris II hit a first pitch homer off of Cueto. That was Harris II’s 17th home run of the season, and the 13th home run allowed by Cueto this season.
Ronald Acuña, who is chasing a 40/70 season, got a base hit and after Ozzie Albies grounded out, Acuña made his way to second base. With one out in the inning, Austin Riley drove in Acuña with an RBI single. Riley’s RBI left the bat at 74.4 mph and Acuña had a 29.7 sprint speed. That gave Atlanta the second run of the ball game.
In Acuña’s next at bat, he lifted a sac fly that drove in shortstop Orlando Arcia who had a double in his plate appearance. Braves were just down 4-3 after the sac fly. The Braves then went on to tie the game at four apiece with an Eddie Rosario sac fly in the fifth.
In the top of the sixth inning, the Braves got to work. Miami went to David Robertson and right off the bat, Orlando Arcia got himself a double. After Arcia moved to third thanks to a productive out by Michael Harris II, Ronald Acuña worked the walk which set up Ozzie Albies with runners on the corners.
After a long 10 pitch at bat, Albies won the battle and drove in both Arcia and Acuña on an RBI double to give Atlanta the first lead of the game. Braves led, 6-4.
In an eventful seventh inning, the Marlins were able to retake their lead. Luis Arráez, who in a major league game has never had a multi-homer game, gave the Marlins their fifth run of the game thanks to a solo shot into the right field seats. That was Arráez ninth home run of the season.
After Bell and Burger were retired, Braves manager Brian Snitker went to lefty Brad Hand to finish the inning. Jazz Chisholm Jr, however, got a base hit to keep the inning alive. Garrett Hampson followed with a clutch RBI double to drive in Chisholm Jr and tie the game at six. With Hampson at second, Miami decided to pinch hit Yuli Gurriel for Jesus Sánchez. The Braves intentionally walked Gurriel and with with runners on first and second, Xavier Edwards was hit by a pitch which loaded the bases for Jacob Stallings.
“Going into the at bat, I mean obviously just kind of surprised that the X [Xavier Edwards] got hit and I walked up to the box and I didn’t realize that he hadn’t run to first yet. He was like, still right there. I had to check on him there, but I just kind of had a feeling I was gonna get it done. It’s kind of funny. I looked at where the left fielder was positioned before the hit. I don’t know why, I just looked out there and just felt like I was gonna get it done.”
Leading up to this moment, Stallings had been hitting the ball better as he surpassed the Mendoza line and in June and July had a batting average over .250. With the bases loaded and two outs, Stallings hit a 91.9 mile per hour bases-clearing double which gave the Marlins a 9-6 lead over the best team in baseball.
Andrew Nardi and Tanner Scott pitched the eighth and ninth, respectively, to close out Friday’s blockbuster affair. Scott earned his ninth save of the season while A.J. Puk earned the win. The former Marlin Brad Hand suffered the loss as Atlanta fell to 96-52 while Miami improved to 76-72.
The Marlins and Braves will go at it again tomorrow at 4:10 pm with Bryan Hoeing getting the start. The Braves have not yet announced a starter.
- Luis Arraéz completed his first career multi-homer game, lifting two solo shots on Friday.
- Stallings went 2-for-4 with 3 RBI, his first multi-xbh game since May 24, 2021.
- Bryan De La Cruz was taken out of Friday’s ballgame with right ankle discomfort. He is day-to-day
- MVP favorite Ronald Acuña Jr. also was taken out of Friday’s ballgame with right calf tightness. We are told it was precautionary.