Atlanta Braves catcher Evan Gattis (24) celebrates a walk off two run home run in the tenth inning against the Miami Marlins at Turner Field. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports
Atlanta Braves fans are probably getting tired of pitcher’s duels at this point, but they got another one against the Miami Marlins on Monday, at least until the stretch run. The Braves starting rotation has been nothing short of amazing, and Julio Teheran is a large reason why. In this outing against the Marlins, Julio went for 7 innings and 92 pitches, giving up only 5 hits and a single run. The run came on a mistake to Garrett Jones, who launched a no-doubter into the right field stands. Julio valiantly recovered, biding his time for the Atlanta offense to show up.
He waited almost five innings before Andrelton Simmons arrived with a home run of his own. He put a line shot into the left field stands, tying the game at 1 apiece. The duel continued until the 7th inning, when the Braves found their rally pants. After Simmons and Ryan Doumit singled, and Simmons advanced on a wild pitch to third, Jason Heyward stepped into the batter’s box. Heyward’s struggles with RISP are well-documented by myself and others at this point. However with an 0-2 count, and most of Braves Country already putting the strikeout in their score books, Jason laced a liner into right field to knock in the go-ahead run.
That 2-1 advantage would take the Braves into the 9th inning. After a very shaky performance on Saturday when Craig had to be yanked by Fredi Gonzalez, the Braves called on Kimbrel to get the save in the 9th. Fredi Gonzalez doesn’t like those wounds to fester too long, so getting Craig back into the game quickly seemed the natural thing to do. Also, I’m sure Craig wanted to get right back out there and prove himself. Things didn’t go exactly as planning when Craig walked the leadoff man. Then on the second batter the umpire called catcher’s interference on Gattis to put 2 runners on. That would send almost everybody in Braves County running for the liquor cabinet.
But Craig was struggling, and he ran another count full to the third batter before giving up a long double to the center field fence, tying the game at 2 with nobody out. The Marlins were suddenly in business, and Craig looked lost and angry. Frankly, he was guiding the ball and it cost because the Marlins could sit on the fastball on full counts. Still, he battled back to get a strikeout. Then another strikeout. That was absolutely huge with runners on 2nd and 3rd, because it kept the Marlins from scoring a sacrifice run. Then for good measure, Craig struck out the side to take it to the bottom of the 9th.
On the Braves turn to bat, Jordan Schafer came in to pinch hit for Kimbrel. He hit a rocket down the left field line that was almost caught by the Marlins, but at the last second came of of the outfielder’s glove. Jordan scampered to second, which brought Heyward to the plate. He tried to lay down a bunt, but ended up popping up. Frankly, it was a ridiculous decision to make him bunt in the first place since all Jason has to do is pull the ball to the first base side. BJ walked to put two on, and Freddie Freeman popped up the first pitch to make it two out. Justin Upton walked to load the bases. That would put the game in Chris Johnson’s hands, and he prompted rolled out to 2nd base with the sacks packed.
Extra innings. Two words nobody wanted to hear after the 14-inning loss in New York on Sunday. What ticked me off was that it was completely preventable. There was no reason to make Jason Heyward bunt. There was no reason for Freddie Freeman to swing at the first pitch when Marmol had already been running up 3-ball counts. It was like the Braves didn’t expect to have to play the bottom half, so they sent their brains to the showers early. Oh, and let’s discuss the errors. The Braves had 3 of them in this game and 3 the night before against the Mets. The average Florida football player makes fewer errors in a spelling bee.
After shutting down the Marlins in the top of the 10th, Dan Uggla hit a single back up the middle, bringing Evan Gattis to the plate. You know who hits walk-off homers? El Oso Blanco hits walk off homers! Evan Gattis jacked a huge shot to left field that sealed the 4-2 victory for the Braves. Very timely too, because the last thing anybody wanted was another extended ballgame. The Braves finished 2-10 with RISP, 2 homers, and a double. Kimbrel blew his first save of the season, but Gattis picked him up with his first walk-off homer of the year, so he gets the Player of the Game award.
Next up it’s Alex Wood versus Jose Fernandez. If you still hate pitching duels after this? You may want to take tomorrow off.