The Atlanta Braves and the Miami Marlins took the field to play the rubber game of a three-game set on Sunday. Charlie Morton looked to continue his recent good work on the mound and help the Braves push their record closer to the .500 mark.
As the Atlanta Braves took the field on the 4th of July they did so with the hopes of being able to provide the same level of fireworks on the field as we would see off the field later that evening.
But if the Braves were going to be able to do that they would have to solve Zach Thompson, a pitcher that tossed five shutout innings against Atlanta while picking up his first major league win just a few weeks ago.
There was also a new face roaming left field for the home team today as Orlando Arcia made his Braves debut, making his first career major league start in left field.
Arcia has been hitting the ball well in triple-A, and with the Braves offense scuffling a bit lately (Wednesday’s 20-2 win over the Mets notwithstanding), it made sense to see if Arcia could help inject some life into Atlanta’s lineup.
The game started with both Morton and Thompson keeping the opposing offenses at bay in the first couple of innings. But things picked up in the third.
Ronald Acuna, Jr. broke the scoreless tie in the bottom half of the inning. After fouling off five straight pitches, Acuna took a 2-2 cutter the other way and deposited it in the Chop House seats, giving the Braves an early 2-0 lead.
The pitching continued to keep the bats on both sides relatively quiet until the 6th inning where a case of deja vu would rear its head.
Charlie Morton’s start today was eerily similar to his previous start against the Mets.
On Tuesday, Morton and the Braves carried a lead into the seventh before Charlie was victimized by a 3 run home run off the bat of James McCann, tying the game at 3. The Braves would eventually lose the game 4-3.
Today, Morton entered the 6th with a 2-1 lead. After giving up back-to-back singles to Starling Marte and Jesus Aguilar; our old pal Adam Duvall turned the game around with a three-run bomb, giving Marlins a 4-2 lead.
The home run was Duvall’s 19th of the year. With the revolving door of outfielders the Braves have run out into left and center field this year, one can’t help but wonder what sort of impact Duvall would have had on this Braves team had the front office made an effort to re-sign him this offseason.
The Marlins then blew open a 4-3 game in the ninth inning as Sandy Leon hit a solo home run and Jesus Aguilar added a two-run shot, both off of Shane Greene, extending the Miami lead to 7-3.
Game over… right?
The Atlanta Braves would erase a 7-3 ninth-inning deficit and come back to beat Miami 8-7 in 10 innings.
That’s when the fun would begin.
The Braves came up with four hits and three walks (two of which were intentional) to tie the game in the ninth inning and bring Austin Riley up with a chance to win it.
Yimi Garcia struck Riley out, ending the rally, but the Braves had done enough to send it into extra innings and had clearly shifted the momentum onto their side.
Will Smith shut the Marlins down in the top of the 10th and the Braves came up in the bottom half, looking to end the game and pick up the series win. Riley got the duty of being the zombie runner on second base to start the inning.
The Marlins and new pitcher Anthony Bass used the intentional walk very freely to create the matchups that they wanted in the tenth.
With 2 outs and the winning run on third Bass uncorked a wild pitch and Austin Riley was initially ruled safe on the play at the plate and it appeared that the Braves had won the game.
The play was challenged by Marlins manager Don Mattingly and the replay showed that Riley’s lead leg made contact with the shoe of pitcher Bass and that Austin did not touch home plate and the safe call was overturned.
As much as the call hurt, it was nice to see replay actually work and not have the game end on a missed call.
Fried worked the count patiently and then proceeded to line a 3-1 pitch into center field, scoring Dansby Swanson and giving the Braves an improbable 8-7 victory.
For a team that has yet to take the field with a winning record this season, every win is a big win.
Yes, it was against a last-place team. But it was against a last-place team that has seemingly had the Braves number so far this year. Heading into today the Marlins had won 6 of the 9 games head-to-head with the Braves.
The Braves will finish off the first half of the season with a six-game road trip that includes three games with the last-place Pirates and then three more with these same Marlins. Anything less than 4 wins on this trip should be considered a disappointment.
As the season progresses it has become increasingly obvious that only one NL East team is going to make the playoffs.
If Alex Anthopoulos is aggressive at the trade deadline and Travis d’Arnaud and Huascar Ynoa are able to come back full strength in August then this team could still be the NL East representative, especially if the team continues to play with the heart and determination that we saw on Sunday.