Sunday, April 17, 2016

Markakis, Braves jump on Marlins early, win series

After avoiding matching the worst start in franchise history on Friday, the Braves are now thinking sweep. Nick Markakis had three hits and drove in three runs on Saturday to spark a 6-4 win over Miami at Marlins Park, giving Atlanta its first series victory of the season.
The Marlins stayed within striking distance against Atlanta right-hander Bud Norris, who allowed a two-run homer to Adeiny Hechavarria and a solo shot to Justin Bour. But the two blasts weren't enough to prevent Miami from dropping three straight and remaining winless (0-4) at Marlins Park.
"It's another big win for us," said Norris, who picked up his first "W" of the season. "We want to keep this thing moving. So we've got another chance tomorrow and hopefully get a sweep."
The Braves got to Marlins right-hander Tom Koehler for six runs (five earned) on nine hits in 3 2/3 innings. Markakis did the big damage with a two-run single in the second and an RBI double in the fourth.
Jason Grilli locked down the save, striking out Giancarlo Stanton -- who fanned four times on the night -- with two on in the ninth inning.
"I don't think [Stanton] was necessarily pressing," Miami manager Don Mattingly said. "Obviously, probably a little frustrated by the way the game ended. But he's had some good at-bats, and you see some at-bats when he's not quite on it. Usually with guys, they're always close. They feel like maybe they're this far away [several feet], but they're really only inches away. One good swing or one good take, and the next thing you know, those guys are on a roll. There really is nothing about him that concerns me."
Bullish on the 'pen: Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez was hoping not to have to extend his bullpen for a second consecutive game after using relievers for 4 2/3 innings on Friday night, but Norris ran out of gas after throwing 98 pitches in 5 1/3 innings. Atlanta's bullpen again responded with solid relief work. Norris allowed four runs, all earned, on seven hits, including two home runs. He issued three walks and had five strikeouts before exiting the game with a 6-4 lead.
"Our bullpen has been terrific, lights-out the last two days," Gonzalez said. More >
Hot at the top: Markakis moved to the leadoff spot at the start of this series, and the veteran right fielder has been a thorn in the side of the Marlins. He drove in three runs Saturday night after delivering a key RBI single Friday night to help the Braves win their first game of the season.
"He's swinging the bat well right now," Gonzalez said. More >
Light up the sculpture: Two long balls kept the Marlins within striking distance. Hechavarria and Bour each went deep, marking the second time this season Miami has homered twice in the same game. Stanton and Marcell Ozuna first did it on Monday at the Mets. Hechavarria's two-run homer came in the second inning, and Bour delivered a second-deck shot in the sixth. According to Statcast™, Hechavarria's home run landed a projected 419 feet away from home plate, with an exit velocity of 103 mph and a launch angle of 25 degrees. Statcast™ tracked Bour's blast at an estimated 415 feet, with a 107-mph exit velocity and a launch angle of 32 degrees.
"I'm not going up there trying to hit a home run," Bour said. "We need three runs there. I'm trying to get on base and drive the ball. Whatever happens, happens." More >
Short outing for Koehler: The constant about Koehler usually is he works deep into games. That's what made Saturday night's outing unusual. The 3 2/3-inning stint was his shortest start since he worked 3 1/3 innings on May 30, 2015, against the Mets. Miami ended up winning that game. But on Saturday, the Braves applied pressure on Koehler from the first pitch of the night, a single by Markakis. In the fourth inning, Mallex Smith, Markakis andFreddie Freeman each had doubles, leading to the quick hook.
"I take a lot of pride in pitching and lasting deep into games and giving the team a chance to win," Koehler said. "You never want to have a situation where you have to have the bullpen pick up for that many innings." More >
"This is a group of winners. Obviously, none of us wants to lose. This is a positive group, but losing, it's not much fun. Just back at it tomorrow." -- Bour, on Miami's three-game slide
Braves catcher A.J. Pierzynski had a single and scored in the second inning off Koehler. In his career, Pierzynski is now 6-for-14 (.429) against the right-hander.
A routine roller to first nearly turned into trouble for the Marlins in the ninth inning. Braves pinch-hitter Jace Peterson tapped a slow roller to first that Bour fielded casually before touching first. Peterson was ruled safe, but Miami challenged, and after a review of 38 seconds, the call was overturned.
Braves: Right-hander Jhoulys Chacin will take a 0.00 ERA to the mound Sunday at 1:10 p.m. ET in search of his first win of the season after having a six-inning no-decision in his first start. Chacin is 1-4 (5.25 ERA) in four career starts against Miami, but he did not face the Marlins last year.
Marlins: Jarred Cosart, who worked 4 2/3 innings in a no-decision in his first start against the Mets in New York, gets the nod in the series finale at Marlins Park on Sunday at 1:10 p.m. ET. The right-hander is 3-0 (1.66 ERA) in three career starts against Atlanta.

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