One night after he became the 10th active member of baseball’s 2,000-hit club, Nick Markakis joined the 163-homer club.
Ok, it’s not quite as prestigious, but Markakis’ 163rd home run was a big one, a three-run shot in the sixth inning Friday night to send the Braves to a 5-3 win against the Marlins at SunTrust Park in a series opener previously dominated by Marlins man-mountain Giancarlo Stanton.
“That’s what he does,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said of Markakis, who has hit a modest six homers this season, four of which have given the Braves a lead. “He always is there. I’ve been talking and talking, and I don’t mind talking about Nick Markakis because it’s fun. He’s everything I’ve said for the last three days. Just goes about his business, plays the game.”
Stanton hit two home runs totaling 901 feet against knuckleballer R.A. Dickey, a majestic 477-foot solo shot in the fourth inning that was easily the longest homer in SunTrust’s brief history and a two-run homer in the sixth that gave the Marlins a 3-1 lead.
But just when it looked like the Braves would go quietly to their 11th loss in 13 games, they came alive in the sixth against Marlins left-hander Adam Conley.
Conley faced just 13 batters (one over the minimum) from the second through fifth innings after giving up a run in a hitless but sloppy first inning in which the Marlins were charged with two errors and could’ve had three.
The Braves had only one hit and two Tyler Flowers hit-by-pitches against Conley through five innings, but Brandon Phillips led off the sixth with a single and one out later Flowers also singled. Next up was Markakis, who worked the count full before hitting a home run to the right-field seats, drawing a roar from a crowd of 35,914 and turning a 3-1 deficit into a 4-3 Braves lead.
“I feel like we’ve had a lot of games that have been close like that where we’ll come back, get a lead, and then something will happen where we give it back,” said Dickey, who pitched six strong innings and gave up only one hit other than the Stanton homers. “I was just so impressed with no only Nick but the back part of our bullpen did a really great job.”
Jose Ramirez, Jim Johnson and Arodys Vizcaino pitched a scoreless inning apiece, with “Viz” allowing a leadoff single in the ninth and a two-out walk before inducing a game-ending grounder from Miguel Rojas for his fourth save.
Atlanta added an important cushion run in the seventh when Lane Adams hit a leadoff pinch-hit double and scored on Phillips’ one-out single.
Adams made a costly mistake in Thursday’s 7-4 loss to the Dodgers when he got picked off at second base by former Brave Alex Wood with the bases loaded and none out in the fifth inning. The Braves didn’t score in that inning.
“As soon as I got home last night, all I could think about was getting a chance to redeem myself,” Adams said. “And I was thankful I was able to come through — and not get picked off second tonight. Last night was a mental mistake that can’t happen. It just kills you. I put that game, that inning, solely on me. But that’s why baseball’s great, there’s always tomorrow.”
Markakis’ homer was his sixth of the season and first in 16 games since July 18, but in his past nine games he’s 12-for-27 (.444) with four extra-base hits and six RBIs. That included career hits 2,000 and 2,0001 in Thursday’s 7-4 loss to the Dodgers.
The homer off Conley was only the second homer he’s hit off a lefty in three seasons with the Braves, the other coming against then-White Sox ace Chris Sale in July 2016.
A Woodstock High School graduate and 12-year veteran, Markakis became the 285th player in major league history to reach the 2,000-hit standard and said he relished being able to do it at the home ballpark with his family in attendance, but only wished it could have been in a win.
One night later, he was the biggest reason for the series-opening win against the Marlins.
Dickey (7-7) had no trouble with anyone with one huge — literally and figuratively — exception in Stanton, who raised his total to a major league-leading 35 home runs with his 26th career multi-homer game and eighth of the season.
Dickey allowed three hits, three runs and one walk with three strikeouts in six innings and improved to 3-2 with a 2.22 ERA in his past nine starts, after going 1-3 with a 6.23 ERA in his previous eight.
Stanton’s first-pitch homer to start the fourth inning was majestic mashing of the highest order, a drive estimated at 477 feet that one fan seated nearby said hit the block wall so hard he thought it was going through. He destroyed a 78-mph knuckleball, hitting it 30 feet longer than the previous longest at SunTrust Park, Phillips’ 447-footer on April 15.
Stanton’s two-run homer in the sixth inning came on an 0-1 knuckleball and landed some 10 rows up in the left-field bleachers, a 424-footer relative chip shot for the Marlins slugger, whose eight multi-homer games this season is just one fewer than the Braves’ team total.
“I’ve kept him in the yard for about six years, so he’s probably due,” Dickey said. “He’s good. The way I feel about it is like Shaquille O’Neal, he better be able to dunk it. This guy better be able to hit homers; I mean, he’s a specimen. So I was hoping for a little bit better success against him, but overall I feel pretty good about the outing.”
Dickey is 6-2 with a 3.30 ERA in 12 starts at SunTrust Park and the Braves are 8-2 in his past 10 home starts.