With a month left to find some entrance — back, front, hidden passage — to the playoffs, the Braves took a moment Sunday to do a little door-slamming of their own.
In this season’s final Turner Field meeting with the nettlesome Miami Marlins, themselves wildcard campaigners, the Braves found minimal but sufficient support for starter Alex Wood to ruin the visitors’ day, 1-0.
In front of the Braves lies uncertain rewards. At least behind them, the Marlins have been shuffled a little farther back (five games, after the Braves took two of three this series).
This was a Braves victory crafted of fine Wood.
The Braves starter, burdened by anemic run support all season (fifth worst in the National League), made chicken salad of that issue. He could do the math: If he allowed no runs, he could not possibly be beaten again.
And so it required Wood to pitch five-hit shutout ball over eight innings to run his record to 10-10.
Wood struck out 12 in his eight innings, facing just one hitter over the minimum through the first five innings. Then things got a little dramatic.
His first and only real test was more difficult than the MCATs. In the sixth, the Marlins loaded the bases, with one out, in front of Major League RBI leader Giancarlo Stanton. Wood struck out Stanton with a sinking change-up.
Then, falling behind Casey McGehee 3-1, Wood mesmerized the Marlins clean-up hitter, who watched the next two strikes breeze on by.
Wood was working with the flimsiest of nets, a single run supplied by Gattis to lead off the second inning. Having been shut out 19 hours earlier, the Braves awakened the scoreboard when Gattis propelled the first pitch he saw from Marlins starter Nathan Eovaldi to the left-center seats.
It was Gattis’ 21st home run of the season, matching his total of last year, and his first career hit off Eaovaldi in nine at-bats to that point.
Whereas Saturday the Braves had a three-error outing, Sunday was a day to speak kindly of their defense. Specifically, Jason Heyward, who was required to run at full throttle and slide perilously close to the leftfield seats to capture a McGehee foul pop. And Chris Johnson at third, who did some diving himself in the ninth, picking Donovan Solano’s grounder and throwing him out by a millimeter.
In conclusion, Craig Kimbrel came on to record his 41st save of the season.