Braves mount ninth-inning rally to stun Marlins, sweep four-game series

MIAMI — Michael Harris is only 21 years old, but he treats the biggest, most important situations like he has experienced them many times. With the game on the line, he keeps a slow heartbeat, always able to show up when it matters most. He has done this time and again during a sensational rookie season.

“I just like those moments, and I tend to feed off of those,” Harris said after his latest heroic act for this club. “It’s just something I’ve been doing my whole life pretty much, trying to live up to the big-time moments.”

On the first pitch of the ninth inning – Tanner Scott’s 99 mph fastball right down the middle – Harris crushed a game-tying home run.

After the home run, the Braves put together a rally to score the go-ahead run, steal a victory and sweep the Marlins in the four-game series with a 3-1 win Sunday at loanDepot Park. The win helped Atlanta (70-46), which has won six in a row, continue keeping pace with the Mets, who are at Truist Park for four games beginning Monday and lead the Braves by 5 ½ games.

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With two outs in the top of the ninth, William Contreras grounded a ball up the middle. The second baseman slid and stopped it a few feet into the outfield grass, but Vaughn Grissom sprinted, slid and scored from second base. A couple minutes later, Matt Olson scored on a wild pitch.

The Braves, who trailed by a run and found themselves down to their final three outs, led by two runs after a three-run inning. Those runs ensured Bryce Elder’s tremendous start would not be wasted while also taking the offense off the hook for the first eight innings. After losing four of five in New York to begin the road trip, the Braves won six in a row before they host the Mets and Astros.

“We had a bad weekend and ended up having a really good road trip, so hats off to all the guys for turning the page and taking care of business, staying with the game today like they have,” manager Brian Snitker said. “We got a tough week ahead of us, tough next 10 days. But it’s something they’ve been through, and I’m looking forward to it.”

Before that ninth inning, the Braves had gone 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position. They had left 11 men on base. If you count the second inning, when Eddie Rosario was thrown out at home trying to score on Marcell Ozuna’s single, the Braves had at least two runners on base in six of the first eight innings. They had many chances to not only tie the game but also take a lead and break it open.

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Better late than never.

After Harris’ home run left the bat at 111.2 mph and traveled 419 feet, Dansby Swanson singled. Grissom, a rookie playing only his fifth big-league game, drew an 11-pitch walk (yes, you read that correctly) in which he fouled off five straight pitches before taking ball four. After Swanson was caught in between second and third, Olson walked before Contreras put one in play to score Grissom.

“I feel like the biggest moment was Vaughn having that long at-bat, working a count, just being a competitor the way he is,” Harris said. “He just battles. He just goes up there and he does him. He’s just unbelievable to play with. We just feed off of each other’s energy. We definitely came together that last inning.”

In the bottom of the ninth, Kenley Jansen stranded a runner at third base as he picked up his 27th save of the season.

Elder spun a gem, working through the Marlins’ lineup with ease as he rewarded the club for giving him this start. The 23-year-old righty, who made four starts for the Braves earlier this season before they optioned him, turned in the best start of his career – and it isn’t particularly close. He struck out a career-high 10 batters while allowing only three hits over seven innings. Elder said this outing can do a lot for him going forward.

“I think when I was up here before, it was kind of a little bit passive, if you will,” Elder said. “I think this one just kind of shows if you make good pitches – not great ones, just good ones – you’re going to have success, for the most part.”

In the fourth inning, Elder, who threw 104 pitches, gave up a double to J.J. Bleday. Two batters later, with two outs, Miguel Rojas flared an 84.1 mph single into right-center field that plated Bleday. Through eight innings, it seemed like this would be enough to deny the Braves a sweep.

And then, out of nowhere, Harris struck. His teammates followed. The offense woke up long enough to snatch a victory and leave with a four-game sweep.

That ninth-inning rally symbolizes the Braves’ identity.

“These guys have shown that for the last four or five years,” Snitker said. “They’re never out of a game. As long as they’ve got a strike left, an out left, they always have a chance. And this team expects to win. We come in and we expect to win. They get after it for 27 outs. We’ve won games with a strike left. I think teams know that, that these guys, they’re not going to go down easy. They’re going to keep fighting, scrapping and grinding to do anything they can to try and win the game.”

Braves 3, Marlins 1 (box score)