The Braves and Marlins started July 4 weekend with a bang. The first pitch led to three ejections, paving the way for a competitive game the Braves eventually won, 1-0, Friday at Truist Park.

Here are five takeaways from Friday:

1. Marlins starter Pablo Lopez hit outfielder Ronald Acuna with the first pitch. The Marlins hitting Acuna has been a recurring storyline since Jose Urena infamously hit Acuna in August 2018, causing the benches to clear.

Braves manager Brian Snitker was furious Friday. The umpires ejected Lopez, prompting Marlins manager Don Mattingly to plead his case to the umpires. He and pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre were ejected. The game was delayed 12 minutes and 15 seconds during the drama.

It was the sixth time the Marlins have plunked Acuna. It was the third time it happened on the first pitch.

“I’m upset it’s the third time they hit him with the first pitch of the game,” manager Brian Snitker said. “I’ve watched it too much.”

Mattingly wasn’t happy after the game either but had a different view.

“I’m really disappointed in the umpiring crew,” he said. “When it happened, if you watch close, Pablo turns his head and you could tell he didn’t mean to hit him. There’s no reason to hit Acuna for us. He’s a great player. We have tons of respect for the Braves and we’ve even talked about it openly that this is a club we have to prove we can play with. We feel like they were the class of the division. So there’s absolutely nothing going on this year with the Braves, and when (umpire) Dan (Iassogna) tells me it’s because of history and it always happens and it’s always Acuna, that’s just not true.

“I’m pretty sure (the Marlins’) Brian Anderson has been hit six times since Acuna’s got hit,” Mattingly continued. “I think Miggy (Miguel Rojas) has been hit as many. Peter O’Brien’s got a broken rib from (Mike) Soroka, 100% on purpose. So ’18 is over. So for Dan to tell me this is history, there’s been history in the past for a guy who isn’t with us anymore (Urena). So to throw Pablo Lopez out of the game on the first pitch is, basically, Dan got bullied into it.”

2. Acuna was hitting .330 with 20 homers, 12 doubles, one triple and 49 RBIs against the Marlins entering the night (51 games). Acuna, who’s been hit by eight pitches this season, scored on second baseman Ozzie Albies’ sacrifice fly for a 1-0 lead.

“I don’t know (if it was intentional), to be honest, just because of how many times it’s happened,” Acuna said via team interpreter Franco Garcia. “Whether it was or wasn’t, doesn’t matter to me. My only focus is that the team won.”

Acuna added he didn’t speak with Lopez following the incident, but “Every time I see him in the walkways, we say hello and catch up, give each other a hug. We always exchange pleasantries and I think he’s a good guy.”

Despite throwing only one pitch, Lopez took the loss. He became the first starter since Baltimore’s Art Schallok in 1955 to throw one pitch and lose (per Elias).

3. Braves starter Drew Smyly has completely flipped the script on his season since a brutal start. Smyly pitched 5-2/3 scoreless innings, striking out seven and walking two. The only inning he faced real trouble was the fourth, when Miami had runners at the corners with one out. Smyly drew a double play out of Miguel Rojas.

Snitker lifted Smyly following Garrett Cooper’s two-out single in the sixth. Luke Jackson finished the inning, walking Adam Duvall before getting Jesus Aguilar to line out in center. Smyly understood the decision, saying, “I always want to stay in the game, but Luke has been lockdown all year. It was probably the right call to go to him. Our bullpen did a phenomenal job.”

Smyly had a 2.84 ERA across five starts in June. Since allowing seven runs against Boston on May 26, Smyly hasn’t allowed more than three earned runs in an outing across six starts. He’s held the opponent to three or fewer runs in eight of nine starts.

He’s also allowed two or fewer runs in each of his past five outings, covering five or more innings in his last four starts. He hasn’t surrendered a homer in that span.

“The mechanics have been good lately,” Smyly said. “I’m trying to repeat it and stay as consistent as possible.”

Atlanta Braves pitcher Drew Smyly works against the Miami Marlins in the first inning of a baseball game Friday, July 2, 2021, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

Credit: AP

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Credit: AP

4. Will Smith, a night after giving up a game-tying homer in the ninth, closed the game. It wasn’t exactly easy: Miami loaded the bases with one out. Smith settled down and induced a shallow popup from Jon Berti and got Sandy Leon to fly out to left to end it.

5. The Braves reached the halfway point at 81 games. They went 40-41, owning a losing record through the first half for the first time since 2017 (40-41).

Stat to know

6 (The Marlins have hit Acuna six times, most of any opponent.)


“That was a tough game, right there. That was a big win.” – Snitker


Shortstop Dansby Swanson made a brilliant play to end the seventh, faking a throw to first and firing to third to nab Miguel Rojas, who was rounding the bag.

On this day …

The Braves signed Acuna, an international prospect, on July 2, 2014 (h/t MLB Network).

Up next

Braves left-hander Kyle Muller (1-1, 2.70) makes his third career start Saturday against Marlins righty Sandy Alcantara (4-7, 3.12).