Newcomer Robbie Erlin delivers as Braves win series in Miami

Robbie Erlin was dumped by the MLB-worst Pirates two weeks ago. On Sunday, he gave the Braves their best start by a pitcher not named Mike Soroka or Max Fried.

In his first start with the Braves, Erlin allowed one hit over four scoreless innings. The Braves beat the Marlins, 4-0, to win the series in Miami and move back into a share of first place in the National League East.

The Braves won the series despite missing All-Stars Ronald Acuna and Ozzie Albies. After losing the first game, the Braves took a pair of pitching duels (2-1; 4-0). They allowed only two hits on Sunday.

No one knew what to expect out of Erlin, who was shelled in his Braves debut last week, allowing three homers in a relief appearance against the Phillies. Now, he’s earned at least one more start in the ever-changing rotation.

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Erlin, 29, showed an impressive mix. The Marlins swung at over half his four-seamers (17 of 36) and 10 of his 13 change-ups. His fastball velocity hovered just below 90 mph, yet his placement was impeccable.

“A lot of credit goes to (catcher Tyler Flowers) back there,” Erlin said. “Just taking control of the game, incorporating the reports in how I like to pitch. Everything was great. I tried to really just throw the ball into his glove. Easy as that. It was a great team win.”

The left-hander struck out five and didn’t issue a walk. He threw 68 pitches to retire 12 of 13 batters faced. Jon Berti collected the only hit against Erlin, who earned all five of his strikeouts across the first 10 batters he faced.

A longtime Padre, Erlin had made 38 career starts entering Sunday. The Braves claimed him knowing he could pitch in any role and would attack the strike zone. Manager Brian Snitker, who didn’t know much about the southpaw prior to his arrival, compared him to Josh Tomlin.

“That was nice,” Snitker said. “He got caught up with a lot of foul balls that got his pitch count up or else we probably would’ve gotten another inning out of him. He’s a strike-thrower who can change speeds. I thought he looked pretty good today. Had some good change-ups. A little funky delivery. I think his fastball plays off that. Just the ability to throw the ball over the plate is so refreshing here.”

As the Braves piece together their rotation beyond Fried, there’s no doubt Erlin deserves a further look. The team’s other two traditional starters, Touki Toussaint and Kyle Wright, are younger pitchers who haven’t consistently thrown strikes. For at least one day, Erlin showed them how to do exactly that.

“It builds momentum,” Erlin said of the team’s consecutive strong starts by Fried and himself. “Everybody feeds off it. Going into tomorrow, it’s the same thing. Be aggressive and try to set the tempo, get the offense back up there and let them put some runs on the board. Collectively, we try to just go up there and put up zeros.”

Notes from Sunday:

⋅ Marlins starter Elieser Hernandez struck out nine over five scoreless innings. The Braves broke through when he exited.

Shortstop Dansby Swanson doubled off reliever Nick Vincent to open the sixth. He advanced to third on Freddie Freeman’s grounder. Marcell Ozuna walked, giving the Braves runners at the corners. Nick Markakis deposited a two-strike cutter into shallow center to give the Braves their first run.

⋅ The Braves added three more runs in the seventh. Ozuna drew a bases-loaded walk for his 13th RBI of the season. Markakis’ bases-loaded double scored two more runs, giving him a three-RBI day from the clean-up spot.

“That’s what I’m here for,” Markakis said. “I’m here to help out and win as many games as I can, no matter where I am in the lineup. Whether it’s one, nine, four, it doesn’t matter. Snit is out there making the lineup and I’m here to do my job.”

⋅ Four Braves relievers combined to pitch five scoreless innings. Darren O’Day, A.J. Minter, Shane Greene and Tyler Matzek combined to allow one hit, strike out six and walk one.

⋅ Toussaint will start against the Nationals Monday when the Braves open an eight-game homestand. They’ll face the Nationals three times, the Phillies three times and the Yankees twice. After playing 20 consecutive games without an off day to begin the season, the Braves will have three days off over the next 11 days.