Jesus Luzardo, Marlins play spoiler on Braves’ celebration for a day

MIAMI – The Braves will need to wait at least another day to clinch their fifth consecutive National League East title.

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Atlanta lost to the Marlins, 4-0, on Monday at loanDepot Park. The magic number is still one for the Braves (100-60).

Here are five observations:

1. In the visitors’ clubhouse here, Braves-themed plastic hung above the lockers, ready for a celebration. But the clubhouse staff could not roll it down over the lockers just yet.

The party must wait.

“We wanted to win,” manager Brian Snitker said. “It’s hard. You can’t just go out and win a baseball game.”

The Braves arrived in Miami on a high from sweeping a three-game series with the Mets and taking control of their destiny. They needed one win or a Mets loss. The Mets were rained out, and then Atlanta lost.

The Braves expended a lot of energy over the weekend. It was an emotional series. Then the Braves traveled late at night and arrived in the wee hours of the morning.

Austin Riley insisted the Braves are not feeling any pressure.

“No panic,” he said. “Come back tomorrow and lock this thing down.”

2. Before Monday, the Braves defeated Jacob deGrom, Max Scherzer and Chris Bassitt. They looked unstoppable.

Baseball, as we know, is a strange game. And on this night, left-hander Jesus Luzardo shut down the Braves as the Marlins looked to keep Atlanta from celebrating.

“Being a spoiler, it gives you a little giddy up for sure,” Luzardo told reporters. “Gives you another reason to go out there and try your best. I’m glad we were able to spoil a little bit, put that champagne on ice at least for another day.”

Luzardo struck out 12 Braves over six scoreless innings. He held Atlanta to four hits before his bullpen did the rest of the work.

“Really, really good,” Snitker said. “I think he was more than ‘pretty good.’ He’s got a great arm. …He’s got good stuff – really good stuff. I think it was more him than anything.”

Marlins 4, Braves 0

3. In the bottom of the third inning, Miami’s Bryan De La Cruz began an at-bat versus Bryce Elder with two long fly balls that hooked foul.

De La Cruz connected with the fifth pitch, which sailed over the wall in right-center field for a two-run homer. It put the Braves in a four-run hole.

Elder allowed those four runs over five innings. This was not nearly as good as his other starts in the second half of the season, but he probably couldn’t have kept topping himself. He has been a valuable part of the club this season.

The Marlins hit a few balls hard, but others were softly hit.

“I think I just kind of look at what I do,” Elder said. “You see the result and you see how they put it in play, but I think if a pitch is executed, that’s kind of all I look at. If they hit an executed pitch hard, I think you tip your cap. I think it’s the ones you don’t execute that get hit hard that should get hit hard at this level.”

4. The Braves were 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position. They left five men on base.

They were rather quiet as the game progressed: After Dansby Swanson led off the sixth inning with a double, Marlins pitchers retired the final 12 Braves in order.

After the game, Snitker lauded the Marlins’ pitching. He said that, months ago, he was a bit worried about playing the Marlins to open the season – which the Braves were originally scheduled to do before the lockout forced MLB to rework its schedule – because their pitching might fare well against an offense coming off a condensed spring training.

“They have some good, young starting pitchers,” Snitker said. “They’ve done a great job.”

The Marlins have a ton of young players. They might not lack fight over the last two games.

“These are dangerous teams because there are guys out there with talent,” Snitker said. “There are gonna be good major-league players. It’s hard to win a game.”

5. Jake Odorizzi will start Tuesday’s game for the Braves, who hope to celebrate. Odorizzi has a 5.66 ERA over nine starts since Atlanta acquired him at the trade deadline.

The Braves can clinch an NL East title with a win or a Mets loss. The Mets and Nationals are scheduled to play a doubleheader on Tuesday.

On Monday, the Marlins showed they might not make it easy on the Braves.

“This is the big leagues,” Riley said. “Anybody can beat you at any time. Got to come back tomorrow. Let’s lock this thing down.”

Stat to know

10 - Of the 14 times the Braves struck out, 11 came from Riley (four), Matt Olson (three), Michael Harris II (two) and Ronald Acuña (two).

Quotable

“I like where we’re at. Obviously, you would want to clinch tonight. But it is what it is. …I’m not worried whatsoever.”-Riley on trying to clinch the division

Up next

The Braves’ offense will face left-hander Braxton Garrett in Tuesday’s game, which begins at 6:40 p.m. Garrett has a 3.56 ERA over 16 starts this season.