“They kept fighting back, and we were able to overcome that,” Heyward said. “I feel really confident at home especially, holding the game close, down by one or two, that we can come out with a win.”
Mike Minor (12-5) recovered from a three-run second inning – defense didn’t help him much that inning – to win his third consecutive decision and fourth home start in a row. He was charged with six hits and four runs in seven innings, with one walk and six strikeouts.
“I thought he was outstanding,” Gonzalez said. “We got him in the hole a little bit, but he battled. He gave us seven strong innings. That’s where the good ones stick around.”
After B.J. Upton put the Braves ahead with a line-drive sacrifice fly in the seventh, Gattis hit an RBI double off the center-field wall. The Marlins had intentionally walked Freeman with one out and first base open. Chris Johnson followed Gattis with a two-run double for an 8-4 lead.
Freeman’s opposite-field homer in the fifth raised his team-leading RBI total to 79 and his average with runners in scoring position to .452, second in the majors. It was his 14th home run and came with his grandparents in attendance along with an aunt and cousin, all visiting from California.
“My aunt and cousin are here for a tennis tournament, and my grandparents come out here to see me,” he said. “So it was nice to be able to do something for them today.”
It was also the first homer allowed all season by Marlins starter Henderson Alvarez in his 50th inning.
“He’s tough hitter, a guy that doesn’t stand at the plate to swing at bad pitches,” Alvarez said. “He’s the best I’ve faced in this league. It’s difficult to strike him out. It’s tough to get him out.”
Justin Upton surprised everyone by bunting in the fifth — he made the decision on his own, hoping to load the bases for Freeman — and Minor was thrown out at third on the play. Upton’s hamstring tightened after he ran to first.
He was replaced by pinch-runner B.J. Upton, his brother. B.J. played center field and Jordan Schafer moved to left field.
The Braves led the NL in fielding percentage (.993) during the winning streak, but defense was anything but crisp in Sunday’s second inning.
After Ed Lucas doubled and scored on Jake Marisnick’s two-out single, Koyie Hill hit a pop to shallow right field that second baseman Dan Uggla lost in the sun. Hill ended up with a single to put runners on the corners. Alvarez followed by lining a two-run double over left fielder Justin Upton, who got a bad jump on the ball.
Gattis led off the second with a ground-rule double and scored on Uggla’s sacrifice fly to cut the lead to 3-1. And after the Braves wasted a bases-loaded situation in the fourth, Freeman gave them a jolt.