But he coaxed a double-play ball from Neil Walker. He wouldn’t face any further adversity.
Gausman retired 14 of the next 15 Marlins – his only blip being a harmless JT Riddle single in the second. He kept his pitch count low, his velocity sat in the low-to-mid 90s and he rarely required extending himself.
“I was pretty amped up, to be honest,” Gausman said. “I was really excited about today. The first time you get that adrenaline, the first time you get in a game that matters, it’s a little bit different from spring training. I locked in and got better as the game went on.”
Requiring just 79 pitches over his six scoreless innings, Gausman stayed in for the seventh – the deepest a Braves starter has gone this season. Brian Anderson opened with a single, but Gausman retired Walker and extracted a double play from Starlin Castro.
“That was really good,” manager Brian Snitker said. “He was really good (in his last spring training start), but that was really crisp. Stuff was really good.”
It was better than any realistic hope for Gausman. The Braves’ bullpen has worked overtime through the season’s first week. Gausman giving some a breather was a welcomed bonus.
The Braves gave Gausman support in the fourth. Ronald Acuna blasted a ball into the Chop House for a 2-0 lead – his first home run since signing an eight-year extension. Tyler Flowers added a solo shot to left and Ender Inciarte’s RBI-single capped a four-run frame.
“We’re playing pretty well,” catcher Tyler Flowers said. “We’re pitching pretty well. We’re playing good defense, scoring some runs. That’s usually a good combination to win some.”
While the Marlins are openly rebuilding, they’ll still shape the National League East race. It’s expected to be a tight finish between the other four franchises, and the team with the best record against lowly Miami could have an edge. In other words, each needs to maximize its series with the Fish.
Kyle Wright will make his second career start Saturday. The Braves will close the Marlins series with Sean Newcomb before traveling to Denver. They’ve already secured a winning homestand.
“That first weekend was just, I don’t know, things didn’t go our way obviously,” Snitker said. “But we got back home here and started playing our brand of baseball. These guys, the defense, the never quitting, our bullpen has been better. … It’s been a good homestand so far.”