While the Braves have repeatedly beaten on the rest of the National League East, they have demonstrated repeatedly they cannot do so with the Marlins.
Miami beat the Braves 4-0 at Turner Field on Saturday night, running their seasonal record against Atlanta to 8-7, and as the two teams continue their set of six games within 10 days, failing to reverse this course quickly could haunt the Braves into late September.
Donovan Solano, the Marlins’ light-hitting second baseman, homered and drove two runs and Marlins starter Jarred Cosart needed little else, working seven-plus shutout innings with a wicked cut fastball on a night the Braves advanced just three runners past first base, grounded into three double plays and committed three errors.
This against a Marlins team that is 29-37 away from Miami. Pennant fever, anyone?
Atlanta’s lone serious threat came in the eighth, when they finally chased Cosart and loaded the bases with one out. But A.J. Ramos struck out Andrelton Simmons and Freddie Freeman, suffering from a dire case of Marlin-phobia, grounded out to first to end the inning. Even going 1-for-4, Freeman is hitting .069 against Miami this season.
“We got the bases loaded and that’s what you’re always shooting for for your guys,” manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “We got the right guys at bat. We had Simmons in that situation, you have Freeman in that situation. You might be able to get over one or two runs out there. But it just didn’t happen.”
The Braves’ modest win streak was stopped at three while Miami won for just the second time in seven games.
The Marlins’ lead reached 4-0 in the sixth, when Braves starter Aaron Harang walked Jerrod Saltalamacchia, who opened the night hitting .176 on the road. No. 8 hitter Adeiny Hechavarria followed up with the a double to right-center, putting two men into scoring position with one out for Cosart.
Harang said he misread catcher Evan Gattis’s signal and, instead of the called fastball, threw a curve ball that glanced off Gattis’ mitt on the way to the backstop, allowing Saltalamacchia to score an unearned run to scattered boos. The Braves stranded Hechavarria at third but Harang was pulled after 5 2/3 innings after yielding seven hits and four runs (three earned), walking three while striking out five.
“He battled them,” Gonzalez said. “He battled and minimized the damage at times when we gave up single runs. But we didn’t get anything going against Cosart. He had a 94-mph cutter going.”
The loss was Harang’s third in four starts (ERA: 7.23) and dropped him to 0-2 in five matchups with the Marlins this season.
“I didn’t feel as loose as I have in the past,” Harang said. “I’d get ahead in the count and then they get some timely hits in key situations.”
Miami harassed Harang much of the night, nicking him for a third run in the fifth. A two-out Christian Yelich double led to Solano’s second RBI of the game on a solid single to left field for a 3-0 advantage. The Marlins went on to load the bases on an infield single by Giancarlo Stanton and a Casey McGehee walk but Harang got out of the inning on a Garrett Jones ground-out.
If the Braves didn’t remember Cosart, they will now. He similarly bedeviled them on June 26 when he pitched for Houston. He held the Braves to one run that night in a 6-1 win but was dealt to Miami six weeks later in a six-player trade.
Ever since, he has helped energize the Miami rotation, going 2-1 with a 2.08 ERA in his first five starts. He picked up where he left off that night in Houston, facing one over the minimum through five innings. He allowed three singles to the first 14 batters but profited from two double-play balls hit by Freeman in the first and Chris Johnson in the fifth.
“It’s not often you see a cutter, especially a starter who throws that many cutters,” Johnson said. “He maybe threw a handful of four-seamers tonight. Cutter, curve ball, that’s a touch pitch against right-handers and left-handers. He was spotting it, he was working it inside, outside.
“It’s something we have to get used to, him being in our division.”
Miami increased its lead to 2-0 in the third when Yelich drew a two-out walk, advanced to third on a Solano single through the right side and then scored when Stanton chopped a single over second base.
Solano, who had hit seven home runs in his three-year career, hit his eighth on the evening’s sixth pitch, a shot into the left field seats for a 1-0 lead. The homer was the third he has hit at Turner Field.
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