A walk-off win Sunday punctuated a successful first homestand of the season for the Braves.
Dansby Swanson’s bases-loaded single in the ninth inning broke a 3-3 tie and gave the Braves a 4-3 victory over the Miami Marlins and a 5-1 record for their first week of work this year at SunTrust Park.
“I love those situations,” Swanson said afterward. “I love that weight, so to speak, on my shoulders.”
The homestand, which included a three-game sweep of the Chicago Cubs and two wins in three games against the Marlins, was the Braves’ way of turning the page from their three consecutive losses in Philadelphia to start the season.
“We played really well here,” Swanson said. “Defensively, we played great. Our pitchers threw the ball well. ... Being able to do that the whole homestand obviously has led to good things for us.”
Sunday’s game epitomized those trends. Sean Newcomb threw seven impressive innings, allowing two runs on four hits and retiring the last 14 batters he faced, in the latest in a string of strong performances by the Braves’ starting pitchers, who have combined for a 1.29 ERA in the past six games. The defense again was superb, highlighted by a double play started by slick-fielding third baseman Josh Donaldson to get the Braves out of a jam in the eighth inning.
There was a negative, too, in Sunday’s game and the homestand at large: continuing concern about the Braves’ bullpen. One day after A.J. Minter allowed a two-run ninth-inning homer that handed the Braves their only loss of the week, co-closer Arodys Vizcaino was unable to hold a 3-2 lead in the top of the ninth Sunday, allowing a game-tying home run to pinch-hitter Curtis Granderson.
The Braves overcame that blown save in the bottom of the inning, loading the bases on an infield single by Freddie Freeman, a catcher’s interference call that put Ronald Acuna on base and a walk by Nick Markakis. That brought up Swanson with no outs against a five-man Marlins infield. On a 2-0 count, he delivered a line drive into left field, scoring Freeman with the winning run. It was Swanson’s third career walk-off hit.
“No doubt in my mind he was going to come through,” Freeman said. “Winners come through, and Dansby is a winner. Since he has been here, he has come up with big clutch hits.”
Swanson was 2-for-4 Sunday to raise his batting average through nine games to .346. His solo home run in the fourth inning — his team-leading third homer of the season — gave the Braves a 3-2 lead that held until the top of the ninth.
“I was more impressed with that changeup that he hit for a home run (than with the ninth-inning dramatics),” Freeman said. “That’s an easy rollover for a lot of people, and for him to stay into his legs and drive the ball to left-center is huge. If he continues to do that, he’s going to be an All-Star.”
Freeman hit his first home run of the season, a two-run shot to left-center in the first inning off Marlins left-handed starter Caleb Smith.
The Braves play a three-game series at Colorado beginning Monday night. After arriving home for the first time this season at 0-3, the Braves left town above .500 at 5-4.
“After leaving Philly, we didn’t lose confidence in our team,” Donaldson said. “We know (the Phillies) are a good ballclub. They played well; everything kind of went well for them that series. Coming back home, we feel like some things have kind of gone our way.”
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