Chipper Jones and the Atlanta Braves are looking forward to playing in the Florida Marlins’ new ballpark next year, especially after this difficult loss.
Jones lost Emilio Bonifacio’s two-out chopper in the lights before Omar Infante hit a game-ending homer off rookie closer Craig Kimbrel, giving the Marlins a 6-5 victory Monday night.
”You play baseball in a football stadium, I guess that happens from time to time, but it’s just extremely bad timing,” Jones said. ”It’s a pretty helpless feeling when the game should be over and I had no clue where the ball was when it bounced.”
Atlanta now has dropped three of four, and its NL wild-card lead is down to 2 1/2 games over surging St. Louis, which beat Roy Halladay and the Phillies 4-3 in Philadelphia. The Braves have eight games remaining, compared to nine for the Cardinals.
”It’s a funny game,” Jones said. ”Just when you think you’ve got it figured out, it’ll kick you in the gut.”
The Marlins have five games left at Sun Life Stadium, which also houses the Miami Dolphins and Miami Hurricanes football teams. They will move into their own ballpark next season.
”I’ve seen it here a lot,” said Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez, a former Marlins skipper. ”When they configure the stadium to play football, they change the lights and sometimes that happens.”
Kimbrel came in to preserve Atlanta’s 5-4 lead and retired the first two batters he faced. Then Bonifacio reached and Infante drove a 1-0 pitch to deep left for his first game-ending homer.
”Anytime you don’t get your job done, of course you’re frustrated,” Kimbrel said.
Infante’s sixth homer of the season came against his former team and handed Kimbrel (4-3) his seventh blown save opportunity in 52 chances.
”I’m just happy I hit the homer that won the game,” Infante said.
Dan Uggla and Jason Heyward went deep for Atlanta, which scored four runs in the seventh to take the lead. Second baseman Infante had a costly error in the inning that allowed the Braves to score the tiebreaking run.
”I’m very happy,” Infante said. ”It’s my first walk-off home run. I was feeling a little bad because I made an error two innings before.”
Mike Stanton homered twice for the Marlins, and Logan Morrison added a two-run shot. Clay Hensley (6-6) pitched two scoreless innings to get the win.
”I don’t ever recall any team that hit home runs the distance of those guys – those three were crushed,” Marlins manager Jack McKeon said. ”It was nice to see Mike get back in the groove and put a fear into some of those guys.”
Braves starter Mike Minor allowed four runs and six hits in 5 2/3 innings. He struck out six and walked two.
Stanton hit a solo shot into the upper deck in left in the first inning, then belted another solo shot in the third for his 34th of the season, tying Miguel Cabrera for second place on the Marlins’ single-season list.
”We’re out of it and it’s easy to look toward the offseason already, but we still have eight games left,” Stanton said. ”If you shut it down now that can put a big imprint on your season.”
The 21-year-old Stanton has two multihomer games this season and four in his career. He also hit a pair at Chicago on July 16.
”It contributed to finally getting these guys in the late innings,” Stanton said. ”Seems like deja vu sometimes, we’ll get up and they’ll creep back in the seventh, eighth or ninth and they’ll come back on us. This was good to get that turned around and at least be the spoilers.”
Ricky Nolasco retired the first 12 batters he faced before Uggla singled leading off the fifth. He allowed five runs, four earned, and five hits in 6 2/3 innings.
”That’s probably the story of his year: pitch good for a while, then make some mistakes and let guys get away from him,” McKeon said. ”He pitched great. For a while there I thought he was going to throw a no-hitter.”
The Braves have two more games against the Marlins, three against the Nationals, and finish up with a three-game series against the Phillies.
”We’ve got to win,” Gonzalez said. ”There’s no sense in scoreboard watching. It’s nice, we’ve got to win our games, our series, and keep going forward.”
NOTES: Gary Sheffield hit 42 home runs for the Marlins in 1996. … Braves SS Alex Gonzalez is hitting .444 (12 of 27) in his last seven games. … Marlins RHP Josh Johnson (shoulder) threw a 50-pitch bullpen session. He will be facing batters on Sept. 22 and 27 in Jupiter before shutting it down. Johnson is looking to start opening day next season when the Marlins open their new 37,000-seat stadium. … Marlins RHP Alex Sanabia will start Saturday at Milwaukee in place of LHP Brad Hand, who will be relegated to the bullpen the rest of the season. … The Braves will send RHP Randall Delgado to the mound Tuesday. He allowed one run in five innings in his last start on Sept. 14, also against the Marlins. Florida will counter with RHP Anibal Sanchez, who is 4-9 with a 5.09 ERA in his career against the Braves.